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Apple pie filling: to prebake or not

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do you prebake/roast your filling for your apple pies? my mother's and my father's recipes both go with raw apples into the unbakes crust and cook all together, real simple. i however, have been doing lots of reading/surveying/experimenting and it seems that cooking the filling might be the best option. just wondering what everyone out there goes for. thanks.

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  1. I use the recipe from the King Arthur Baking Book and it uses raw apples and raw crust. I like the way that some of the apples cook down and others stay firm.

    1. I've done it both ways and prefer putting raw apples into the crust. The cooked version I've made is a French tart which involves cooking and pureeing the apples, filling a pre-based crust and topping with slices of raw apples which are glazed before serving. It's very good too, but I prefer the rustic look and taste of pie made with chunks of apple.

      1. To me, a half cooked apple is a little like a half cooked onion. Raw onions- love them. Cooked onions- I worship at their shrine. But a half cooked onion? Get it out of my sight.

        Apples, same thing, raw and cooked, love, but half cooked, nope. Unless you pre-cook them, half cooked apples will always be a potential for apple pie.

        1. I've always gotten the best results by par-cooking the apples first. Not only does it guarantee you have a fully cooked apple in your pie, but it also keeps the crust from getting too, too soggy as the pie bakes. Make sure to let your apples cool before adding your thickener and scooping into the crust.

          1. I like to saute them first in butter and some brown sugar and cinnamon. You don't want to get them too soft, but just until they are a little tender. Otherwise, you often end up with half-raw apples when the crust is done.

            5 Replies
            1. re: kittyfood

              yes, i think this is THE way to go. maybe ill try today. cheers everyone.

              1. re: ben61820

                An old post yes, but it's my dilemma today. I've always gone with the raw in the oven approach, but this one sounds like a good alternative. Any other opinions?

                1. re: michele cindy

                  i always do exactly as kittyfood described - saute first just to get a nice caramelization started without cooking them through.

                  of course, as others have mentioned, the doneness of the apples will also depend on the thickness of the slices.

                  1. re: michele cindy

                    I like this approach, too. I have a recipe where you add cream to the mix and it adds an amazing caramel richness.

                    1. re: michele cindy

                      There was a recent thread that mentioned microwaving the apples for a couple of minutes. i just tried it this morning and we tried the pie late this afternoon and it worked. The poster said two minutes so of COURSE I couldn't list and did three. They were right ;-/

                2. If you haven't already, you may want to check out Rose Levy Beranbaum's "The Pie & Pastry Bible", where she covers this topic in tremendous depth (as she does all topics). Her method is to macerate the fruit in whatever sugar the filling calls for, then cook down the resulting liquid--not the fruit itself--and use it as part of your filling. The sugar does loosen the texture of the fruit slightly, but not as much as cooking would, so you can still end up with some firmness in the apples, if that's appealing to you. It also helps with keeping the bottom crust with getting too soggy. Good luck!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Ignatz

                    now this certainly sounds sensible. i think this is the route ill go next round.

                    1. re: Ignatz

                      I'd recommend RLB's method for anyone who is wary of soggy crust but wants the apple taste and texture to shine through. Personally, I like some caramelization in apple crisp but when it comes to pie, I like the fresher taste of apples that still have SOME shape and have not caramelized.

                    2. The wife and I have been making apple pies for years and the apples have never turned out anything but done.
                      Then, lately we keep seeing these tips about pre-cooking the apples (first saw it on America's Test Kitchen). Seems like we're trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist.

                      Maybe the issues is related to the filling recipe? Perhaps different versions are more likely to not cook through? Also, it could be the size of the apple slices that make a difference.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: GDSinPA

                        see, i had thought the same thing. my mom never had any problems, it was only when I started experimenting and used an apple other than the Romes she swore by that i started to think i should prebake. hehe. we create our own problems. curiosity killed the cat i guess. tasty experimenting, tho.

                        1. re: ben61820

                          We use Granny Smith and make relatively thin slices. I honestly don't think we've ever used a different type of apple.

                          1. re: GDSinPA

                            I'm a huge fan of Cortlands, although they're in scarce supply around here in general and are also an early-season apple.

                      2. When I make an apple pie, I don't precook the apples, and I don't understand why the apples wouldn't cook properly in the pie shell. I used Granny Smith's last week, and the apples were VERY cooked down in the pie. But I have noticed in the past that some apples cook down to mush and some don't. I'd prefer firmer apples, to tell you the truth. But I seldom bake pie any more, so it probably doesn't matter too much.

