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Dec 6, 2007 03:21 AM


Despite all of your good advice, I'm a bust at apple pies. I was trying to make a good one with the vodka pie crust (should have just drunk the vodka, eaten an apple and called it good).

First I made the crust early yesterday. Had forgotten to take butter out of the freezer so tried to make it with frozen butter. Threw that away and tried again after the butter had thawed, I thought. It was better, but I still had too many larger chunks of butter in it.

Then I drove to OZ and bought half Macintosh and half Granny Smiths, used mostly Ina Garten's apple pie recipe except I used brown sugar and cut it to two tablespoons. I made an egg wash for outside and dusted the crust with brown sanding sugar (it looked pretty).

I put the pie on a sheet of foil to catch drips and put a cookie sheet on the rack below for the same thing. Cooked it an hour and 15 minutes at 400 degrees and DH let it sit for at least an hour.

His evaluation: crust too thin and bottom crust still not cooked. He thought the runny one I made before was better.

I have made apple tarts with homemade puff pastry and they come out beautifully although I worry a little about too much juice there.

I am a bust at double crust pies.

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  1. I feel your pain. I will be watching this thread. I too have tried to make double crust pies when I am feeling brave yet somehow just miss the mark. I don't seem to have a problem with the inside apple juices/texture-just the crust. The best one I have made so far does not use vodka though but I think the devil is the details of the butter temp and how quickly the pie dough is mixed. Mine gets tough not flaky because I think I "play" with it too much.

    1. I would highly recommend that you check out the recipe for deep dish apple pie on the americas test kitchen site ( - it's free). The crust is really pretty simple to make - you just need to follow the instructions (this one doesn't use vodka). The recipe also gives you the secret to cooking an apple pie without having the apples collapse and leave a big space under the crust (pre cook the apples - works like magic). I have actually modified their recipe by using all Gala apples instead of a mix; I use a bit more sugar and spices and I DO NOT pour off all of the juices as they recommend (too dry). I am not a particularly great baker, but I have won 1st and 2nd place in my local pie bake-off the past two years with this. My daughter made it from my email instructions and it turned out great. You do need to keep an eye on the pie, depending on your oven. It never takes as long as the recipe states for the pie to get very nicely browned and done. Good luck!

      1 Reply
      1. re: bnemes3343

        I agree about NOT draining the juices!!! Way too dry. Otherwise, great pie - and AMAZING crust!

      2. Aww, dutch, everyone goes through this. I sure made a lot of messes before I got the result I wanted, and even then, sometimes the outcome is best, broken up, stirred about, and eaten in a bowl with ice cream on top. It takes awhile to find the method and recipe that you want.

        I always use Mutsus and/or Northern Spies. NEVER Macs...they are an eating apple, and go mushy. Cortlands are not too bad, but too fine a texture for me for me. I make an adapted pate brisee et sucree, and I use an adapted "Candied Apple Pie" from the Mennononite Community Cookbook. And I prefer an open pie. See? It must have taken me 3 years of trying, and even so, there were never leftovers. Some just turn out better than others. Each aspect of the pie takes some practise. Simply rolling the pastry is a skill unto itself, happily honed by making rolled cookies, as they give you practise with a dough that's very forgiving. Even try making pie pastry "cookies", to get some practise working with it. (Make the pastry, and handle as you would to prepare for a pie, sprinkle and press into the pastry: sugar or cinnamon sugar or sugar mixed with grated lemon or orange zest, slice into straws, twist, and bake)

        Brilliance takes awhile: perfection takes a little longer. Relax, make note of the results: what you liked and disliked about it, why you think it went wrong, and enjoy the results
        along the way. Think about it and try again.


        3 Replies
        1. re: violabratsche

          When I started making bread as a twenty two year old, I boiled the water for the yeast (I am smart. I swear. I have gone to college and won) for years. I eventually learned how to do it, so I won't quit. The test kitchen pie sounds really promising. DH is leaving town for a week (after he finishes my last failure --- you're all right about that --- they get eaten). I do think that cooking the apples ahead would make a difference big time. I'll keep watching this for your other great suggestions and take heart. I'll report after the next attempt. Maybe I'll make a pie to welcome him home.

          1. re: violabratsche

            Really good advice. I couldn't agree more. I've been trying for years to find the ideal (for me) pie crust and I do believe I have found it with the vodka crust. I suffered through the failures and frustrations - non of which were so bad as to be inedible.

            Good luck dutchdot

            1. re: violabratsche

              I like the advice to practice. Although this doesn't address all the variables, you could make apple crostatas, which would allow you to practice making pastry and see how different apple varieties cook.
              I made an apple pie a month or so ago which was fine but not perfection. (Mostly due to my lack of precision in shaping the crust.) A couple weeks later, I made an apple-cranberry crostata that was terrific; I wondered why had even bothered with the double-crust pie!

