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Apple pie for a first timer

Forgive me if this has been asked, though I've looked through the posts and I can't find quite this question. Maybe I'm the only one on CH whose never made apple pie. I'm also frequently disappointed by mediocre apple pie. I'd just like a foolproof recipe to start with and then I can tweak it a little when I get a feel for it.
Anyone know a good one?

I'm also really interested in using cardamom as one of the spices but never used it before and don't know how much to use and what spices to combine it with....

One more anecdote- at the work potluck this year a lot of terrible store bought pies were left on the break room table- and one ape pie, homemade and absolutely terrible, was the only one I'd touch. Is that totally irrational?

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      1. Others may disagree, but I don't think there IS a foolproof recipe for apple pie. The reason is that all fruit is different, and what works once may not work as well the next time. For instance, I made my Thanksgiving apple pie this year from apples that I picked in October, par-cooked and froze. While they were fresh, I made a crostata from them that was probably one of the best apple things I've ever made. However, my T-day pie didn't turn out quite as well - perhaps because of the frozen fruit, but it could have been another factor.

        I think you really need to bake a lot of them to get a feel for how juicy your fruit is and how to compensate if it's a little drier or wetter than usual, etc. Also, which thickener to use is a matter of personal preference, so what is "foolproof" for one person may not be for another. I use flour to thicken apple pies, but tapioca for other fruits (cherry, etc.). Is flour actually better? Not necessarily, it's just what I'm used to.

        7 Replies
        1. re: biondanonima

          That's true enough, but I'm not looking for a foolproof *and* perfect pie, just a starting point. I don't even know the basics.

          Thanks for the tip about different apples year-to year, I'll pay attention to that and also for your point about thickener- I'll be sure to experiment with those.

          1. re: biondanonima

            I agree. One of the things I like about making fruit pie is that it's very easy to adjust it according to your own tastes. I like it tart, so I use tart apples (not anything like a Honeycrisp), and add less sugar than is typically called for. I prefer Minute Tapioca as a thickener.

            Use the recipe of your choice, but, before adding the thickener, taste your apple/sugar/spice mixture (raw) and adjust until you think it's right. Then add thickener (let stand 15 min if you use tapioca).

            The crust is the hard part, but just reconcile yourself to giving it a few tries before you get it just right, and you'll be fine. Also, if you can stand to use part shortening, that will result in a crust much easier to handle than an all-butter crust. The good thing is that even mediocre home-made fruit pie far outshines store-bought.

            And I'm with you on that one: won't waste calories on a store-bought pie!

            1. re: visciole

              Visciole, I also use minute tapioca in my apple pie. My mother-in-law uses flour. Both work.

              1. re: TrishUntrapped

                There are a couple of pies I make where I use flour to thicken, but generally speaking I prefer the texture of a fruit pie with the tapioca. You are right though, it's a matter of taste and both will work fine... just don't use cornstarch! ;)

                1. re: visciole

                  The seriouseats recipe below calls for cornstarch in the filling; I wondered about that. Should I just use 2 T of flour, instead?

                  1. re: walker

                    If it were me I'd use flour.

                    Also, not loving how the SeriousEats recipe calls for pouring water over the apples and draining them afterwards. You lose flavor and juices from the apples that way. I do agree with pre-cooking though. As you can see on the slideshow I linked to below, you get some nice juices when you precook, whether you do it in the microwave or on the stovetop (I've pre-cooked them in a skillet, that works well too). Just don't toss those juices!

                    1. re: walker

                      I have never pre-cooked my apples; I never thought it necessary, so I can't comment on that (though I agree wholeheartedly with Trish that pouring boiling water over them and then discarding does not sound good.)

                      Also I would never use Golden Delicious or Braeburn apples, as I find both too sweet and rather flavorless. Instead try Northern Spies, Pippins, Gravenstein, Cortlands, or even Granny Smiths. GoldRush if you can find them. Just not an apple that tastes bland and sweet. Yuck. OK, I should add IMHO ;)

                      Unsurprisingly, I'd replace the cornstarch with Minute Tapioca. I'd prefer flour over it too, by far. Cornstarch to me gives an unpleasant, gloppy mouthfeel.

            2. Here is the one we made most recently and it was very good:

              Soaking the apple slices in hot water for 10 minutes was new but resulted in firm yet tender apples that didn't turn to mush. Using the freshest apples you can find helps.