                        Anytime you bake a pie totally from scratch, what you get is better than a pie you buy baked or frozen, or a pie you put together with purchased crust. Never apologize for your home made pie. What you are serving is such a rare gift to the eaters, that they should be grateful to you for practicing what is becoming a lost art. This is my opinion, of course.

                        19 Replies
                        1. re: sueatmo

                          I just took an apple pie out of the oven. It looks wonderful, hope it tastes as good as it looks. I uses 5 granny smith apples, and 5 cortland apples, brown sugar, lemon juice, flour, cinn and dotted thefilling with butter before adding the top crust. Crust was brushed with egg and sprinkled with sugar. Will be great with vanilla ice cream after dinner ( roasted pork, brussels sprouts, broccoli in cheese sauce, mashed, cabbage salad, corn and rolls)

                          1. re: macca

                            It is probably wonderful! Lucky eaters.

                            1. re: macca

                              How was it macca? Sounds great! p.s.
                              I have a cabbage in the fridge, please let me know how you prepared yours.

                              1. re: michele cindy

                                Was wonderful! Had my brother and his family over, and his youngest ( 3 yo) sat down and asked for everything on her plate, then told me exactly where the gravy needed to go! They loved the pie- am having company for dinner tonight, and have one piece of pie left!.
                                WE make a simple cabbage salad- I shred the cabbage on the box grater, add mayo, salt. pepper, and equal parts vinegar and sugar. My nephew loves it- I make it almost every Sunday for him!

                                1. re: macca

                                  Thanks that sounds good.

                            2. re: sueatmo

                              Hear, hear, sueatmo. Absolutely agree.
                              I think part of the precooking thing is because of the massive amount of apples some baking writers want you to cram into a shell. Mom knew best - 9" pie, 5 c fruit. She used 1 c sugar with most fruit, I cut that back a bit.

                              1. re: buttertart

                                OK. Yes about 5 cups of fruit sounds right. This last time I followed the instructions on the back of the tapioca box, and just between you and me, the recipe calls for too much sugar. The pie pleased everyone though.

                                1. re: sueatmo

                                  Mom was an instant tapioca girl too.

                                2. re: buttertart

                                  Wow, I use about 7 cups of fruit (raw) with about 1/3 cup of sugar... No trouble cramming in the apples!

                                  (Instant tapioca for me, too.)

                                  1. re: visciole

                                    Visciole, I too use about 7 cups of (raw) apples in a 9" Pyrex dish (I think they're a little deeper than most pie pans?), and it is just right. I agree re: piling apples a mile high; it ruins the balance between crust & apples--there should be both in every bite. And I have never had under-cooked apples in a pie in my ~60 years of baking them. The apples should be sliced ~ 3/16" thick, slices no longer than ~2" so they will pack down nicely. Bake at 400 degrees the entire time and never take it out of the oven until the juice is bubbling thickly from out of the slits. Put a pie ring around the edge, lay a circle of foil over the top the last few minutes if needed, to prevent over-browning. Undercooked apples mean either too-large chunks or an underbaked pie.

                                    Greygarious, Northern Spy are my favorites too, though I usually make about 1/3 of the apples a combo of Granny/Cortland/maybe Crispin. I've used the same recipe since I was married (in 1954). It's from the red & white-checked Better Homes & Gardens cookbook I received as a wedding present. Recipe title is "Perfect Apple Pie" and truer words were never spoken.

                                    And BTW: I prebake the bottom crust at 450 until it is just good & hot (about 5 minutes) take it out and quickly brush the inside bottom lightly w/egg white. This cooks instantly and seals the crust so it doesn't get soggy/doughy, and the edge of the crust is still pliable enough to not crumble when I wrap the top crust around it.

                                3. re: sueatmo

                                  What I believe was the Cook's Illustrated first iteration of the "perfect" apple pie, in 1986, called for a blend of Macintosh and Granny Smith. This was because they wanted varieties that are widely available. They actually preferred Macoun and other smaller-distribution apples. The Macs have great flavor but turn into applesauce by the time they bake. The firmer GS keeps its shape better so the final filling's texture is better. Works for me when Macoun, Northern Spy, and Empire aren't available. .

                                  1. re: greygarious

                                    The Spy apple is THE pie apple. Wish they were more common. I love to eat them too.

