Friday, November 13, 2009

Recipe: White House Apple Pie

Perfect Presidential pie, from The Crustmaster...
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have been praising Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses' pies since they moved into the White House.  (Yosses, above, in the kitchen)

It's merited many mentions in interviews; Mrs. Obama refers to Yosses' pies as "dangerously good," while the President has nicknamed Yosses "The Crustmaster," thanks to his magical crusts, which are made with both lard and butter. 
A selection of pies were even served at the President's birthday celebration at the White House, though Yosses maintains that the First Family now only eats his pie once a week. He also says Banana Cream pie is the President's pie of choice, but the White House has released the recipe for Apple pie.

Yosses' recipe for perfect pie has a lot of steps in it, and you could noodle around all day making it, with all the chilling and cooling that's called for, so your best bet is to make the crust dough the night before, and pop it in the fridge to chill. Then it's easy. (Above: President Obama's White House birthday celebration included six kinds of pie)

Yosses says his "secret" for the perfect double-crust pies is to pre-bake the bottom crust first, "until it's brown," and then bake it again when it's filled. Yosses prefers to mix the dough by hand to avoid overworking it, but for an easier home version, he suggests using a food processor--but with a very light touch on the pulse button. 

More Yosses secrets: He uses metal pie pans, and like most pie makers, he uses pie weights (you can use rice or dried beans for this). The apples are cut into chunks rather than sliced.  And don't let the use of lard in the recipe fool you.  Lard is no more "unhealthy" than butter--it just has a bad reputation--and Yosses' use of both lard and butter in this recipe is a classic hybrid.

The Apple Pie on a White House dessert buffet

White House Apple Pie


For the crust
3 Cups All-Purpose Flour

1/4 Cup Sugar

1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt

10 Ounces Unsalted Butter, cold, cut into small chunks

3 Ounces Lard, cold, cut into small chunks

1/2 Cup Ice Water

For the filling

2 Pounds Apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks

1 Cup Sugar

1/2 Cup Honey

1/3 Cup Cornstarch

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon

Zest and juice of 1 Lemon

For the egg wash

1 Egg

1 Teaspoon Salt

Sugar, for sprinkling


1.  To make the crust, in a food processor pulse together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and lard, then pulse briefly until the mixture forms small crumbs. Add the ice water and pulse just until a dough forms. Divide the dough into 2 pieces and shape into discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

2.  When chilled, to prepare the pie shell, on a floured surface roll out one disc to a 14-inch circle using a rolling pin. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased, deep 9-inch pie pan, leaving a 1 inch overhang. Refrigerate the crust in the pan for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

3.  When ready to bake the bottom crust, heat the oven to 375 F. Line the cold crust with foil and fill with baking weights, rice or dry beans to hold it in place. Bake the pie shell for 30 minutes and remove from oven. Leave the oven on once the crust is done.

4.  While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. In a large saucepan, toss together the apples, sugar, honey, cornstarch, vanilla, cinnamon and lemon zest and juice. Let sit for 20 minutes.

5.  Bring the fruit mixture to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the fruit thickens. Let cool.

6.  When the bottom the filling has cooled, pour the it into the baked crust. Roll out the second disc of dough to about 12 inches.

7.  In a small bowl, beat the egg with the salt. Use a pastry brush to brush the egg on the edges of the cooked crust. Place the top crust over the filling. Using a fork or crimper, gently crimp the top crust, sealing the pie around the edges.

8.  Slit the top of the crust with a paring knife in several places to create steam vents. Brush egg wash over the crust, then sprinkle with sugar. Bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the top crust is golden brown. Let cool for 1 to 2 hours before serving.

Serves 8, depending on portion size

Related: Check out the sidebar of the blog for more recipes. Another excellent pie recipe from Yosses is his Key Lime Pie.

*Photos by Pete Souza/White House.