The most important person in my life on earth is my husband Reggie. He motivates me in so many different ways…including inspiring my cooking. Our 11th wedding anniversary is on June 15, 2013 and as I look back, I see how food has played a pivotal role in our relationship from the beginning…
I think that my southern cooking is one of the main things that caused Reggie to become interested in me over a decade ago. Initially, we were just acquaintances with a mutual circle of friends. My roommates (at the time) and I constantly held a variety of parties in our home. One night, I happened to host a soul food themed dinner and he was one of several guests. I don’t know if it was the fried chicken, collard greens or sweet potato casserole, but after that dinner his interest was definitely piqued!
Later, after we started dating casually, Reggie and I would try to impress one another by coming up with special outings. Reggie’s favorite dessert is apple pie, so one day I surprised him by treating him to apple pie at Café Lalo (http://cafelalo.com/cafe/) on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Featured in the romantic comedy “You’ve Got Mail” this popular NYC café served an impressive array of apple pie offerings. Reggie was encouraged and we started dating exclusively soon after that trip.
Years later, I learned how to bake the “best apple pie ever” from a recipe that Reggie’s former boss Laura handed down to me. I now make apple pie for my husband at least once a year. It helps that our two sons, Michael and Sean, are major apple pie lovers also.
Best Apple Pie Ever
Yield: a 9-inch double-crust pie
2 pie crusts (You can make them from scratch or buy them pre-made.)
3 lbs apples (I used a combination of Gala, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Cortland apples.)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp real vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
Milk, for “wash”
Sugar and cinnamon, for sprinkling on pie crust
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Peel, core and slice the apples to your desired thickness level. Even if you are primarily a seasonal baker, I highly suggest purchasing a fruit peeler. It makes everything go so much quicker! Before I start to season my apples, I pile them in the pie crust to see how many I will really need.
Mix together the apples, lemon juice, sugars, vanilla, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice in a large bowl. Then, let the mixture sit for a few minutes. Taste it to see if you should add more sugar or spices to get it to your desired flavor level. You can always add a bit more flavor based on the number and natural sweetness of the apples used. Once your apples are at your preferred taste level, add the flour to the mixture in order to thicken the pie filling.
Place the apple filling into the bottom piecrust layer, making the highest point of the filling in the center. Dot the small pieces of butter on top of the apple filling.
Add the top crust. Brush the milk on the top crust. Then, sprinkle the crust with a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of sugar. Gently make several slits in the top crust (to serve as steam vents).
Place the pie on a cookie sheet and place the sheet on the middle rack of the oven. Let the pie cook at 400 degrees for 20 minutes/until the crust just starts to turn golden brown. Then, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Continue baking the pie for an additional 50 minutes/until the crust is golden brown and you can see that the pie juices are bubbling.
Remove the pie from the oven. Let the pie cool at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving the pie