                                    1. re: buttertart

                                      Yes, I got Northern Spies for the first time this year at a local orchard and I made my best pie ever with them. Delicious out of hand too - the perfect tart-sweet balance and great texture too. If only they were widely available year-round!

                                      1. re: biondanonima

                                        You said a mouthful, Sister!

                                        1. re: biondanonima

                                          I just bought 3 pecks of N.Spies for winter pies. Peeled/sliced/froze half of them in 5-cup bags. (I'll add another two cups of other varieties when I use them.) The other half, which I checked for even tiny bruises, I have in the coldest corner of my basement where they should stay at under 40 degrees. They are famously good "keepers". Nothing compares with them for flavor, IMO.

                                          1. re: biondanonima

                                            I got a half-bushel of Spies in October and they're still in my basement waiting to be made into pies. They really do keep well.

                                            As to the original question, I have never precooked my apples and have not had a problem with my filling not cooking but then I do like a bit of firmness to my apples, so my pie might not be for everyone. I have had pies made from very soft apples that turned out to be something like chunky applesauce encased in pie crust, and that's really not my preference.

                                            I also slice the apples super-thin and toss them with my spices, sugar and pulverized walnuts, so they do get macerated in the process. I use a LOT of apples and fill my deep dish pie plate to heaping and then add some more apples anyway and top it with a crumb topping.

                                            It is my most-requested pie, even above the pumpkin cheesecake.

                                            Come to think of it, I ought to bake one today and use up some of those Spies.

                                          2. re: buttertart

                                            ditto re spies.. We never precook. and never have problems with uncooked apples. Maybe the thichness of the apple slices is the issue for some? Apples need to be sliced thin for pie, not in wedges.

                                            1. re: jen kalb

                                              I've given up on slices because DH does the prep work; he cuts them into what looks like squares or blocks. We live around orchards, so we generally just buy what the operator says is the best for pies, and it usually works out well. The block shape is nice, too.

                                              1. re: Rella

                                                My mom used to peel the apples and just work around them cutting off chunks freeform, none thicker than say a cm. They cooked well and felt nice in your mouth. Must do that sometime again.

                                      2. Cook's Illustrated claims that pre-cooking the apples at a low-ish temperature (they recommend microwaving) "sets the pectins" in the apples, so they cook completely but don't turn to mush during baking in the oven. My experience with their method is that the apples stay intact and tender but don't turn to mush (which I hate) by the time the crust is fully baked. A minor advantage to this method is that the apples can be peeled and sliced and cooked in advance and stored in a bag in the fridge. I can prep and roll the crust and toss it in the freezer, prep the struesel topping and apples and throw those in the fridge-- then I can have the pie ready to go in the oven in less than 5 minutes on the day I want to serve it. It's a nice time saver on busy days.

                                        1. I personally don't pre bake my apples but I've been seeing people do this more and more and I'm kin dof curious know to try it out and see what, if any, the difference is.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: rockability

                                            Cook's mentioned that one adavantage to pre-cooking the apples is that you don't get that hump and empty pocket between the top crust and the apples because the pre-cooked filling doesn't cook down. My daughter prefers a slighty crunchy filling, but I like mine soft, so to each her own.

                                            1. re: Claudette

                                              I've never understood what makes some crusts do that (stay up in a hump above the filling). My crusts always stay right on top of the apples and I never pre-cook the apples. Does it have anything to do w/how the crust is made--what kind of shortening?

                                              1. re: SallyMcP

                                                I think it's the ratio of flour to fat. A friend was distracted when making dough to top an apple cobbler and didn't realize she'd used an extra cup of flour. This became known as the Chernobyl Cobbler. All the fruit cooked down but the now-inedible dough dome remained mounded high above. We had to smash it with a meat mallet to get to the apple compote that our dessert became. .

                                                1. re: greygarious

                                                  I must have been distracted when I followed a recipe that used an extra cup of flour in a cobbler. What was I thinking???

                                                  Same thing for me - no need reiterating. Geez! What a disaster!

                                          2. No, never.

                                            If I want applesauce pie, I'll make applesauce pie.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              The whole point of precooking the apples (at least using the Cook's Illustrated method) is that the pectins in the apples set the structure so the apples DON'T turn to mush (counterintuitive) even if the pie is cooked for quite some time in an oven hot enough to set the crust properly. Something different happens when the apples are cooked with direct heat than when they are cooked in a pie with radiant heat-- I don't understand the science behind it, but it seems to work.