            2. I heartily second the recommendation to pre-cook the apples. It has made a big difference in my apple pies, no gap under the top crust. I like to cook the apples until just barely soft on the outside and then scoop them out with a slotted spoon and reduce the remaining juice by about half and add it back to the apples. That way your pie isn't too soupy, but it isn't too dry either.

     for your frozen butter, the best tip I've seen lately (on CH...but I forget who said it) was to grate frozen butter and just mix that into the flour. Tada! Perfectly sized butter peices with no 'cutting in' or guessing when the pieces are small enough. Toss grated butter in the dry ingredients, add ICE water till it will just hold together and then form into a disk and chill.

              Oh...and I agree. No Macs. The apples have to be tartish and have a good amount of crisp to them, and macs just don't hold up well enough for my taste.

              And keep trying! As long as the attempts get eaten, there's no reason not to keep making them.

              6 Replies
              1. re: wawajb

                Hmm, pre-cooking the apples, I've never done, but you WOULD be able to control the amount of liquid. You wouldn't have to guess if it'd turn out watery or not. That's something for me to consider! How do you cook them? Steam? and what do you do with the apple-y cooking or steaming liquid?...hey, I know...make applesauce! (another of today's threads)....Add it to a pork stew, or a winter root veg stew...hmm, the mind reels....


                1. re: violabratsche

                  Well, I've never pre-cooked my apples, the only apple I don't use is Red Delicious, and I never roll out my bottom crust, I pat it in the pan.

                  I mix butter and Crisco, and follow the sugar and baking instructions from good old Betty Crocker. An hour, I believe, at 425 degrees.

                  As to the frozen butter, couldn't you have nuked it to soften it?

                  1. re: dolores

                    I agree with dolores. I've been making the Betty Crocker pie for 20 years with nary a mishap. I include a variety of apples so that some are hard and some are crisp, and all taste a little different. No butter, just Crisco, though I do add the butter under the crust as per the recipe. It's pretty easy to do and received with considerable fanfare. Here's the link:

                  2. re: violabratsche

                    I saute my apples in butter first till just al dente, then add spices, and fill pie.

                  3. re: wawajb

                    Toss the sliced apples with the sugar and spices and then cook them over med heat in a dutch oven (covered, but stir every few mintues) for 15 - 18 minutes until they are tender but not mushy. What ends up happening is that you change the structure of the apples so that they will not 'cook down' when you put them in the pie and bake. (I'm sure Alton Brown could give us the chemistry behind this)...

                    I really like the suggestion to the remove the apples and 'reduce' the liquid. I would imagine this would intensify the flavors in addition to keeping the pie from being too wet.

                    1. re: bnemes3343

                      Don't reduce too much though. i did this for Thanksgiving, but ended up with a dry (albeit tastey pie). There is a happy medium. I reduced it to a syrup.

                  4. No expert here, but.... If you mix it in the food processor with the chopping blade, not the dough blade, frozen butter won't matter. If your top crust collapses, make a Dutch Apple Pie with a streusel topping, in stead.

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: yayadave

                      Did do it in the food processor with the chopping blade, thinking like you, that it wouldn't matter that it was frozen. It did matter -- took too much processing to get the pieces small enough. It would be tricky to nuke butter for pastry. I should have just left it out to thaw or, better yet, checked the pantry ahead of time (I've suggested that to others). I'm almost ready to think that, like puff pastry, the absolutely cold may not be best. I do think that grating the butter, as someone suggested, is excellent, but I also had crisco in this one and Crisco needs the food processor or pastry blade.

                      Wonder what would happen to mix the crisco in the processor and then put it all into a bowl and grate frozen butter in and proceed per vodka crust. I really liked the frozen grated butter idea Everyone has been so upbeat about the vodka pastry that I want to try it.

                      I am definitely going to cook the apples ahead of time and readjust the kinds of apples. No more macs, I got that.

                      I tested the top crust this morning and still think it's excellent. Hubby's idea that it was too think doesn't ring true for me.

                      1. re: dutchdot

                        Wasn't there something on one of these threads about coating the bottom crust with egg wash to keep it from getting soggy?


                        1. re: yayadave

                          Yes, you can do that - a very thin coating of egg white (I do this for quiche). But the best thing to do is just to put the pie on the bottom of the oven, and have the oven really hot when the pie first goes in.

                          I've never had the "apple gap" problem - I don't think that happens if the apples are the right sort (don't cook down too much - Northern Spies are my favorite, though hard to find), and enough vents are put into the top crust.

