Back in the dark days of World War II, once America had realised that Germany and Japan were not going to stop fighting until they had conquered the entire planet, GIs would quip that they were fighting “For mom and apple pie.” America and apple pie are still viewed as pretty much synonymous, and it is not unusual to hear the term “As American as apple pie,” which dates back to before 1860. In fact, Americans are so enchanted with their fruit pies in general (cherry is another favourite) that US food bloggers arriving in the UK can be stunned into disbelief by the idea of a meat pie. For the Brits, pies are a savoury thing first and foremost, and Americans, it seems, take a while to adjust to that idea.
The American love affair with the apple pie dates back to the founding fathers. Unfettered by modern biological import controls, pilgrim ships from Europe had apple seeds in the cargo. Countless new farms across the new frontier planted apple trees, and modern USA remains one of the world’s largest apple producers. Steve Jobs even named his company after them, and the Macintosh computer was named after an apple variety.
In fact, if you look at any instructional documentation on how to use Apple’s iCloud service, you will see the example user is Johnny Appleseed (real name Chapman), who planted thousands of apple trees along the American western frontier. In fact, in the American west, tree planting was used as a means of staking land claims, so the apple really is the crunchy, beating heart of the US of A.
Of course, a country as young as America may have invented the personal computer, but it certainly did not invent the apple pie. Apples and pies are about as American as my big toe. The first recorded recipe for apple pie has been found in an 1381 volume where the dish calls for the addition of figs, raisins and pears. In those days, the pie pastry was more of a food container than something to be eaten. This use of a ‘trencher’ was commonplace back then, and you can read about those in our article on ribollita.
‘Recipe Zero’ here has a slightly confusing legacy. It was part of a compilation of notes from the chefs of the royal palace of King Richard II (1367–1400). It was known as The Forme of Cury, and the compiled notes dating from 1390 were presented to Queen Elizabeth I (1533–1603). Later, in 1780, Samuel Pegge published another edition of Forme of Cury, which was presented to Gustavus Brander, curator of the British Museum.
The recipe given here was synthesised from a few sources and was served as the closing act of a glorious Sunday lunch. It adapted from a method by John Kirkwood.
Apple pie Ann Marie
- For the pastry:
- 400g flour
- 200g cold unsalted butter, cubed
- Pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- For the filling:
- 6 Braeburn apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1cm dice
- Squeeze of lemon juice
- 1 tbsp demerara sugar
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp allspice
- 2 tsp cornflour mixed with 1 tbsp water
- 40g butter
- To finish:
- 1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt
- Caster sugar to sprinkle
To make the pastry:
Whizz the flour and butter in a food processor until you get a fine breadcrumb texture.
Add the eggs and whizz again until the pastry comes together. Add a drizzle of very cold water if you need a little more liquid.
Ball, wrap and chill.
For the filling
Mix the apples lemon, sugar and spices. Cover and leave to stand for 1 hour.
Pour the liquid off the apples, and place in a small jug with the butter. Heat the juices in microwave on full for 30 seconds, remove, add the cornflour water and mix through. Return to the microwave and nuke it in 30 second stints until as thick as custard. Stir and pour back over the apple pieces.
Grease a pie pan with a little butter.
Halve the pastry and roll out to line the pan. Add the filling, cover over the pie with the remaining rolled pastry, crimp the edges and trim. Decorate and pierce the centre of the pastry top.
Brush the pastry with the salted egg and dust over with more caster sugar.
Place in the pie in the centre of the oven and cook for 35 mins until golden.