                                            2. No. The disadvantage to pre-cooking the apples is that it's too much work for lazy me.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: visciole

                                                Heh. Agree.

                                              2. i do it 3 different ways for different reasons -

                                                par-cooked for a more caramelly, brown sugary taste, usually with a mixture of tart and sweet apples like granny smith and gala or fuji. i saute the apples in butter without sugar until they have a bit of color, then add brown and white sugar just til melted and thickened, and then degalze with calvados or brandy.

                                                raw and sliced very thin with tart baking apples like pippin plus a bit of flour added as a binder, with sugar and cinnamon of course, for a more fresh apple flavor. for this style pie you want to choose apples that don't break down as much otherwise you get that big gap between the crust and the fruit and no one likes to be fooled by a big empty space in their pie.

                                                for crostata or galette, i slice the apples very thin, macerate in sugar, and drain the liquid, cook it down, and then add it back in to the filling along with some lemon juice and creme fraiche, that way the crust doesn't get soggy.

                                                1. Precooking the apples is not necessary. If the pie itself is well-baked and brown, the apples will be fine. Anyone finding undercooked apples is either using an apple not suited to pies or is not browning/baking the pie enough. I do wonder if this stems from the belief of some people that pie crust should be pale and white. I have even heard pastry chefs complain about how some Americans don't like properly browned pastry. Richly browned baked goods are yummy!

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                    My mother-in-law's apple pies are still doughy and white when she takes them out of the oven, and I can't eat them - crust and apples are too pasty and raw. But my husband prefers her pies over my perfectly brown, tender/crispy ones! What the hay!?

                                                    1. re: Claudette

                                                      GROSS! I am so sorry.

                                                  2. There's a very apropos post over on Serious Eats today -- one of their editors swears by a method wherein he soaks the sliced apples in boiling water for 10 minutes before adding them to the crust and baking the pie. Has anyone else ever used this method? Here's the article explaining his reasoning:

                                                    http://sweets.seriouseats.com/2011/10...

                                                    21 Replies
                                                    1. re: operagirl

                                                      This is the same guy that used to work for Cook's Illustrated - the genius behind the vodka pie crust, in fact. I have never tried the boiling water method, because I find that the microwave does a perfectly good job, but perhaps I'll try it next time. I would worry about losing some of the apple juices to the water, though.

                                                      1. re: biondanonima

                                                        The cell wall info is valuable but when I see someone recommending Golden Delicious for anything, it calls their credibility into question. They are the white bread of apples, IMO not much better than Red Delicious. I can forgive Julia Child's endorsement of them on old TV shows when there were few widely-available apple choices but just recently a new (I think) ATK episode used GD for apple crisp, which should be a felony. Lidia Bastianich baked them whole but I think even her fans (I am not one) would probably agree that dessert recipes are not her forte.

                                                        1. re: greygarious

                                                          I agree completely; yet I've found for some reason I don't understand that many French cooks prefer GD. Could the variety taste different in Europe than it does here?

                                                          1. re: visciole

                                                            I would guess yes. I think there's a huge difference in GD apples even within America - fresh picked from an orchard, they're delicious and make a very satisfying pie (if a bit sweet for my taste). From the supermarket, they are totally Wonderbread.

                                                          2. re: greygarious

                                                            I always prefer Jonathans for cooking/baking, but I rarely see anyone else mentioning them. I used to be in the "Golden Delicious? You have to be kidding!" camp, also, until I tried them in a baked dish. What seems to be a tasteless apple actually becomes somewhat flavorful when cooked - who knew?!?!?! But I still prefer Jonathans. The one I don't get is Granny Smith - not a good baking apple at all!

                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                              we cant get Jonathans in NYC - but I was surprised that the Jonathans my Mom has been buying recently in Ohio dont taste or seem at all the same as I remembered - has there been creep with the variety?

                                                              1. re: jen kalb

                                                                Could be. I've had a few bags over the last few years that didn't seem right.

                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                  That's interesting, because it seems to me that with time, there are changes in the flavor of a particular apple variety that can't be accounted for by the vicissitudes of growing seasons. A friend remarked recently that he is no longer as wowed by Honeycrisps as he was when they first appeared here about 10 yrs ago. I feel the same way about Granny Smiths and even my beloved Macouns don't seem as good as they once did. It's really hard to say whether it's the apples, or our taste buds, that have changed.

