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Apple Pie

dcole Nov 3, 2010 09:10 AM

With Thanksgiving around the corner, and never having made an apple pie before (not much of a baker) I am going to be giving it a few test runs between now and then and figured I would get everyone's perspective on their favorite things about it and some tips.

First, what is your favorite part of a perfectly done apple pie? Any tips for crusts - all butter, lard, shortening, ect? A lot of filling or a thinner layer? What kind of top?

Also, has anyone seen a thickness to aim for in slicing the apples or other tips like this? Any advice from serious pie makers would be huge!

Finally, what do you guys prefer to bake them in? I have a round pyrex pie pan, but have no problem purchasing something like earthenware, ect as I imagine I will be making plenty of pies in the years to come. Thanks a lot!

  1. digkv Nov 3, 2010 09:58 AM

    I actually prefer making gallettes, just a free form pie really. For the crust, definitely use an all butter crust. Deb from smittenkitchen has a really wonderful galette dough recipe, which also works with pies: http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/10/cab...

    Your round pyrex pan should be great for a pie. I think Cook's illustrated did a test and liked the pyrex glass pie pan the best. I love pies and have a made a few, but all my double crust pies always turn out really messed up so I'm probably not the best person for advise, but I do make great hand pies and galettes, which I find to be so much easier! I recommend any of those unless you are super set on making a standard double crust. Good luck!

    2 Replies
    1. re: digkv
      k
      katecm Nov 3, 2010 10:03 AM

      I agree about the all-butter crust for flavor. However, if you've never worked with dough before, you may find a crisco/butter mixture easier to work with.

      Regarding the rest, it's a matter of taste. I like my apples very thinly sliced, because I like them to cook through. Others like more of a btie to them. Think about what you prefer in a pie and go for that. Likewise with thickening. My mother prefers to use flour; I like cornstarch, as I like the silkiness of the juice after it cooks.

      Honestly, everyone has a different way of doing it to suit their preferences. But know that regardless what you decide, it's always delicious.

      Oh! But one thing I learned the hard way - if you go for a solid dough layer on top instead of a streusel (I don't recommend a lattice, as the apples on top dry out and get chewy), make sure you have enough slits in the top for air to move. Otherwise you end up with a high crust above a huge pocket of air.

      1. re: digkv
        cowboyardee Nov 3, 2010 01:47 PM

        I must respectfully disagree on the all butter crust. I've experimented a lot and an all butter crust is good. But the best crusts I've made have been about 50/50 butter and lard. Best mixture of taste and texture IMO. BTW, I keep the butter really cold and then grate it into the dough - keeping the butter from melting is of utmost importance.

        On an unrelated note - I season my apples with ginger and cardamom. You can get away with a bit less seasoning this way so that you can still taste the apples, but the seasoning holds up through cooking as well. I like it WAY better than more traditional apple pie spicing. Just a suggestion if anyone wants to try something a bit different.

      2. shanagain Nov 3, 2010 11:59 AM

        I'm always the lone hold-out for an all lard crust. I like the flakiness and ease in working with the dough, as well as the flavor. (Basic recipe - 2 C flour with 1/2tsp salt stirred in, cut in 2/3 C lard, sprinkle 5-8 T ice water over mixture until uniformly moist - you just sort of sprinkle a T of water over an area, then toss it to the side of the bowl with a fork. The water content varies with your weather conditions. Mine always seems "too wet" at first, but after rolling out on a lightly floured surface it's never failed me.) Oh, and a lattice is a must for the pie I make.

        I like a firm, tart apple so I stick w/granny smiths because my recipe uses a caramel sauce to sweeten the apples - I don't like "sweet" apple pie, and I prefer to slice my apples into about 1/3" slices. Basically, I have an apple slicer that slices the apples into 8 sections, then I slice each of those into 2 or 3 sections, depending upon the apple.

        But here's my biggest "secret" - this is the recipe I've used for years now, and I absolutely love it and don't change much (I'm a tinkerer, so I do change here and there, such as adding apple pie spices, which aren't called for but sure don't hurt): http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Apple-Pie-by-Grandma-Ople/Detail.aspx

        Even if I wanted to try another recipe, I'm afraid I'd have a mutiny on my hands. It has the perfect sweet/tart blend that my family prefers in a pie.