              The link above is for the food lab recipe. First they talked about crust. For apple pie Part I of the lab dealt with apple varieties and II with technique.




              3 Replies
              1. re: CDouglas

                I did that one recently, it's great! And the pie crust is the best I've found, the holy grail of super-tender and ultra-flaky. I tried it with Honeycrisp apples and found it came out pretty darn good. I'll probably try Golden Delicious next time just to see how it changes.

                Just remember to check for doneness by sliding a knife into the center. I forgot, and ended up with delicious undercooked apples.

                1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                  Good to know about the Honeycrisps working. I wanted to use Macouns which are my favorite but followed the recommendation the first time.

                  1. re: CDouglas

                    I used Honeycrisp this year too, and was surprised how well they worked. I did mix in a few Northern Spy too.

              2. For the uninitiated, it's probably best to follow Cook's Illustrated's recipes. There are a variety of approaches among their fruit pie recipes, which they tweak every few years. In recent years they have called for pre-cooking the filling. This eliminates the problem of overly-juicy apples. You cook the filling in a pan, with your choice of thickener, until the juices are a thick syrup. Keeping in mind that they will thicken further as they cool, you then add SOME fresh fruit, thinly sliced, to the cooked filling before assembling your pie. As the fresh fruit bakes, it will add some brightness to the flavor, and the juice it exudes will keep the pre-cooked filling from being too gummy.

                The most important thing I have learned about pie-making is to use a clear glass pyrex pan. They heat evenly, retain heat well, and enable you to see how brown the bottom crust is. Also, use a preheated sheet pan or baking stone and place the unbaked pie upon it. This jump-starts the bottom crust, which helps avoid sogginess. To avoid thermal shock with the pyrex, if you have refrigerated the filled, unbaked pie, let it sit on the counter or, better yet, a metal cooling rack, to take the chill off before placing the pan on the preheated baking surface. Also, put foil or parchment beneath the pie pan to catch any boil-overs.

                1 Reply
                1. re: greygarious

                  I absolutely agree with this. I made the CI cranberry apple pie and the filling was perfect. Until you get a bit better at eyeballing things, CI is always the best place to start IMO.

                2. I have a pretty good recipe, that I enjoy quite a bit, and it's SIMPLE, easy and never has failed.
                  I personally find that the crust is the key, and I use an easy easy one, on the side of the Tenderflake Lard box! Seriously. I make my pies with lard and I find this one works. I DON'T do it in the food processor, I do it by hand as I have more control over the dough. Ingredients are simple and if you pick up a box, you'll have the recipe (you'll need it anyways if you make pie from scratch with lard, which is what I do!). For help with the mechanics, just do a Youtube search and follow along step by step. It might take a few tries but you'll manage!
                  Filling is easy...I don't precook my filling at all. Unfortunately I don't use cardamon because I find the flavor is too strong and just "wrong" with apple pie spices, but that's just me.
                  Pie filling:
                  6 apples, assorted kinds. I use 2 x MacIntosh (they're soft and will cook down to more of a sauce), 2 x Pink Lady or Spartan or Jonogold (for texture) , 2 x Granny Smith.(tor tartness)
                  1/4 cup white sugar
                  1/4 cup brown sugar
                  1/8 cup all purpose flour (acts a a thickening agent)
                  3-4 tbsp cinnamon, depending on how much you love cinnamon
                  1/2 tsp allspice
                  1/2 tsp nutmeg
                  Mix all together in a bowl, really well, let sit for around 10 minutes. I do the pie crust first, let it rest, then make the filling, then roll out the pie crust, fill it, then do a lattice with the extra. You can do a 2 crust pie too if you like, just make sure you pierce the upper crust enough for steam to escape. Personally, I enjoy less crust and more filling, so I do a lattice or cutouts with a cookie cutter and placed on the top.
                  Bake in a 359F oven until done. Check after 30 minutes, and if the crust is brown already, cover with a piece of foil.
                  These pies can be frozen before baking. If frozen, what I do is preheat the oven to 450F, slide the completely frozen pie in the oven, bake for an hour, check, cover with foil if required, and bake until done.
                  OH and put the pie on an old baking sheet to bake, as sugary pie overflow can make a really hard mess to clean up.
                  Do a trial run or two, tweak the recipe as you like (aka less or more spices, try adding cardamon I[d go with 1/2 tsp to start), then bake away!