                                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                                    the Jonathans she is buying/picking actually look and taste different. I know that they are not using some of the chemicals that were once in use to red up apples, but this is not primarily a redness issue - these apples are quite different. In the old Jonathans, remember a bright red blush, that actually sometimes permeated into the creamy flesh, along with a wonderful apple perfume . They were relatively small apples. Akane, a more recent and earlier related apple, is worth looking out for and much earlier. I got a bag of Jonathans in NJ a couple of years ago that were fine, but cant find any currently.

                                                                    The ones Mom gets now in Ohio have a slightly greenish interior, some astringency and not even a whiff of the old flavor.

                                                                    1. re: jen kalb

                                                                      I got some like that this year! My take on it was that they were picked too green and still weren't really ripe. Jonathans don't ripen well until the weather turns cold.

                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                        that was my take the first time it happened but the second and third- I dont think so.

                                                                        1. re: jen kalb

                                                                          Wow, that's really too bad! Yeah, I've gotten a few bad bags, but I've also gotten some great ones! I just don't know how to decide which ones to buy without trying them first - very frustrating!

                                                              2. re: sandylc

                                                                I agree about Grannies! They seem to be the cooking apple du jour and though one or two might be useful for adding some tartness to sweet apples (lemon juice will do that), as a rule (maybe some are better than others) they have very little flavor. I grew up using Jonathans & Winesaps for pies, but that was in the South and they don't seem to grow them in the NE where I live now.

                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                  There is a variety, Jonagold, which is a cross between Jonathon and Golden Delicious. A very nice general purpose apple, indeed. I sense that GS are the "available" tart apple in many regions.

                                                                  1. re: KarenDW

                                                                    Yes, I've tried Jonagold and didn't think them memorable. I will try again. That cross should make a good pie apple. So much depends on how old the apples are, how they've been kept, if they were picked ripe or pre-ripe. An apple that's great in the fall will be mealy & tasteless a few months later.

                                                                    1. re: SallyMcP

                                                                      Some apple varieties get mealy within weeks of storage, others months, and others improve in storage. The Roxbury Russet, for example, is at its peak after New Year's.

                                                                2. re: greygarious

                                                                  I have always felt the same way about GD apples, but lately I have gotten some really good ones that may make me change my mind. I used them in pie, but tasted them along the way.

                                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                                    Ahhhh.....when it comes to Goldens the problem isn't the variety but the handling. In the old days, they were picked near the end of the season, when they were sweet and perfect BUT they bruised easily---pretty much if you breathed on them. Now they are picked earlier, greener, and they arrive at the grocer while quite underripe---you have to handle them like pears and finish them at home. And to my palate, they never quite ripen as sweetly as they would on a tree.

                                                                    I have an orchard, most of our Goldens will be removed within the next decade because most people agree with you on the lack of flavour. As for myself, I will always keep a few trees, pick them last, and share the old-world flavour in our local market as they were intended to be eaten.......shame, really. Julia was right for her time because they are lovely for applesauce, baking, and even in savoury dishes.

                                                                  2. re: biondanonima

                                                                    I made an apple pie yesterday; the crust was all butter and cracked on the edges rolling it out but I patched it up okay.

                                                                    I tried the recipe listed a bit above .. calls for soaking the apple slices in boiling water 10 minutes then draining and resting another 10 minutes. I used 1/2 Golden 1/2 Macintosh or Jonathan (I can't remember). The recipe only called for 1/2 cup sugar, only 1/4 tsp of cinnamon, no other spices, no butter.

                                                                    One good thing: no gap between crust and apples. But, it was not sweet enough and was missing something. My peeps think the soaking in boiling water removes some of the apple flavor.

                                                                    What recipe should I try next time?

                                                                    1. re: walker

                                                                      Soaking makes absolutely no sense. You lose the apple flavor. Try just briefly microwaving them (or gently saute them in a frying pan), the juices you get form precooking are wonderful and totally enhance the filling. Don't discard them. I use cinnamon and a little nutmeg for flavoring plus butter.

                                                                      Grandma's photos here:
                                                                      http://home-and-garden.webshots.com/a...

                                                                  3. re: operagirl

                                                                    I preserve my own apple pie filling using the following:
                                                                    http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/usd...
                                                                    (national center for home food preservation

                                                                    )

                                                                    .....and it calls to blanch the apples. Yes, they hold together, and yes, you lose a bit of flavour in the water. In this recipe, you counter that by adding apple juice to the recipe. The filling isn't quite as good as homemade but I love the convenience and I have apples to spare. Also it calls for Clear-Jel starch which is tricky to find.

