This pie is named for my inability to get the crust to quite become as pretty as I'd like, though it tastes amazing.
There are a few pasty tips I want to say ahead of time:
1. The dough should be cold right up until when you want to bake. Chill your butter, add milk or ice water, and chill your flour in preparation. If you have cold hands, all the better. If you have warm hands, handle the dough directly as little as possible. You can also run your hands under cold water and dry them before handling dough.
2. Do not over-mix, do not knead, do not squeeze. You should leave small pebbles of butter alone in the dough; that's why the crust will be flaky.
3. Pre-bake the bottom crust until lightly browned to prevent sogginess as it bakes, when filled with apple-sugar juice. If it's not firm, throw it back in. Try not to burn it, but it should be firm.
4. For a browned top (or for a more brown top), brush top with butter. For a glossier top, brush with a lighter colored jelly which has been heated to boiling. I recommend apricot, lime or lemon, but not jelly with seeds or skin in it.
5. Do NOT precook the apples. Trust me. You want them to be still raw when they go into the crust. This will trap their tartness in the crust, so that the pie will taste more apple-like and less like a lot of sugar with an apple in there somewhere. The same technique is used in apple tarts to preserve the flavor of the fruit.
6. This can be done with vegetable oil, Crisco or vegetable shortening, instead of the butter, but you will want to treat the top of the pie with something, because it will not brown in the same way butter will, though with the same preparation (leaving in small hunks of shortening, instead of mixing it all in), you should get a nice crust out of it. You will not get the same flakiness, however.
7. When adding liquid to the crust dough, add a tiny bit at once. The dough should just barely stick together (there will be crumbs on the bottom of the mixing bowl), and should be very stiff. Over addition of liquid will ruin the crust all together. The main components of the crust should be fat and flour.
8. You can 'cut' the butter into the flour mixture with forks, but it takes forever. Don't use an electric mixer, because it will take the dough from just right to rubbery within seconds. I recommend a pastry cutter (a handle attached to four or five metal spines in a half-circle, sold at WalMart fer cheap.)
Ingredients for crust:
3 cups flour
1 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
Ingredients for pie filling:
3 lbs apples (Granny Smith or any hard tart apple tends to be best)
pat of butter
1 orange or 2 tablespoons dried orange peel
Instructions for making the crust:
1. In a mixing bowl, place cold butter. Use a knife to cut the butter into small squares (evenness is not a virtue here, it just makes cutting the butter and flour together easier.)
2. Pour 1/2 flour into bowl over butter. Add sugar and salt. Cut together until mixture looks like pea gravel. Some lumps will be larger, some smaller. The largest should be the size of a dime. Do not overmix.
3. Slowly add in another cup of flour, mixing gently. The mix will be lumpy, which is cool. Add milk or ice water in no more than 2 tablespoons at a time. Stop when dough mostly sticks together.
4. Pour the rest of the flour on a clean surface and turn out dough onto the flour pile. Roll dough in flour, and spread flour in circular radius around dough ball. Rub flour into your rolling pin, then gently push down on dough ball. While you are rolling it out to 1/3 inch thick, pick up dough ball at intervals and flip it, and re-dust top of dough with flour. When the dough is the right thickness, roll it loosely around the rolling pin and roll back out over pie pan.
5. Use a knife to cut around edges of pie pan, leaving a 1/2 inch of dough around plate. If your dough is the right texture, it will tear in layers when you cut it. Put aside excess dough and pinch up edges into thick waves (don't let it get thin.) Prick crust with fork or knife to allow gasses to vent.
6. Place second, same sized pie plate inside pie crust (glass helps) and bake in 375 degree oven until the edges and bottom are lightly browned and no longer 'wet.' Pull out and put aside.
Instructions for the pie filling:
1. Peel, core and slice apples, and place slices in bowl.
2. If using a raw orange, wash outside skin, pat dry and grate peel into bowl. This will produce orange oils, and you want those in the pie. Scrape the grater off at intervals. Juice orange over apples, pulling out some pulp. Otherwise, add dried orange peel here.
3. Add white sugar and brown sugar, making sure that the apples are slightly less sweet than you think you want. Add cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and a pinch of anise seeds (these will be overpowering; don't over-add this and cardamom.)
4. Toss apple slices until they are coated in brown mix of sugars and spices. Put slices in pie crust (don't worry about scraping all the reserved apple juice and sugar, the apples will juice up like mad when they're baked. Place pat of butter in center of apples.
5. Roll out left-over dough fragments, then gently roll over rolling pin and transport to pie. Roll gently over apples, tucking the edges of the top crust so that they are directly over the apples and bottom crust.
6. Brush top with jelly or butter and put in 375 degree oven. Bake until it smells awesome and the top is browned and crispy.
It doesn't need the ice cream, but ice cream is good with this.