Preparation: 35 minutes plus 45 minutes for chilling and standing
Cooking: 40 minutes
Serves: 8 people
2x 375g (13oz) packs ready-made sweet dessert pastry
1.5kg (3¼lb) tart eating apples, such as Braeburn
50g (2oz) golden caster sugar, plus 1 tbsp
1 tbsp flour, plus extra for rolling out
1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1 medium egg (optional)
custard, cream or ice cream, to serve (optional)
Shape the pastry into 2 discs, one slightly larger than the other. Wrap them in clingfilm, then chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, or until firm but not hard. If using readymade pastry, leave the blocks as they are.
Meanwhile, squeeze the juice from the lemon and pour it into a large pan. Peel the apples, then cut the cheeks of the apple away from the core. Cut each cheek into very chunky slices, 2 – 3 cm (¾ – 1¼ inches) across. As you chop each apple, put the pieces into the pan and toss with the lemon juice. The lemon juice will stop the apple from turning brown.
Cook the apples gently in the pan over a low heat for 5 minutes, or until the slices are just starting to soften and looking juicy at the bottom of the pan. Drain the apples in a colander, discard the liquid, then tip them into a bowl and gently stir in 50 g (2 oz) sugar and the flour and cinnamon. Leave to cool.
Dust the work surface and a rolling pin with flour. Using the rolling pin, press shallow ridges evenly across the larger piece of pastry, then rotate it by a quarter turn. Repeat this until the pastry is about 1 cm (½ inch) thick. This will help the pastry to stretch without becoming tough.
Have ready a 23 - cm (9 - inch) round pie tin or plate. It should have a lip so that the pastry has something to stick to. Now roll out the pastry. Push the rolling pin in one direction only, turning the pastry by a quarter turn every few rolls, until it is the thickness of a one - pound coin. Using the rolling pin to help, lift the pastry over the plate.
If you have made your own pastry, use the leftover white from the egg that you separated earlier. If you have used shop-bought pastry, separate the egg now and reserve the white. Break up the white a little with a fork. Dip a pastry brush into the egg white, then brush lightly around the lip of the pastry. It will help the top and bottom pieces of pastry to stick together.
Put the apples in the pastry-lined dish, forming a small mound.
Roll out the second piece of pastry, until it is large enough to cover the top of the pie. Gently drape the pastry over the top of the apples, then press it down at the edges to seal.
Trim the pastry edges using a pair of scissors or a sharp knife, then slash the pastry over the apples a few times, so that any steam can escape while the apples cook.
If you’re feeling creative, press the edges of the pastry together with your thumbs to make a ridged pattern. Cut a few leaves from the pastry and stick them onto the pie with a little of the egg white.
Brush the top of the pastry evenly with a thin layer of egg white, then sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Chill for 15 minutes (or up to 1 day). Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5.
Bake the pie for 40 minutes, or until the pastry is deep golden all over. Leave for at least 30 minutes before slicing, to allow the juices and apples to settle and the pastry to firm a little. Serve warm or cold with custard, cream or ice cream.