                            1. re: curiousbaker

                              Nor have I ever had the "apple gap" problem (in~60 years of making apple pies), and I wouldn't dream of pre-cooking my apples. Apple pies should be easy so you don't get depressed at the thought of making them. Get an old BH&G cookbook and look up the "Perfect Apple Pie". It is just that, dead-easy, the only recipe I've ever used. Northern Spies are the best pie apple, else a mix of Cortlands/Grannies/Macs (or Crispin/Greening/Pippin/Jonathan/Winesap/Jonagold......3 very different varieties if possible so they fill in each other's gaps). Re: crust. The absolutely best homemade crust I've ever tasted is the Egg & White Vinegar crust, but I always keep a box or two of IGA pie crust sheets in the freezer. They are the very best--no "box" taste, slightly (1 oz.) bigger than Pillsbury, easy to handle, nice and crunchy if you take a few pains w/them and bake them right. The foil under your pie, BTW, might be the reason it was undercooked. Set your pie on a dark baking sheet or stone near the bottom of the oven. If necessary, move it up to brown the top the last few minutes. Get a pie ring to protect the edge from over-browning and lay a small (just big enough to cover the center of the pie) piece of foil on top if necessary, BUT DO NOT TAKE THE PIE OUT OF THE OVEN UNTIL JUICE IS BUBBLING OUT THE SLITS AND THE WHOLE THING IS DEEP GOLDEN BROWN.

                              1. re: SallyMcP

                                I have had the gap problem i precooked my apples this time and it was awesome you only have to bake it for the crust to cook. the apples precooked mean you can put more apples in the pies.. I love to bake i bake often and i love precooking my apples it was a wonderful way to make a stuffed apple pie

                                1. re: PITAmommy

                                  Yes, that is the benefit of slight precooking - more apples, cooked thoroughly in a luscious pie.

                          1. re: dutchdot

                            Did you cut the frozen butter into pieces before putting it into the processor? Because I start with frozen butter every time, and just cut it into small pieces (and it's very easy to cut, with a knife dipped in hot water), and it works great. Though I do like the grating idea...

                            1. re: JasmineG

                              I cut it into teensy tiny pieces and just processed the first one to death. After I threw that out, the second one did better when the butter was, I thought, thawed and cold, I didn't process it into trash. The pieces of butter were still too big. I'll let you know after I grate the one. Doesn't grating sound like a cool (pun!) idea?

                              1. re: dutchdot

                                Actually, I found grating a pain. The heat from my hand softened the butter and it got slippery and I was trying to grate it with-out getting knuckles in it and auuugh!!

                                I cut my stick of butter in half, lengthwise. Then turn it on it's side and cut it in half lengthwise again. Then chop it into 1/2 inch pieces. After that, it goes in a cup and into the freezer. If that helps. I don't plan to freeze it, just to get it good and hard.

                                1. re: yayadave

                                  As cool as I thought the grating was last time I tried it...the last 2 inches of the stick are indeed a hazard. I ended up just cutting that final knob up with a knife. My plan for next time is to set up my food processor with the grating disk, but have the flour in the body of the machine to "catch" the grated butter. I'll probably have to stop halfway through the stick to mix the already grated pieces around in the flour so they don't all clump back together, but I think that will work with no danger of knuckle grating. If anybody tries it, please let me know how it works!

                                  1. re: wawajb

                                    I had sorta mulled that over in my head, thinking of heat from hands and bleeding knuckles. That's what I'll do. I'm doing this next week and will report ad naseum. I had done the finely cut up in my second attempt at the pie and it did not work for me. That's the one with the too big lumps, not the one I just plain pitched.

                                    1. re: dutchdot

                                      "In a chilled stainless-steel mixing bowl, toss together the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut the cold butter into 1/4 inch cubes and add it to the flour mixture. Using two knives, a pastry blender or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, chop and toss the butter until all the chunks are coated in flour and smashed up a bit. Do not keep cutting and tossing the butter so that the butter chunks all become pea sized. The butter chunks should mostly remain a bit larger than peas and vary in size, ranging from lima bean size to pea size, as in this photo:"

                                      That quote about the size is from this place:

                                      You don't want them too fine.

                                      While we're on the subject, have you looked here?

                                    2. re: wawajb

                                      Just last night I finally put together an all-butter crust recipe and method that is going to work for me.

                                      I grated the frozen butter with no grazed knuckles, I just keep turning the pieces and grating off the sides that get a little soft from my hands. My recipe (made 2 9" crusts or a top and bottom crust) was off an epicurious pie recipe: . After I stirred in the icewater, I dumped 2 piles of the mixture on 2 pieces of saran wrap, sort of scrunched it into disks, and put it in the fridge. It was still very crumbly and looked like it wouldn't hold together, even when I tested a handful by squeezing it. About an hour later, I rolled them out right on the same saran wrap (had to go out over the edges a little bit), and put them in the pie pans. They held together very well, and the saran wrap made it a breeze to get it in the pan. I left the saran wrap on them and put them back in the fridge after I'd trimmed the edges. Judging from the scraps I baked (with cinnamon and sugar, yum), it turned out very flaky and buttery, and was not at all hard to handle. Can't help you with the apple part, but I feel like I'm getting somewhere with the crust!