The first time I ate apple pie with hard sauce was on a 1977 trip to Santa Fe, when I was still unfortunate enough to live elsewhere. One slice of the Pink Adobe’s signature dessert and I had another item to add to my growing list of reasons to someday live in New Mexico. This isn’t the restaurant’s pie or its style of sauce, but the Pink's late owner, Rosalea Murphy, always comes to mind whenever I put together this combination. Santa Fe Spirits makes a barrel-aged apple brandy that’s perfect as the “hard” part of the sauce, though you can use another apple brandy, or even any plain brandy you have on hand. The adult-rated sauce melts into rivulets over the warm pie, releasing the aroma of apples and brandy. For kids and teetotalers, a scoop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream can be a welcome replacement. Lard and butter meld together for an extra-flavorful, ultra-flaky crust, but you can substitute vegetable shortening for lard. Get seasonal apples from a local market, pile them high, and you’ll have a remarkable pie.


  • 2¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, well chilled, cut in small cubes
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons lard, well-chilled, or vegetable shortening, well-chilled
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons ice water
  • ¼ cup milk, for brushing outer crust


  • 3 pounds apples, preferably a combination of tart and lightly sweet, peeled and sliced thin(I like a mix of Braeburn, Jonathan, and Yellow Delicious)
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2½ tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Juice of . lemon, if you’re short on tart apples (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in small bits


  • 2 tablespoons milk or 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • Turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw) or other coarse granulated sugar, preferably; or regular granulated sugar
  • Hard Sauce (see recipe below)
  • Grease 10-inch pie pan.

Apple Brandy Hard Sauce

  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1¾ cups confectioners’ sugar

Serves 6 to 8

  1. Prepare pie crust, first pulsing together flour and salt in food processor. Scatter butter over mixture and quickly pulse several times, to just submerge them in flour. Scoop lard or shortening into small spoonfuls and scatter over mixture; pulse again quickly several more times until it, too, disappears into flour. Sprinkle in 4 tablespoons water and pulse again quickly, until water just disappears.
  2. Dump mixture into large bowl or onto pastry board. Lightly rub dough with fingers, adding more water a tablespoon at a time, as needed. When dough holds together if compacted with your fingers, stop. It’s ready. Pat dough into two fat discs. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 425˚ F. Fold up sides of large piece of foil to form drip pan for lower shelf of oven.
  4. Roll out each disc into a thin round an inch or two larger than pie pan. Arrange bottom crust in pie pan, avoiding stretching it. Even out any ragged edges, leaving about . inch of crust overhanging pan. Refrigerate pan with bottom crust and rolled-out top crust about 15 additional minutes.
  5. Prepare filling, first placing apples in medium bowl. Combine granulated sugar and cornstarch, and spoon half of mixture into bottom pie crust, where it can absorb and thicken the pie’s juices. Stir rest of sugar-cornstarch mixture into apples and mix with brown sugar, cinnamon to taste, salt, and nutmeg. Add lemon juice if apples are mostly sweet instead of tart. Spoon filling into crust, mounding it high in the center, and dot with butter. Top with second crust and crimp edge neatly. Cut several vent holes. Embellish top crust with any remaining pieces of dough, cut decoratively if you wish. Brush top with milk, then sprinkle lightly with sugar. Cover edge of pie with strip or two of foil.
  6. Bake pie 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350˚ F. Continue baking another 50 to 55 minutes, removing foil for last 20 minutes. Pie is done when crust is golden brown and flaky. Let pie cool at least 1 hour, to allow juices to be reabsorbed. (Reheat pie, if you wish, in 300˚ F oven about 15 minutes.) Slice in wedges and serve, accompanied by Hard Sauce.

Apple Brandy Hard Sauce

  1. 3 to 4 tablespoons apple brandy In mixing bowl, cream butter with electric mixer set to medium-high until light and fluffy (a couple of minutes). Stop mixer, scrape down sides of bowl, and add confectioners’ sugar. Beat slowly until sugar is incorporated. Continue to beat slowly, drizzling in brandy a tablespoon at a time until all is mixed in. The sauce should be like creamy butter. Scrape into small bowl or other container. Leave at room temperature if using within a few hours. Otherwise, cover and refrigerate for up to several days. Return to room temperature before serving a spoonful over each slice of warm apple pie.