For a pandemic Thanksgiving, you need this apple pie, the dessert equivalent of work-from-home sweatpants. It’s the height of comfort, and while it may not be sleek — there’s no lattice or sparkly sugared top — it looks good in an “I want that” way.
The techniques that stray from tradition here make this pie different enough to keep one day from blending into the next, but require little effort to execute or enjoy. Different types of apples, up to eight or so, add complexity to the filling, along with spices and lime juice. Shaping the all-butter dough by hand yields an especially flaky crust, which stays crisp on the bottom thanks to a base layer of cookie crumbs.
What makes this pie stand out is simply that it uses as many apple varieties as possible. Amy Traverso charts 70 apple varieties in “The Apple Lover’s Cookbook,” an updated version of which was recently released by Norton, breaking them into four categories: firm-tart, tender-tart, firm-sweet and tender-sweet. But she also explains that you don’t need to know exactly what you’re buying.
“If you’re making a pie and you did that trick of getting one of each at the supermarket, you’ll be fine because all of the new varieties tend to be crisp,” she said. “If you pick up a softer Gala or Fuji, you’ll have that too.”
Ms. Traverso, who is a senior food editor at Yankee magazine and lives near Boston, prefers apples from nearby farms, as does Adrian Lipscombe, the chef and owner of Uptowne Cafe & Bakery in La Crosse, Wis. Ms. Lipscombe drives to orchards by her home and picks a pie mix that includes Haralson, Pink Lady and Juliet.
“It’s a lot about the texture,” she said. “And orchard apples still stick with their flavors after baking.”
This filling calls for a balance of soft and crisp apples because the tender ones break down into a sauce that suspends the firm pieces. Adjusting the ratio of soft to crisp yields either an apple-butterlike center or a tumble of intact slices. The same is true of the sweet-tart harmony — there’s no one formula for the proportions. It’s a matter of preference and best determined by tasting the options raw and choosing favorites.
There is, however, a set ratio for the ingredients in this all-butter crust. The recipe is intended for a dough mixed by hand, which results in flaky layers that a machine can’t replicate.
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The pastry chef and cookbook author Joanne Chang still has her bakers make dough by hand even as her Flour Bakery has expanded to nine locations in the Boston area. The process is foolproof as long as the butter doesn’t start to soften, which shouldn’t be an issue for this small batch in cold weather. But if you know your kitchen is going to be warm, Ms. Chang advised, “freeze the butter before you even start and don’t roll the dough on a countertop that had a warm stockpot on it.”
The other key is to use a light touch to prevent the crust from becoming tough. The quick motions of rubbing butter into flour and gathering doughy shreds into a shaggy mass should feel more yoga flow than boxing. It’s a calming practice and nearly as comforting as eating the results.
Recipe: Mixed Apples Pie