        The biggest trick no matter what recipe you use though... LET THE PIE COOL. Sorry for yelling - but apple pies need to "gel" after cooking, otherwise you have a runny mess on your hands.

        (Trouble uploading - picture here: http://lh3.ggpht.com/_lovUrG4TA5w/S3S...

        )

        ETA: I sprinkle my crust with turbinado sugar for extra sparkle after pouring the caramel sauce over the crust.

        8 Replies
        1. re: shanagain
          biondanonima Nov 3, 2010 01:04 PM

          This recipe looks really interesting - I may give it a try at some point, although I think I would have a similar mutiny if I varied from my typical recipe at Thanksgiving. Maybe for Xmas!

          1. re: biondanonima
            shanagain Nov 3, 2010 01:10 PM

            Not just delicious, it makes for the prettiest crust I've ever seen or made - just beautiful. Those reviewers who insist on pouring the caramel "in" instead of "on" the crust.. irritate me greatly.

            The surprise to me is that it isn't nearly as sweet as you would think. A bonus - double the sauce and slice more apples for dipping as you cook. ;)

            1. re: shanagain
              v
              Val Nov 3, 2010 05:05 PM

              The last time I made an apple pie with *only* Granny Smith apples in it, it was much too tart! ... so does anyone mix the apple varieties up in this recipe? I'm sure I could and the cops would not arrest me...but with all due respect, GS only seems to yield a very soury pie. Just wondering what most really experienced bakers have found with the GS...I would use some but not all next time around.

              1. re: Val
                shanagain Nov 3, 2010 06:31 PM

                Val, this particular recipe calls for a homemade caramel to be poured into the pie, so unlike most pies which use less than a cup of sugar for sweetening (at least the ones I've used) this pie uses a cup of sugar, total, in the syrup. To me it's a perfect sweet/tart balance, but by all means, try anything you and yours care for more!

                1. re: shanagain
                  v
                  Val Nov 3, 2010 07:12 PM

                  Thanks...yeah, will all that added sugar, it might work...then again...why add all that sugar if you only need to add a sweeter apple ... still is intriguing and I will try it out!

          2. re: shanagain
            m
            MarieO Nov 3, 2010 03:24 PM

            Please please please, OP, make Grandma Ople's pie. I've tried a LOT of apple pie recipes and it is honestly best one. I am super evil and use a store-bought crust, and it's still awesome.

            Make it the night before, or morning of, to allow the apples to "set". Also, you can decrease the water a little when making the caramel sauce, particularly if you apples are very juicy. Just be patient as you spoon the slightly thicker sauce over the upper crust.

            I made this pie at Canadian T'giving and it moved one particular gent to tears of happiness. He even posted a picture of it on Facebook.

            OT: I've used the same recipe with nectarines, and it was just as heavenly (although for this, you would definitely need to reduce the water quite a bit).

            1. re: MarieO
              shanagain Nov 3, 2010 03:40 PM

              This pie inspires this reaction commonly, for sure.

              And something is just wrong with you if you don't want to take a picture of it. (Or, you've done it wrong.)

            2. re: shanagain
              missmasala Nov 4, 2010 05:04 AM

              I have made grandma ople's pie and it is good, though sometimes i have trouble pouring in the caramel sauce--it tends to mound up too much on top of the lattice.

              for apple pie, i like to add a little cream cheese to my pie crust--i use a combo of butter, rendered leaf lard, and cream cheese--this makes for great flavor and a flaky texture.

              I use a deep-dish pyrex dish and place it directly on the floor of the oven for first 20 minutes--this help the bottom crust crisp up and keeps it from getting too mushy.

              for grandma ople's pie i use granny smiths or another tart apple, but for a regular pie i like cortlands, or golden delicious for a sweeter pie. Neither of these should be sliced too thinly or they will turn mushy. About 16 slices per apple is a good thickness.

              if you're making a double-crust regular pie, whatever you do, don't forgot to GENEROUSLY dot the filling with butter before putting the top crust on. This makes a big difference.

              In the end, good apple pie is all about practice--you get a feel for what works. But if you have a good recipe and follow it, you can certainly turn out delicious pie the first time.