                                                                    In my experience blanching them has the same result as par-cooking them in butter for a few minutes, or even a quick heat in the microwave. All three methods help the slices to hold their shape better.

                                                                  4. Yesterday, I made some apple hand tarts, and because I knew that they would be baking for a much shorter time, I pre-cooked the apples. I have an apple peeler/corer, and it cuts the apples into fairly thin slices. I used Macs and GD, and they cooked down the to ideal size for these small pies, however, if I were to pre-cook them for a regular pie, I would cut the apples larger so as not to be quite as saucy. I cooked them with sugar and butter, and the apples were very delicious done that way.

                                                                     
                                                                    1. Made a sour cream apple crumb pie over the weekend during our black out. Had partial power... Pie came out the best I ever made. The trick was thinly slicing the apples, didn't need to cook them beforehand. We used apples from our apple picking trip. There must have been a combination of 5 different varieties.

                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: michele cindy

                                                                        That's the holy grail of apple pies for me, what recipe did you use?

                                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                                          I borrowed a bit from a couple of recipes. I have no clue where I got them, but I think I may have gotten one from CH. The sour cream filling was sliced apples, tossed in a bit of lemon juice, then cinn. brown sugar, a bit of white sugar, and the cream mixture was 1 cup of SC, 1 egg, and 1 tsp of vanilla. Mixed it all up. I cheated on the shell, I used Oronque (it's pretty good for frozen). The crumb topping, 1/2 stick of butter, flour, brown sugar, processed in food processor til crumbly. Baked at intervals, 400 15 min, 350 15, and so on (one of the recipes called for that, and it worked well.) The topping as nice and toasted. Made 2 pies, my co-workers are eating it now and very happy!

                                                                        2. re: michele cindy

                                                                          I had an accident with a cherry pie recently! I was baking it and also using the oven for dinner. I took out the dinner, turned off the oven, and served dinner. Half an hour later, i remembered the pie. I turned the oven back on and finished baking it. It was agreed that it was one of the best pies we ever had. The crust was brown, crisp, and flaky. The cherry filling was rich and amazing. Don't know if I can replicate it or not!

                                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                                            A new technique is born!

                                                                        3. Just saw this thread so way late to the game. Precooking apples briefly is a great idea. Does not turn them into applesauce unless you overcook them. Microwave works very well. Here are some photos, you can click on it as a slideshow to see how my Yankee mother-in-law makes an awesome apple pie.

                                                                          http://home-and-garden.webshots.com/a...

                                                                          You don't need need to precook though. There's more than one way to skin an apple. As others have said, slice the apples as thin as possible, paper thin, and also don't overmound them into a crust and you'll get a thoroughly cooked filling. To me, the worst apple pies I've had (And I should mention I have judged apple pie contests) are ones with thick, undercooked apples swimming in slimy apple water and way too much nutmeg, but that's another story.

                                                                          I also prefer tapioca as a thickener and the amount used is right on the minute tapioca box. Make sure to let it soak in the apples for a bit and let the juices exude. Use all the juices in the pie. Others, like my mother in law, use flour and that works very well too, especially if you precook it with the apples.

                                                                          Neither tapioca nor flour though will work if the filling is undercooked. Someone once asked me, how do you know a pie is ready? The answer is it has to "sing." The top crust should start heaving up and down and the filling should start to ooze out. That's what my CH icon is, a singing pie crust. Also, pies should be baked in a very hot oven.

                                                                          One other thought. I think it is a bad idea to soak the apples in hot water to precook them. You're losing some of the juices and flavor. Keep it simple. Microwave them or heat them briefly in a fry pan.

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                                            Excellent post! Might I add that the crust needs to be a lovely, deep brown. None of this pasty white crust nonsense!

                                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                                              Yes Yes Yes to Trish and Sandylc w/a couple of small demurrals. I love nutmeg but yes, a tiny "pinch" or "dash" is enough. And under-baking is the death-knell of apple pies. And some kind of thickening agent is essential. Who wants to have to eat apple pie with a drinking straw?
                                                                              My small differences w/Trish: paper-thin slices aren't necessary and tend to make an "applesauce" pie. About 3/16" is thin enough, and there are still discernible apple slices in the baked pie. Tapioca is good, but flour is just as good and easier; mixes right in and no waiting time for the tapioca to dissolve. The old BH&G recipe I've used for years has the amts. of everything just right, IMO, though certainly one must know one's apples to make the small adjustments.

