By Dana Jacobi for the American Institute for Cancer Research.
Like most of the dishes she made, my mother’s apple pie was unique. Guests often found its lavish load of cinnamon and filling baked without added sweetening somewhat eccentric, but it shaped my idea of pie making.
The scrumptious parts included using at least three kinds of apples, some cut into thick slices that held their shape, others made paper-thin so they melted into juicy softness, and piling them into a lavishly buttered deep dish until slices tumbled off, then tenting this heap under a top crust that sealed in their juices. The result was like eating cinnamon-baked apple topped with a crusty crown. Skipping sugar and a bottom crust – which is difficult to get crisp anyway – meant room for a scoop of ice cream or a second, guilt-free helping of pie.
I do add some sugar (and less butter) to my version of mom’s pie. Most of all, though, I figured out how to transfer the lavishly-filled pie to a plate neatly.
Inspired by the way some Italian chefs serve a square of fresh pasta over a filling, I fill a lasagna pan with a deep layer of apples, cut the crust into squares, and set these on top of the fruit. The baked result is brown, crisp crust and perfectly baked apples lightly sweetened with brown sugar. Served in squares, like lasagna, it gives everyone a good amount of flaky crust and succulent apples. Using the rectangular pan makes it easy to transport this pie and to create modest servings by cutting the crust into smaller pieces.
Square Apple Pie
- 3½ lbs. apples, peeled, quartered and cored
- 1 Tbsp. unsalted sweet butter
- 2 – 4 Tbsp. (packed) brown sugar
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
- Pinches of ground cloves and grated nutmeg
- 1 prepared crust for a 9-inch pie (about 10½-inches), preferably whole-wheat
- 1 Tbsp. milk
- 2 tsp. natural cane sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat 13-inch x 9-inch x 2-inch heatproof glass baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
Cut apples into slices, varying from 1/8-inch to 1/2-inch. In large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add sliced apples, stirring to coat them with butter. Cook until apples look shiny and wet and thin slices are flexible, about 6 minutes, stirring them well 4 or 5 times. Off heat, add brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg and mix well to combine with hot apples. Spread apples in an even layer in prepared baking dish and set aside.
Following package directions, unroll piecrust on your work surface. Using sharp knife, cut away enough on four sides to create a 9-inch square with rounded corners. Cut the crust crosswise into 3 even strips. Cut each strip vertically into thirds, making 9 squares. Keep 8 pieces, discarding a rounded corner piece. One at a time, lightly run rolling pin over each square in one direction, making 4-inch by 3 1/2-inch rectangles and squaring rounded corner of 3 squares. Re-trim squares to neaten those that remain uneven in one corner; they do not need to be perfect. Line up crust pieces in 2 rows of 4 on top of apples in baking dish, leaving a bit of space between pieces. Brush tip of each rectangle with milk just to lightly moisten. Sprinkle sugar evenly over pieces of crust.
Bake pie for 30-35 minutes, or until crusts are deep golden brown and apples are tender but still hold their shape. Cool to lukewarm or room temperature before serving. For crisp crust, this pie is best served the day it is baked.
Makes 8 servings.
Per serving: 214 calories, 7 g total fat (2 g saturated fat), 40 g carbohydrate, 1 g protein, 3 g dietary fiber, 105 mg sodium.