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

              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.

              http://sweets.seriouseats.com/2011/07...

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

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

              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.