Last year Thanksgiving in Berlin came and went. I didn’t celebrate it. This year I am thankful for many things, but among them to have made some spirited American friends who invited me to a heartfelt, football-inclusive, early Thanksgiving dinner last weekend. I don’t want to say it was authentic, because that paints it as a mere staging, a going through the motions, of tradition. Because it was more than that. It was the real thing. More than one of us voiced a palpable excitement and anticipation for the day, equating it with the way Christmas Eve felt as a child. I think that we all in some small way re-discovered what the holiday was about. Ok, now cue the cheesy music.
I like to think I am a fairly modest person. But when the topic of apple pie comes around, I have absolutely no problem climbing up to the highest possible pedestal, placing a wreath of laurel on my head and proclaiming to lands far and near that I have, incontestably, the best recipe known to man.
The problem is that I honestly have no idea where this recipe came from. You see, it has been in the “family” for years. Well, eight years, to be exact. It was the fall of our senior year of college and Kate, my good friend and partner-in-culinary-crime, and I got ourselves into a somewhat disturbing pattern of apple pie baking. In retrospect, it surely had a lot to do with scholarly stress and even more to do with procrastination. We relished the fact that we could cast all responsibilities, studying and studio hours aside and just… bake pie. It could all be so simple! We even had a special accent that we would use when baking the pies– somewhere between Georgia hillbilly and that mid-Atlantic drawl popular with actors from the 50s. But somehow, that little apple pie recipe of unknown origin was utter perfection and became legendary.
I have divulged our apple pie recipe to a few friends since that baking frenzy eight years ago. And now I will pass it along to you. Try it out (for Thanksgiving, if you like) while the apples are still at their peak. And give thanks to me.
Thanksgiving Recipe – apple pie
3 cups (375 grams) flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup (two American sticks / one European package) cold butter cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4-6 tablespoons cold milk
1 cup (200 grams) plus 1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch (or flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
dash of salt
1 tablespoon water
splash of lemon juice
around 6 medium apples (mix of sweet and sour varieties is best)
1. Make the dough for the crust: Sift dry ingredients. Cut all the butter, minus one tablespoon, into dry ingredients. Sprinkle in vegetable oil, then milk, one tablespoon at a time, and mix after each addition. You will know the dough is the right consistency when it comes together in a ball but is not too sticky to handle. When combined, form a ball with the dough and cut in half. Wrap each half with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about one hour.
2. Preheat the oven.
3. Peel and dice apples about 1/3-inch (almost one centimeter) thick. Toss in a bowl with a splash of lemon juice to keep them from browning.
4. Remove dough from the refrigerator and roll out one half for the bottom crust on a floured surface. Using the rolling pin, fold gently in half and transfer into a lightly buttered pie dish. The edges of the dough should hang over the sides of the dish a bit. Then roll out the top.
5. Mix filling: Sift dry ingredients. Mix well with chopped apples and water. Turn mixture into the dough-lined pan. Dot with little pieces of the remaining butter.
6. Cover the apples with the top round of dough and seal the edges by pinching them together. Make tiny holes or slits in the top to allow steam to escape. Brush a bit of milk on the top of the pie and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar (and a bit more cinnamon, if you like).
Bake at 450° for 10 minutes, then at 350° for 40-50 minutes. (If you see the top is browning too quickly, make a little “tent” over the top of the pie with aluminum foil, covering lightly but continuing to bake.)