                  1. Let me share a slideshow and apple pie recipe I posted several years ago on Chowhound. It was so popular it was also posted on several newspaper Web sites. It's my mother-in-law making an apple pie. A very modest Connecticut Yankee, it took me a year to convince her to let me do this. She also refused to have her face shown. But her pies are the best and I convinced her by telling her this would be a way to share her technique with future generations! Her pies are so well-loved people ask her for a birthday pie instead of a cake. These are a few of her tips:

                    1. For the crust: She makes the flour, shortening, salt mixture ahead of time, chills it, and then measures out the amount she wants, adds ice water and then immediately rolls it out. The chilled flour mixture stores well for several months. The cold shortening plus cold water is key.

                    2. She precooks the apples in the microwave for two to three minutes. This way you NEVER get uncooked apples.

                    Here are the photos which you can also click onto slideshow mode:



                    Grandma's Apple Pie

                    Crust (Makes enough for several pies):

                    6 cups all purpose flour
                    2 tsp. salt
                    2 and 1/3 cups shortening -she uses half regular Crisco, half butter flavored Crisco, with 0 trans fats. Use shortening sticks for accurate measuring.

                    1. Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl.
                    2. Cut in half the shortening with a pastry blender, to make coarse crumbs. - They will NOT be uniform in size and shape.
                    3. Cut in the remaining shortening. Place in airtight container and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. (Will keep up to 3 months no problem). You will get enough crust mixture for several pies.

                    For a 9 inch double crusted pie:

                    1. Measure 2 cups of the cold crumb mixture.
                    2. Add 4 Tablespoons of ice cold water. Stir gently and quickly.
                    3. Dough should be soft and not dry. Add a little more flour if too wet, or a little more water if dry.
                    Take half the dough, form a circle and roll out immediately on a floured board. Place in pie pan.
                    4. Roll out the other half of the dough for the top crust.

                    Apple Pie Filling for 9 inch pie:

                    6 cups peeled and sliced apples. Grandma uses Cortlands, her standby is McIntosh or Granny Smith. Use what tastes good to you.
                    2/3 cup sugar
                    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
                    1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
                    2 tablespoons flour
                    1 tablespoon butter

                    1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel and slice the apples. Put in a medium-sized microwave safe bowl.
                    2. Add sugar, spices, flour, stir gently.
                    3. Microwave, covered lightly with parchment paper, for 2 minutes.
                    4. Set mixture aside and let cool while making the top crust.
                    5. Pour apples and all the juice mixture into the pie shell, dot with the butter, and cover with top crust. Cut and primp. Slit a few holes on the top of the crust.
                    6. Bake pie on center rack for 30 minutes or until apples are juicy and bubbling and ooze out of the crust.
                    7. Cool and serve.

                    1. My first apple pie came off the side of the cornstarch box. It's a solid pie recipe, I have used it for years. I recommend using granny smith apples, and doubling the spices. Pretty perfect every time. As for using cardmom, I'd go with 1/4 teaspoon to start.


                      1. My tip - make a crostada or a lattice top. I've hard far too many pies turn into applesauce with a double crust recipe. Do you have a reliable pie crust recipe? Mine comes from Bon Appetit (actually for a blueberry pie).

                        2 1/2 cups of flour
                        1 cup and 2 tablespoons of butter
                        1 tablespoon of sugar
                        1 teaspoon of salt
                        3 tablespoons of ice water with a 1/2 teaspoon of cider vinegar

                        Put the flour, salt, and sugar into the food processor. Cut the COLD butter into 1-tablespoon chunks and stick in with the flour. Pulse for about 8 times until the butter is the size of peas. Add the water and pulse until the dough comes together in a ball. You may want to add another tablespoon if the dough is too dry. Form the dough into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap. Let rest at least 1/2 an hour.

                        For the apple mixture, use a variety with at least 1 granny smith. For a crostada I use 4-5. For a pie I, use 6-7. Cut apples into 3/4 inch slices. Toss with about 1/4 cup sugar and the spices of your choice - I used a pinch of nutmeg and a teaspoon of cinnamon (try replacing the nutmeg with cardamom). Add two tablespoons of flour and toss well until you don't see any dry bits of flour.

                        Roll the pie crust until 1/4 inch thick. if making a crostada, put the crust on a parchment line sheet and piled the apples in the middle with a 2-inch border. Fold the border into the apple filling. For the pie, put the crust into a greased pie pan, pour the apples on top and make the lattice. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes for the crostada or an hour for the pie.