This pie is special and unique in the fact that it was created in mind for people who love crust, as much as, or more than, the apple filling itself. This was done by forgoing the usual pie plate and instead, using a pizza pan to contain this monster. Ready?
Creating the homemade crust was on tap first as it needed a good half hour rest before it was ready to work with. Ample amounts of cold butter were used in this crust, but instead of the shortening one might expect, this recipe called for using cream cheese. Does that still give you a lovely flakiness? You'll find out soon! I used an old pastry blender that I've had forever to blend those two into the flour, giving me full reign on controlling the size of the butter pieces, If you're more comfortable using a food processor to do the job though, have at it!
With pie crust, you want to work with everything cold - especially the butter and cream cheese, but also the water you use to moisten the mix. When mixing in the water, use a light hand and don't mix until a cohesive ball of dough forms - you'll know when the dough has enough moisture when it is still crumbly, but if you squeeze the dough in your hands, it holds itself together. It may not look like its ready, but trust in the fact that it is - the flour will finish hydrating as it rests in the refrigerator. The recipe makes enough for the top and bottom crust, which means you'll want to divide the dough into two pieces - however, you want one piece slightly larger (about an ounce in weight) than the other. This is harder to accomplish without a scale - if you don't have one, just do the best you can.
When I pulled the larger piece out to roll, I immediately knew how well this crust was going to be as I noticed how marbleized it looked from the visible streaks of butter. Rolled out to snugly fit in the pizza pan, we then generously scattered granulated sugar over, laced with plenty of fragrant cinnamon. If you have the patience, you can neatly arrange the apples on top in concentric rings... but it's not like you're going to see that in the finished pie. Save yourself the fuss and just pile them on as evenly as you can. Since the apples haven't been given any treatment, a sprinkle of salt, a drizzle of lemon juice and a few lumps of butter tweak the filling with a little pizazz.
We rolled the other hunk of dough out, but before we adorned the pie with it, I took a small cookie cutter (an apple, of course!) and punched out vents for the steam to release. Slicing a few slits on top will also do the job just fine, but I couldn't help myself and had to spruce it up... hee hee! After sealing the two crusts together with a fork, we brushed the top with milk for color, which allowed us to stick on the apple cutouts and give the sparkly coarse sugar we scattered on top something to grab on to.
With pastry like this, the only saying I will always remember is "Make it cold, cold, cold... but bake it hot, hot, hot!". Which means you want to give the oven plenty of time to heat up - with the size of this pie though, you'll start out darn hot, but remember that the temperature is notched down after few minutes so the crust doesn't turn too dark. As torturous as the smell of hot apple pie can be, just like fresh, homemade bread, you'll want to let this rest for at least an hour to give the filling time to set before you dig in.
Jeff and I sat with the clock in front of us, waiting as the minutes achingly ticked by before I gave up and couldn't wait any longer to cut our wedges out. With the crust crackling as our forks went in, I let out a brief sigh as I took my first bite - the crust was everything we could have hoped for... rich and buttery, with flaky layers that were still meltingly tender and quite light thanks to the extra dose of cream cheese. The apples inside were juicy and soft, but still retained enough of a bite to them that they didn't come across as mushy. Wealthy in crust, this may just be the perfect apple pie for us!
Crusty Apple Pie