I can’t remember the last time I actively decided to make an apple pie. Nine times out of ten, I back into it, after noticing that a bunch of apples are going bad and I need to salvage them before they accelerate the rotting of everything else in the fruit bowl. That happened most recently this past weekend — I had a single Pillsbury pie dough in the freezer, and decided we probably only needed a smaller-scale galette since it was just going to be three of us. I also thought those of you whose holiday tables are seating fewer people this year, and how maybe you might want to hear about the apple bundling technique for the filling, an easy way to make it feel special.
You just need a small sharp knife and a little patience. Cut off the cheek of an apple (this is a Fuji apple) then, place it cut-side down and cut into slices as thin as you can manage. (In theory, you could also use a mandoline for this task.) Keep the slices in bunches together, then start placing them, one by one in the center of the pie dough. To fill in gaps, you can slice the bunches in half (like I did on the right there). You just have to kind of play it by ear.
This was the final result, which we ended up eating with our hands right from a cutting board. I love how it ended up being a perfect marriage of elegant and rustic, but if I were to do it again properly, I’d top with some crème fraîche and eat it with an actual utensil.
1 9-inch store bought pie dough (such as Pillsbury) or 1 9-inch homemade pate brisée crust (recipe below)
3-4 medium apples (such as Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith) sliced in bunches as shown above
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 egg, whisked with 1 teaspoon water
flaky sea salt
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil. Place dough in the center.
Arrange apple “bunches” in the center of the dough, leaving about a 1-inch perimeter. It will feel like a free-form puzzle — you might have to try a few combinations to make everything fit.
Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon all over the top. In a small saucepan, melt butter, then using a pastry brush, paint the surface of the apples, letting some butter drip in between the slices.
Fold over the perimeter of the crust to cover about an inch of the filling. Brush the exposed dough with egg wash, then bake for 10 minutes. Turn heat down to 350°F without opening the oven, and bake another 15 minutes until filling looks bubbly and golden.
Serve warm with crème fraîche, or vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.
Martha’s Pate Brisee
Makes 1 double-crust or 2 single-crust 9- to 10-inch pies. You only need one crust for the galette.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.
With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour. Or freeze up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature for about an hour before rolling out.
P.S. Check out my New York Times bestselling book The Weekday Vegetarians. Reminder: All the fun stuff these days happens in the Dinner: A Love Story newsletter on Substack, which is consistently in the Top 10 most-read food newsletters on the entire platform. You can subscribe here.