As apples were easy to get by (and still are, I should add), this was the one pie (or cake, as we would generically call it Hungarian) that we ate most often. My grandmother would bake it in a large black baking tin that used to belong to my great-grandmother and that I still use for other cakes. I bake it in a round pie pan (28 cm diameter), because otherwise there would be just too much apple pie to eat for the two of us at once. This was one change I made to the original recipe (or shape, to be more correct). The other change is the way I prepare the apples – my grandmother used to grate the apples (and indeed, everyone else I know, as this is the traditional way of doing it), whereas I like them cut into cubes. Ohh, and now that I think of, there is one more small change I operated the last two times I have baked this pie – I have been using equal quantities of ordinary wheat flour and spelt wheat flour. But without further ado, here’s the recipe:
- 250 g of flour (50/50 wheat and spelt wheat)
- 110 g (unsalted) butter
- 1 egg
- 3 teaspoons of heavy cream (or some milk, if you don’t have cream)
- apples (I like it with the apples on the heavy side, so I use about 2 kg at once – since I don’t eat raw apples, this and apple juice is my way to get my share of apples)
- raisins or other berry-like dried fruit (cranberries, sour cherries or what not) – but this is optional
- 1 lemon (peel and juice)
Peel the apples, cut them in halves and then in quarters and remove the seeds and everything a bit tough under the teeth that might ruin the apple pie experience (as it always does for me). Cut the apples in medium-sized pieces and put them in a pan along with the lemon zest and its juice and as much cinnamon as you can tolerate and have it simmer on a low heat until the apples are soft, but not mushy (if you’re using dried fruits in the recipe, this is the moment to add them, too). If you want to go with the traditional method, peel and grate the apples (with the same care in mind of not letting any of the seeds or seed houses fall into the pan) and then follow the same steps as above.
In the meantime, work the flour and the softened butter (take it out of the fridge for a few hours) into a crumble-like composition, then add the eggs and the cream (or the milk) and work everything into a soft dough.
You don’t need to butter and flour your baking tin as the dough has enough butter to prevent the pie from sticking. Divide the dough in two and spread each half out into a circle somewhat larger than the diameter of the pan. Put one dough circle into the pan, pressing the excess dough over the edges to prevent it from flapping over. Spread some semolina over the dough (it will absorb any excess juice from the cooked apples and prevent the dough from soaking and becoming mushy), then transfer the apples into the pie pan, arranging them evenly. Then place the other dough circle over the apples, tuck it slightly in at the edges, then cut off the excess dough (if you’re left with quite a bit of it, place it in the freezer for later use, rather then throwing it away). Now tuck in the dough thoroughly and push down the edges with a fork to make it all even. Also, stab the top of your pie several times with this same fork, to prevent the accumulation of air inside the pie and have it blow up in your oven before you get a chance to taste it (this is a bit of an exaggeration, but do take the pie-stabbing seriously).
Bake it in a preheated oven at 180º Celsius (about 360 degrees Fahrenheit) until the crust is golden (20 to 30 minutes). Remove and let it cool slightly, then drizzle some powder sugar on top. This is by no means necessary, I only do it every once in a while. If your apples are sweet enough, you won’t miss the sugar in this pie at all.
I particularly enjoy apple pie in the morning with a nice cup of coffee, but it’s as great at about 4 o’clock with a mug of green tea, as shown in the photos.
Useful tips: I like cinnamon a lot, I even use it in proper dishes, especially to highlight minced meat. I also use cinnamon sticks to perfume my kitchen (put one stick in some water and leave it awhile on the heater to simmer). If you’re reluctant to use cinnamon in your kitchen and recipes, learn here some interesting cinnamon facts that might open you up to this savory spice.
Watch Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle and learn how to peel an apple in one piece – granted, she’s not that good at it, but practice will make YOU perfect. I always (try to) peel my apples like this and with 2 kg of apples on my hands in one sitting, perfection comes about soon enough. Not to mention, it makes it all a lot more fun.