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Apple Pie: Cutting up the apple, preferences?

I just made my first of many apple pies for the season. One thing I always hesitate on is how to cut my apples. I usually cut them into quarter inch slices and then do a cup or so of small cubes of apple to sort of fill in the gaps. This makes for a saucey dense apple pie.

But I think how you slice it is probably as diverse as what kind of apples to use (Northern Spy are my favorite and Cortlands are my supermarket go-to)

How do other home bakers do it?

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  1. I don't really like pies with big chunks of apple in them. I don't like having a piece of pie with an apple piece that is cooked on the the outside and crispy on the inside. I cut my apples in 4 or 6 wedges and then slice the wedges across. End up with pieces about an inch wide and 1/4 inch thick.

    I agree on the kind of apple. Northern Spy if possible, Cortlands as back up.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Sooeygun

      I agree. I certainly don't want a crunchy apple in the pie. Ideally I'd like the chunk to hold the shape it had before it was cooked but upon biting into it reveal a soft and sauce-y interior. But I feel like my fear of crunchy apple makes me err on the smaller side when chopping.

    2. Can you tell me why Northern Spy and Cortlands are your favorites? I'm guessing it's a texture issue. I'm not real knowledgeable on the subject of baking, and I've been using Golden Delicious for the apple tart that I do this time of year. Do your preferred apples stay firmer or break down more?

      3 Replies
      1. re: Deenso

        Northern Spy apples have a great texture when baked. They hold their shape and cook soft but are never mealy or mushy. I think they are about the ugliest apple I have seen. They always look the least appealing at the farmer's market but always make a great pie.

        In my experience is that Cortlands have a similar but inferior texture but what makes me really like them is their balance of sweet and tart.

        Golden Delicious is a fine baking apple but doesn't always have the tartness I am looking for and tends to make a softer pie filling.

        Granny Smith are almost too firm and too tart. I can never get it right with granny smith.

        Sometimes in the peak of the season I like to go to the farmer's market and get one of everything and then mix them all in a pie. That's an easy way to strike a balance.

        1. re: heypielady

          Golden Delicious are pretty bland, if you ask me. Julia Child used to recommend them for tarts, but that was when there were very few choices in the supermarkets, and she had to use a variety that is widely available year-round. Macintoshes are too soft and Red Delicious often bitter and mealy, but she said Golden Delicious were generally reliable (as opposed to delicious - don't get me started on truth in advertising!). Grannies need to be mixed with a softer apple - Cooks Illustrated recommends Grannies with Macintosh as a pie mix; these two balance each other out in texture and tartness. Several years ago I bought 3 each of a couple of dozen varieties of apple at an orchard which has heirlooms plus the usual suspects. With each variety, I ate one, baked one, and made a tartlet with one, and took notes. Northern Spy, Macoun, and Empire were my favorite pie apples, with Empire just edging out the other 2. Since then, Honeycrisps have come on the market and I like a mix of Mac/Honeycrisp, too, for pie.

          1. re: greygarious

            I've never used Empire but you've piqued my curiosity. Next time I see them I will give them a try.

            I've also always thought of the Honeycrisp as a snacking apple. But many of you have hailed it as a decent baking apple so I will give that a try too.

            I've always dreamed of having an apple pie taste test similar to yours greygarious, but making maybe three or four pies each of a different type of apple. I'm sure my family and office would have no complaints about that many pies lying around.

      2. Depends entirely on the kind of apple. My mother always used only Macintosh - taste is great but you wind up with applesauce pie. She cut 12 wedges but placed them in 2-3 layers of concentric circles piled very high. They cooked down by well over half.

        Northern Spies are great. Also: Macoun/Granny Smith mix (soft/firm). Empires solo.
        Macintosh/Honeycrisp (soft/firm).

        I think your technique is fine. You might like one of the hand-crank apple peeler/corer/slicer gadgets - they cut into spiral slices. If you make a lot of pies, they make fast work of firm apples, as long as they are symmetrical. If the core isn't well-centered, it's a hatchet-job. The spirals break up (or you can cut down the middle) into flat crescents, which neatly fill the pan with virtually no gaps.

        1 Reply
        1. re: greygarious

          If I get to buy apples from a orchard I always buy a mix of Johnathan,Macintosh, Jonagold, Granny Smith and Winsaps if they have them. I also like Northern spy, but they are as rare as Winesaps in Ohio.

          I typically slice my pie apples, but I will make a pie w/ cubed apples to test the theory.

        2. Granny Smith. Cubed, about 1/4 inch.

          1. I've always sliced my apples into 1/4" slices and packed the pie high, so that gaps closed as the filling cooked down. But I'm going to strongly second grey's suggestion of the apple peeler. They're selling them all over now (signs of a homecooking resurrgance?) for $20, but you can get them cheaper. Anyway, they peel, core, and slice apples (and pears) into thin twisty strips that I find perfect for pies. I was skeptical, but wow - it works great. (Also great for making an easy chunky applesauce, because it quickly peels and cores, so you don't need to push it through a foodmill.)