When I was growing up, my family made apple pie and, without fail, my mother would melt a piece of American cheese over the top before serving it à la mode. As strange as it sounds, I loved the interplay of the sweet-tart-molten-frozen elements, and it inspires me to this day.
Over the years, my palate has evolved and has become less drawn to sweet flavors. Now, I bake sage into my apple pie for herbaceousness and brown butter for nuttiness. Also, instead of American cheese singles I use Winnimere, a rich, lightly funky triple-crème beauty that tastes like butter and cheese in one, with a smoothness that reminds me of ice cream when it melts softly into the warm pie.
Technique tip: You may wish to adjust the level of sugar depending on the tartness of your apples.
Swap option: If Winnimere is unavailable, use another rich triple-crème cheese such as Brillat-Savarin.
For the pie dough:1.
In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt and pepper. Add the cream cheese and butter, pulsing until the dough comes together, about 1 minute.2.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and press it into a large, smooth ball. Divide the dough into 2 balls, flattening each into a 1-inch-thick disk.3.
Wrap each disk of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
For the filling:1.
In a large sauté pan, melt 1/2 pound of the butter over medium heat. Add the apples, half of the sugar and the salt and stir to coat. Cook until the apples release their juices, about 6 minutes. Add the remaining half of sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and stir gently to coat and incorporate. When the apples are just barely cooked through, sprinkle the flour over them to thicken the juices, about 10 minutes.2.
In a large saucepan, melt the remaining 1/2 pound butter over medium-high heat, swirling the pan as it cooks and letting the milk solids brown, until the butter takes on a nutty, deep aroma, about 5 minutes. When the butter stops crackling and singing, remove the pan from the heat and add the sage, cooking until toasted and fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir into the apple mixture. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet and allow to cool completely, about 1 hour.3.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out one dough disk into a round about 16 inches in diameter and 1/8-inch thick, enough to line a large (10-inch), deep (4-inch) pie dish. Roll out the second dough disk into a round about 12 inches in diameter and 1/8-inch thick. Fill the pie dish with the cooled apple mixture and top with the second crust. Trim the edges to a 1/2-inch overhang. Crimp the edges using your thumb and forefinger to pinch together and seal, and make three slits in the top to vent. Chill the pie for at least 30 minutes before baking, placing a damp kitchen towel over the top so the crust doesn't dry out.4.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.5.
Brush the crust liberally with the beaten eggs. Bake until golden brown and fragrant, 35-40 minutes.6.
Let the pie cool for 30-40 minutes. Serve the pie whole, with the Winnimere and a pepper mill at the table to add a good crack of heat to each piece.