                                                                              6-7 cups of sliced apples (some lemon juice if more tartness needed),
                                                                              3/4-to-1 cup sugar (depending on sweetness of apples),
                                                                              2 level T. flour. (Perfect juiciness, perfect thickness of juice)
                                                                              1/2-to-1 tsp. cinnamon, dash of nutmeg,
                                                                              Chunks of butter (I use just under 1/2 stick) laid on top of filling,
                                                                              Baked at 400 the whole time on lower shelf of oven on dark baking sheet or stone.

                                                                              Pre-cooking apples boggles my mind. Apple pies are--and should be--EASY, not a long complicated process. (Which brings up the matter of crust, about which I've finally formed a strong opinion. But my Monday coffeetime friend just pulled in the driveway. Later.).

                                                                              1. re: SallyMcP

                                                                                Firmer apples like Granny Smith and Cortland are fine really thin, they don't turn to applesauce, but softer apples like McIntosh and Golden Delicious could get mushy. I'm a firm believer in "whatever works." If you makes a delicious pie with nice chunky apples, I'm all over it.

                                                                                However, if a pie comes out poorly I look at factors such as apple width, apple quantity, amount of thickening agent used, type of pie pan used - metal or glass, and oven temperature (is it hot enough). Those are the usual culprits.

                                                                                Then of course, you get my sister who put a tablespoon of nutmeg in her pie rather than a pinch and couldn't understand why it tasted funny.

                                                                                As to pre-cooking the apples (in my recipe it is a brief time, not long) I really find it ensures a fully cooked pie and I can use more apples than I normally would because the filling cooks down. I also know the filling will cook fully through and will sing. It's all a matter of personal preference. If your pies come out great the way you're making them with uncooked apples, keep on keeping on.

                                                                                My mother-in-law's recipe which I tend to follow except I prefer tapioca for thickening is at the bottom of this thread:

                                                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/820263

                                                                          2. I don't seem to have luck with apple pies. If I put raw apples into a raw crust, I get that awful hump, no matter what apples I use. I tried precooking apples - no hump, but apples were a bit too soft for my liking. They were sliced thin (about 1/4 inch). Maybe I overcooked the apples, probably did. Some stayed firm, others became too tender very quickly. Also used clear jel thickener from King Arthur. Don't like this thickener in apple pies so I'll have to try something else next time. Wish I could make a raw apple pie and not get that hump. I could macerate the apples, I guess, but that takes time. O well. Love this thread.

                                                                            9 Replies
                                                                            1. re: addicted2cake

                                                                              You definitely can make a good apple pie with raw apples.

                                                                              The reason apple pies come out raw/too juicy is they don't reach the right internal temperature. It is necessary for the filling to come to a boil in order for the thickening agent to work. When an apple pie reaches the right temperature it "sings." That is, the crust starts heaving up and down a little and juices start flowing out. The picture in my Chowhound icon is a singing apple pie.

                                                                              I make apple pies both ways - raw apples and sometimes with precooked apples.

                                                                              Here are a few tips:

                                                                              For raw apple pie: Slice the apple as thin as possible, even cut the slices in half as well.

                                                                              Make sure your apples are room temperature and not cold.

                                                                              Don't overfill your crust. Use just enough apples. The less filling the easier it will be for it to come to a boil.

                                                                              Thickening agents that work well for me are flour, or minute tapioca.

                                                                              For pre-cooked apple pies:

                                                                              Just microwave the sliced apples for a couple minutes you only want to parcook them, not cook them all the way through. Did you look at these photos on this link that I posted above (posting it again below)? Grandma precooks the apples very slightly in the microwave along with sugar, spices and flour, and the apples and juices all go into the pie shell making a delicious pie.

                                                                              http://home-and-garden.webshots.com/a...

                                                                              Another tip: Pie should cook in a hot oven either 400 or 425 degrees. It needs to be hot enough so the filling boils.

                                                                              Don't give up! Once you catch on and find the way that works you'll be in pie heaven forever!

                                                                              1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                                                Thanks, TrishUntrapped! I will follow your suggestions. I've never baked my pie at 400 or 425 for the duration, just the first 10 minutes. I probably never let it come to a boil, either, as I've never had juices flow onto my foiled lined baking sheet. OK, then. I will check out your link and next pie will be raw with thinly sliced room temp apples (mine always come from the fridge), flour for thickener, hotter oven. I won't over stuff crust with too many apples. I so appreciate your encouragement. By the way, I love your crust. It's so easy and very tasty.

