Just because nothing's more American than apple pie — and few desserts more delicious — doesn't mean that making one is easy. On the contrary, the standard recipes can be pretty involved. But this recipe is for a pie with only one crust, not two, and with everything cooked in the same skillet. There's just one sheet of dough to roll out, and because there's no crust on the bottom, you spend no time crimping it together with the crust on top. In short, Skillet Apple Cranberry Pie is the ideal recipe for someone unsure of his or her baking skills.
To start, you're going to precook the apples. Apples tend to shrink as they bake, opening up a large gap between the apple filling and the upper crust. I've read recipes that suggest precooking the apples, then dumping off the liquid that's generated while they cook. That makes no sense. The liquid is rich in apple flavor. You just need to remove the precooked apples from the pan, then simmer the liquid to cook off the excess water. What's left is apple syrup. Add a little fresh cider to it and you've really intensified the apple-ness.
All the apples are piled into a 10-inch skillet. You may wonder if they'll cook evenly, given how crowded together they are. The answer is yes. Just be sure to stir them frequently as they cook.
Once the filling is prepared and has cooled off, take the pre-rolled dough, place it over the apples, tuck in the edges and bake the pie. Because the apples have been precooked and the pie has a single crust, it bakes much more quickly than a more conventional apple pie. The cream and granulated sugar brushed on top make the crust sweet and crunchy.
SKILLET APPLE CRANBERRY PIE
Start to finish: 3 hours, 15 minutes (45 active)
Pie Dough (recipe below) or 12 1/2 ounces store-bought pie dough
2 1/2 pounds mixed apples (your choice, but avoid apples that fall apart like Mcintosh), peeled, cored and sliced 1/4-inch thick
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup fresh apple cider
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 heaping tablespoon granulated sugar
Vanilla ice cream for garnish
Roll out the crust on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch round, transfer to a round platter and chill, covered, for 45 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator and let soften slightly at room temperature for 15 minutes.
While the dough is chilling, in a medium bowl toss together the apples, brown sugar, lemon juice, salt and cinnamon. In a 10-inch skillet melt the butter over medium-high heat. Reduce to medium and add the apple mixture and the cider. Cook, tightly covered, stirring frequently, until most of the apples are tender but still hold their shape, 12 to 15 minutes.
Transfer the apples with a slotted spoon to a rimmed sheet pan, leaving all the liquid in the skillet, and spread the apples out in one layer. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until it is reduced to a few tablespoons and is quite syrupy. Add the reduced syrup and the cranberries to the apples and stir well. Let the apples and the skillet cool.
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Put the bottom rack in the lower third of the oven.
When the apples have cooled, transfer them back to the skillet, smoothing the top. Carefully lift up the dough round that has softened on the counter and place it over the apples, letting the edges hang out over the rim of the skillet. Ease the dough down, pressing it in gently where the apples meet the skillet. Trim the crust with a pair of clean scissors so that it is flush with the top rim of the skillet and fold the edges of the dough back in on top of the remaining dough to form a rim. Re-roll the dough scraps, cut out several leaf shapes and place them in the center of the dough. Brush the crust evenly all over with the cream and sprinkle with the sugar.
Bake the pie on the lower rack of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving, garnish with the ice cream.
For the dough:
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (180 grams)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
Make the dough:
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and the salt, add the butter and, working quickly with your fingertips or a pastry blender, mix the dough until most of mixture resembles coarse meal, with the rest in small (roughly pea-sized) lumps. Drizzle 2 tablespoons ice water evenly over the mixture and gently stir with a fork until incorporated. Gently squeeze a small handful, which should hold together without crumbling apart. If it doesn't, add more ice water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, stirring two or three times after each addition until it comes together.
Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. With the heel of your hand, smear the dough in a forward motion on the work surface to help distribute fat. Gather the smeared dough together and repeat the process. Form the dough into a disk. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour. Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before rolling it out.
Nutrition information per serving: 508 calories; 227 calories from fat; 26 g fat (16 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 68 mg cholesterol; 205 mg sodium; 69 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 38 g sugar; 4 g protein.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sara Moulton is host of public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals." She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows, including "Cooking Live." Her latest cookbook is "HomeCooking 101."