              Oh, and I agree with everyone else--the pie must cool down for several hours before being cut into. If you want warm apple pie, reheat it in an oven before serving.

            3. rcallner Nov 3, 2010 12:28 PM

              Some areas not yet covered - a combination of organic brown sugar and good honey, FRESH cinnamon, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, about 1/2 teaspoon of good vanilla and a pinch of salt dress your apples especially beautifully. Dot the apple filling with butter before baking, whether you're using a top crust or going galette.

              1. bushwickgirl Nov 3, 2010 12:41 PM

                All good rec's here, lot's of thinly sliced apples, well chilled CI Vodka pie crust recipe, Pyrex glass pan, mix of apples (I prefer Grannies and Golden Delicious) a combo of sugars, a little salt, vanilla and lemon juice on the apples, a LITTLE thickener or choice, cornstarch or flour, some sweet spice, cinnamon and nutmeg, don't forget to dot the filling with butter, and use my avatar as your guide ;-)

                http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

                3 Replies
                1. re: bushwickgirl
                  i
                  Isolda Nov 3, 2010 12:48 PM

                  I'm going to try that CI recipe for the first time at T-giving. Looking forward to living on the edge. To your mix of seasonings, I also like to add just a touch of microplaned lemon zest.

                  1. re: bushwickgirl
                    biondanonima Nov 3, 2010 12:59 PM

                    I second the CI Vodka crust - it is the BEST crust I've ever made, and so easy to work with. I'll never use another recipe, although I might try doing the technique with lard at some point.

                    As for the rest, it largely depends on personal preference. My mother always made "dutch" apple pies with a streusel topping, and I love those, but for some reason mine never turn out right so I tend to do double crusts. I use a mixture of thinly sliced Grannys (which take longer to soften), sweet Goldens and usually a few Macintoshes or other soft apple that I slice more thickly so that there are different textures. I like a high apple to crust ratio so I use a deep dish pie plate (ceramic) and pile them up! In order to make sure they all cook fully, I actually microwave the slices for a few mins before I put them into the crust - this also gets their juices flowing and allows me to better assess how much thickener I need. I use just a little flour to thicken, plus everything else bushwickgirl mentioned to season, plus a GENEROUS dotting of butter.

                    I really, truly cannot WAIT for thanksgiving!!!!!

                    1. re: biondanonima
                      geminigirl Nov 3, 2010 04:12 PM

                      third!

                  2. TrishUntrapped Nov 3, 2010 01:24 PM

                    Here's a link to my old post on apple pie techniques, along with a slideshow. Basically, I photographed my mother in law as she made an apple pie. She is an excellent Yankee New England pie baker. Friends ask her for a pie for their birthday rather than cake. I wanted to preserve her recipe for future generations.

                    As for the crust, she makes the flour/shortening combo and refrigerates it until ready to use. Then she measures and adds ice cold water and the crust can be rolled immediately. The cold shortening and the cold water are key.

                    Slice the apples medium thin....not real thick, but you want them to have some texture... We bake in pyrex or glassware type pans.

                    Another trick is partially cooking the apples in the microwave. It softens them and ensures they will bake through.

                    While my mother in law uses flour to thicken her filling, I prefer minute tapioca (there is even a recipe for apple pie on the box), it works well too.

                    Have fun exploring and enjoy!

                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6675...

                     
                    1. dcole Nov 3, 2010 03:24 PM

                      Thanks a lot to everyone....great discussion.

                      1. c
                        chococat Nov 3, 2010 03:39 PM

                        CI has a good recipe for apple pie (I think it's technically a cranberry apple pie, but of course you can omit the cranberries) that calls for microwaving the sliced apples with a bit of sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch. The science behind it (which I don't completely understand) is that pre-cooking the apples will "set" the pectin and prevent the apples from getting completely mushy during the long cooking time needed to brown the crust. Works fabulously-- the apples are soft and tender without being completely structureless... and as a bonus, the apples can be pre-microwaved and stored for a few days until the pie is baked. The CI vodka crust is super (and works fine with any combination of butter, shortening and lard), and can also be made in advance. I usually do a streusel topping because I like the crunch.