                                                                                1. re: addicted2cake

                                                                                  I have to apologize for the photo album. I created it several years ago, and the site is not very good. I noticed that the link takes you to page 2 of the phots... So here is a NEW link to take you to page one.

                                                                                  http://home-and-garden.webshots.com/a...

                                                                                  When I get a chance I will move the whole darn thing to a better site. Anyone have suggestions for a more user friendly one?

                                                                                  Addicted, so glad the crust is working out for you!

                                                                              2. re: addicted2cake

                                                                                Awful hump? In that the crust forming a dome?

                                                                                I generally use raw apples but into wedges about 1/2 inch thick at the wide end.
                                                                                Usually the top crust follows or falls to the level of the filling when done.

                                                                                1. re: dave_c

                                                                                  I have always admired the hump, for some reason. I've complimented many a cousin on their beautifuly baked pies that had huge humps with air space between the crust and the filling.

                                                                                  However, when I google images of pie crust, I see no apple pie with humpy-pie crusts. I wonder if they knew their pies were defective :-))

                                                                                  1. re: Rella

                                                                                    I've had good pies both ways. It's not the size of the hump it's the magic of the pie...

                                                                                    1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                                                      I agree!!! The perceived ideal looks of an apple pie are FAR less important than the deliciousness of said pie! Actually, a "perfect"-looking apple pie makes me suspicious that it's some sort of factory franken-pie!

                                                                                  2. re: dave_c

                                                                                    Yes, I'm referring to the gap that forms between the cooked down apples and top crust. I call it a hump. I prefer my crust to fall to the level of the filling, as yours does. I'm going to try Trish's suggestions next pie.

                                                                                    1. re: dave_c

                                                                                      My reply should have been posted here, dave_c. It's after the test posts!

                                                                                  3. Well, I tried making another apple pie, not with precooked apples, and I still had the gap between top crust and apples. I had some time yesterday, so I macerated apples for over an hour and got about 1/2 cup juice - which I boiled down, then added to pie before I popped it into the oven. Crust is yummy as are apples, but they cooked down leaving a gap once again. I don't get it. I thought macerating the apples in sugar and spices then boiling down the juice to less than 1/3 cup would do the gap trick. It didn't, so I guess I'll do TrishUntrapped's method of microwaving for a couple minutes next time around. I used galas, braeburns, and pink ladies in pie, 8 small to medium apples. At least the pie tastes good. I kind of smooshed the top crust so that it was sitting on top of the apples. Maybe I'm obsessing too much about the gap, I don't know. I would just like my pie to have its top crust sitting flush against the apples I'll keep trying.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: addicted2cake

                                                                                      You're getting closer, so don't give up!

                                                                                      I personally don't mind the gap. But then I don't often make a mega high pie so I don't get it that often. As long as the filling and crust are in harmony, I'm good.

                                                                                      As the apples cook, they release steam and shrink down. One thing you can try if you go the raw apple route - physically press and push the apples down in the pan so there is less air and space between slices before adding the top crust. That may help with the gap.

                                                                                      Otherwise try the parcooked way and see if it works for you.

                                                                                      1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                                                        Thanks,Trish. I did push the apples down with my hand and draped the crust over the apples so that it was adhering to them. Still got the gap. Next pie will have parcooked apples. Now I need to buy a bowl big enough to use in the micro with all those apples. I guess I could do it in batches. I really appreciate your taking the time to reply. Just had a slice with lunch. Really, really good, despite the gap!

                                                                                    2. Let the "heft" of the apple be your guide. Lighter, air-ier apples such as Romes, McIntosh, Spartan, Golden are more of a baking apple, and will fall apart quickly at high temps---unless you par-bake/heat them. Heavier apples such as Fuji, Granny, or Gala will hold their shape much better in the oven, contingent upon how thinly you slice them.

                                                                                      The solution, if you don't want to par-bake, is to always mix the varieties in your pie. Macs with Grannies, Galas with Rome, etc etc etc. Then you get the best of both worlds and usually a lovelier flavour profile too.

                                                                                      1. I tried the Cooks Illustrated recipe, which is where I first encountered the idea of pre-cooking apples, so they don't cook down during backing and leave a gap below the upper crust. I tried it several times but find the pie too dense. I tried another method of precooking, and was pleased, but to my great frustration don't remember what I did exactly.