I have forgotten the smell of leaves. This is an admission of which I am not proud. I've been so focused on myself and my new job lately that I haven't taken time to really enjoy the world around me. With winter fast approaching, I feel like there is less time to appreciate this unique time of year.
Each day I see less of the sun. This week I arrived to work in the dark, the sun below the horizon, the sky a fading grey. The view outside my living room window has turned into a noisy and abrasive construction site. I cannot even see anything green—no grass, no trees, no leaves. The changing of the autumn colors feels completely hidden from me. I feel out of touch with the season.
This weekend I had plans to stay indoors and work, when my boyfriend told me to put down the books. We're going outside, he instructed me. You need some fresh air. He was right. I had not spent any real time outdoors for months. We packed ourselves into the car, granola bars in the console, camera bags at our feet. We found a state park near my new town, parked the car, and went exploring.
The air was crisp, yet holding onto a little warmth from earlier in the season. The ground was damp and soft, smelling rich and earthy from a morning rain. The leaves didn't crunch beneath my heels, but being surrounded by the vibrant colors was plenty for me. We walked the winding trails, overlooking lakes and small valleys. It was a source of rehabilitation for me, a calm moment in the whirlwind that is life.
Though I adore it, I have had apple pie only once or twice in my life. My first bite was at fourteen years old, sitting in a neighbor's kitchen, the reward for raking up a yard full of leaves. A dusting of stray leaves were left on the deck and the afternoon sun was golden, vivid details of a quiet moment. It seems such a chance memory now, remnants of a childhood past, but it has nevertheless stayed with me. And that pie, that pie has stayed with me too.
After returning home, pulling off shoes, and unbuttoning coats, I felt a new energy within me. Returning to the kitchen, I channeled it, creating the pie that happened upon my memories. Perhaps the best baking comes from outside inspiration.
This Classic Apple Pie will stand the test of time, but rarely last longer than an afternoon. Apples are peeled and sliced, coated with cinnamon and spice, and mounded freely into a pie plate. Depending on the sweetness of your apples, you can add more or less brown sugar, but I found that 1/2 cup was enough for my slightly sweet apples. Brushed with egg and a dusting of sugar before baking, the crust comes out golden and flaky. Serve with family and friends, to warm your home, and to create memories to share.
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Classic Apple Pie
2 9-inch pie dough rounds, chilled
3 lbs (1.4 kg) baking apples, such as Braeburn, Gala, or Honeycrisp
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup (100 grams) brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
Granulated sugar, for sprinkling
Peel, core, and slice the apples into 1/4-inch slices. Place apples into a large bowl and toss with lemon juice to prevent browning. Coat evenly in melted butter. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the spices, brown sugar, flour, and salt. Toss over the apples until they are evenly coated.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out each pie dough round into a 12-inch circle. Place the first round into a 9-inch pie plate, pressing down into the edges. Place the apples into the pie plate, mounding them in the center. Cover the top with the remaining pie dough round and seal the edges by pinching them together.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg with a tablespoon of water. Brush over the pie dough. Sprinkle with granulated sugar, if desired. Using a sharp knife, cut in a few slits for the steam to release. Chill pie for at least 1/2 hour before baking, particularly if the dough has softened.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Bake pie for 25 minutes before lowering oven temperature to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Bake for an additional 25-35 minutes, or until golden brown. If the edges begin to darken too quickly, cover with aluminum foil to prevent additional browning.
Cool pie for at least 3 hours before slicing and serving.