                        As for slicing, I "square off" the apple around the core after peeling, the slice the apple into half- to third- inch slices. This method results in slightly more waste but is so much faster that I don't worry about it. And I bake in glass pyrex pans (deep dish) so that I see when the bottom crust has browned adequately.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: chococat
                          bushwickgirl Nov 3, 2010 04:28 PM

                          Interesting slicing technique; I saw Tyler Florence of FN peel and core his apples, then slice thinly on a mandoline, in rounds, and pile the apples sky high.

                          1. re: bushwickgirl
                            i
                            italy531 Nov 3, 2010 05:04 PM

                            I was a apple pie hater until I tried Tyler Florence's Ultimate Apple Pie.

                            http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ty...

                            The difference for me was definitely the thin sliced apples...well and the yummy caramel sauce.

                            1. re: italy531
                              shanagain Nov 3, 2010 06:36 PM

                              Dude, Tyler totally ripped off Grandma Ople. So uncool. ;).. but seriously, uncool.

                              1. re: shanagain
                                biondanonima Nov 4, 2010 04:27 AM

                                This is definitely interesting, with the red wine caramel. Now I need another occasion for an apple pie!

                                1. re: shanagain
                                  bushwickgirl Nov 4, 2010 04:41 AM

                                  How are the two recipes even remotely the same? Employing a similar technique for preparation does not a ripoff make.

                                  1. re: bushwickgirl
                                    shanagain Nov 4, 2010 07:45 AM

                                    Just joking about the rather unique caramel base idea, no worries, and didn't mean to offend you, or Tyler Florence.

                                    1. re: shanagain
                                      bushwickgirl Nov 4, 2010 07:49 AM

                                      Cool. Everyone riffs on everyone elses stuff, anyway.

                            2. re: chococat
                              biondanonima Nov 4, 2010 04:36 AM

                              Chococat, thanks for the heads up about the CI recipe. I just checked their site, and although their classic apple pie doesn't call for pre-heating the apples, they do include this note regarding deep-dish pies:

                              "Deep-dish apple pie presents a few additional challenges and, while the tips regarding the crust are valid here, we also found it best to precook the apple filling, which eliminates the shrinking problem and actually helps the apples hold their shape once baked in the pie.

                              This seems counterintuitive, but here's what happens: When the apples are gently heated, their pectin is converted to a heat-stable form that prevents the apples from becoming mushy when cooked further in the oven. The key is to keep the temperature of the apples below 140 degrees during this precooking stage. Rather than cooking the apples in a skillet (where they are likely to become too hot), it's best to gently heat the apples and seasonings in a large covered Dutch oven. "

                              I also found the cranberry-apple pie recipe you mentioned, where they give this direction: Meanwhile, mix 1/2 cup sugar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cornstarch in large microwave-safe bowl; add apples and toss to combine. Microwave on high power, stirring with rubber spatula every 3 minutes, until apples are just starting to turn translucent around edges and liquid is thick and glossy, 10 to 14 minutes. Cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

                              While I do pre-cook my apples in the microwave, I don't typically go that far with them - I just nuke them long enough to get things started, maybe 5 mins or so. I've never taken their temperature, but I'd be willing to bet that I keep them somewhere in the 140 degree range that they mention in their dutch oven method.

                              1. re: biondanonima
                                TrishUntrapped Nov 4, 2010 05:54 AM

                                Well, I guess my mother in law knows what she is doing after all by pre-cooking her apples just a bit. ;-)

                                A slice of this pie would taste so good right now.

                                 
                            3. visciole Nov 3, 2010 05:51 PM

                              See, I'm a BIG apple pie lover, and I like to taste the apples in there, and personally would not choose a pie recipe with caramel sauce for that reason.

                              I like to use a tart, old-fashioned apple like a Gravenstein... but I always vary the sweetness and thickener amounts according to the sweetness and juiciness of the apples I've got, and I also slice them thicker or thinner depending on their texture. Macs taste great, for example, but tend toward mush, so when using them I make big chunks.

                              I think it's very important to get good apples for pie. The better the apples taste, the better the pie. I also use very little sugar, maybe 1/4 cup for 6-8 cups of fruit. I only use lemon if the apples are sub-par, but I do like a bit of cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg, and a touch of rum if the apples are dry. For thickener I prefer instant tapioca.

                              For the crust I use about 2/3 butter and 1/3 non-hydrogenated shortening, which is palm oil.

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