Although apple pie is practically America’s national dessert, we know that making a pie can be intimidating for some. How do you get a not-too-dry and not-too-mushy filling? How do you make sure the crust is tender and flaky without loading it with butter and vegetable shortening?
To achieve a juicy filling with plenty of tender bits of apple, we like to combine two types of tart-sweet apples. Then we precook part of the filling before adding it to the pie shell to avoid that unfortunate hollow spot that can occur when the filling shrinks away from the top crust.
Our crust is lightened by replacing some of the butter with canola oil and tenderized with the addition of reduced-fat sour cream. And we follow the basic rules of great pastry: always use chilled butter and ice-cold water, use a light hand when working with the dough, and let the dough chill before rolling it out.
To make flaky crust: Quickly rub small pieces of butter into the flour mixture with your fingers until the pieces are smaller but still visible.
Mix water and any other liquid ingredients into the flour mixture with a fork until evenly moist. Knead the dough in the bowl a few times—the mixture will still be a little crumbly.
Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead a few more times, until it just holds together. Divide the dough in half and shape into 5-inch-wide disks. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.
To make the apple filling: Cook about half the filling mixture in a Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring, until the apples are tender and beginning to break down, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in the remaining uncooked apple mixture. Let cool.
To roll out the dough: Remove the dough from the refrigerator; let stand for 5 minutes to warm slightly. Roll one portion between sheets of parchment or wax paper into a 13-inch circle. Peel off the top sheet and invert the dough into a 91/2-inch deep-dish pie pan. Peel off the remaining paper. Scrape the filling into the crust. Roll the remaining portion of dough between sheets of parchment or wax paper into another 13-inch circle. Peel off the top sheet of paper and invert the dough onto the fruit. Peel off the remaining paper.
Trim the crust so it overhangs evenly. Tuck the top crust under the bottom crust, sealing the two together and making a plump edge. Flute the edge with your fingers.