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Two apple pies, two very different results: help me understand.

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LilyB Oct 20, 2012 02:51 AM

A family member has gone vegan and I am experimenting with vegan apple pie to make at thanksgiving.

I bought 2 frozen vegan/whole wheat pie crusts (ugh, I know - suggestions welcome on the crust options - no walnuts/pecans though) and sliced up granny smith apples for two pies. I mixed all the apples according to the recipe for "butterscotch apple pie" in the current Gourment magazine special: lots of brown sugar, cinnamon, touch of salt, lemon juice and vanilla.

One difference in the filling: for Pie # 1 I mixed in a small amount of white flour, for Pie #2 I mixed in the equivalent amount of cornstarch (half as much, according to the equivalent info on the cornstarch box.

For Pie #1, I pre-baked the crust on the bottom, then piled in the apples and put an oatmeal streusel/crisp-like topping (rolled oats, cinnamon, maple syrup, canola oil) on top. For Pie# 2 I just piled the apples directly into the pan and lay the crust on top and sprinkled it with granulated sugar (I hate soggy crust and thought this might make it better.

Cooked both for close to an hour at 400

The surprising results:

Pie #1: (Crust on bottom, oatmeal on top, flour in filling) Crust on bottom was delicious, not too soggy, in fact better because it had absorbed some apple-cinnamon deliciousness. Oatmeal crisp on top was not so great, dry/burned a little. Apples were cooked but not well-cooked/caramelized.

Pie #2 (crust on top, cornstarch in filling): apples underneath had cooked way way down into an amazing caramelized tarte tatin-like substance. Crust on top was ok, but a little bland and maybe too separate from the apples. Like a cookie on top of caramelized apples.

What explains the difference in the apples, and how do I get the best of all possible worlds? My theory -crust on bottom insulates apples more, so they don't cook down as much? My current plan is to pre-cook/caramelize a ton of apples before putting them in a slightly pre-baked crust and then cooking a little longer as a pie just to meld the two. Will skip the streusel topping which added nothing interesting. Maybe a lattice if I get ambitious?

  1. iL Divo Oct 20, 2012 03:02 PM

    my Betty Crocker "All Pies cookbook" has a favorite apple pie recipe for AppleScotch pie. you cook it down in saucepan first, love the outcome but maybe because a lot of butter is involved-nothing vegan about it though. you cooking down your apples reminded me of it.

    not a fan of streusel topping for apple pie-it's a personal preference though.
    my Grammie never did that and I was raised to love a perfect tender crust tipped with a slice if cheddar.

    3 Replies
    1. re: iL Divo
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      LilyB Oct 20, 2012 04:10 PM

      Thank you all for your sleuthing help. I did put both pies on a preheated baking sheet, and it makes sense that gives the crust a little cooking head start. I think I did 400 degrees for awhile and then 350 but I don't quite remember. I will try again with a pie that is a slightly pre-baked bottom, and make pre-cooked apples -- sadly, not caramelized in butter and sugar, this being vegan. But the brown sugar and cinnamon makes a pretty good coating with the apple juices. Separately, I will try some other crust options, although I just don't like the taste made with crisco. If I make or find a good one I might try a final "trial" with a double crust - but I doubt it. With really caramelized apples, it can be more like a tarte tatin, which is my favorite thing in the world. And if I cook the apples first, I can really pile it high since I'll know how much it has already cooked down...yum.

      1. re: LilyB
        visciole Oct 20, 2012 05:08 PM

        Try making your own crust using palm shortening. You can usually find the Spectrum brand in healthfood-type stores. It's expensive but makes the best pie crust next to butter.

        I am one of those people who think you hafta make your own crust... but I know plenty of folks who disagree.

        I also prefer Minute Tapioca for the thickener.

        1. re: visciole
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          LilyB Oct 21, 2012 10:44 AM

          I do usually make my own crusts when I make pies, but it frankly seems like a waste of Thanksgiving day (or day before) prep time given that ultimately it is going to be somewhat inferior without butter. In the meantime I have learned that both Pepperidge Farm puff pastry and many pre-made graham cracker crusts are vegan (because they are so filled with artificial stuff!) I might try a less traditional apple dessert using once of these. The apples were SO good in Pie #2 that I think if I manage to get them really caramelized, the crust won't matter so much. And I think that basically means pre-cooking them.

    2. PBSF Oct 20, 2012 02:44 PM

      Even though you used the same type of apples, the top crust of the two pies are different, therefore giving you different results. The one with the regular pie dough seal the apples causing them to steam more and cook faster than the one with the streusel. The one with the pie crust on top will usually have a space between the crust and apples after baking. That is due to the fact that apples do not collapse as with other fruits during the first part of baking while the top crust sets.
      Because streusel topping usually contains more sugar, it will brown much quicker. Bake it at a lower temperature for a longer time to cook the apples to your liking. If your streusel is getting too brown, just tent it with a sheet of foil and continue baking.

      1. greygarious Oct 20, 2012 02:17 PM

        400 is too hot. 375 is better. You want the crust to brown, but not so fast that the apples aren't well-cooked. Put a sheet pan in your oven while preheating, then place the pie tins upon it.
        That quick-starts the baking of the bottom crust and helps prevent it from being soggy. I line the sheet pan with parchment, so if the filling bubbles over, there's no scrubbing needed. Consider tapioca as thickener - whirl it in a food processor. It makes a much nicer thickener than flour or cornstarch. So does arrowroot. Clear, but a little gel-like rather than saucy.

        1 Reply
        1. re: greygarious
          TrishUntrapped Oct 20, 2012 02:29 PM

          There's more than one way to skin a cat - and an apple.

          I always bake apple pies at 425. Pie crust needs to cook at a very hot temp. I've never precooked the bottom crust and have never had a soggy pie. But then again, I take the time proven step of parcooking the apples, sugar, spices and thickener. It helps the filling thicken properly and cook through.

          I don't whirl the Minute tapioca (pie recipe is on the Minute tapioca box), but I do make sure the tapioca spends 10 minutes soaking into the apples to soften it. Flour works just fine as a thickener too. I made six apple pies the other day using flour as the thickener - parcooked the apples, sugar, flour and spices, every pie came out perfect. I Like to brush the top crust with a little milk. Some folks like an egg wash (which makes a shiny crust if that's what you like).

          Here's a link showing how my mother in law makes a delicious flaky apple pie:

          http://home-and-garden.webshots.com/a...

        2. Lotsofscots Oct 20, 2012 08:30 AM

          Crust suggestions: Is Crisco vegan? I didn't think it had any animal products in it. Crisco, as disgusting as trans fats are, makes a very nice flaky crust.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Lotsofscots
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            LilyB Oct 20, 2012 11:41 AM

            Ugh. I'll have to think about that. Although who knows was disgustingness was in the storebought crust?

            1. re: LilyB
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              magiesmom Oct 20, 2012 11:44 AM

              I love coconut oil for vegan crust. Solid at room temp.

              1. re: LilyB
                roxlet Oct 20, 2012 03:19 PM

                Crisco no longer has trans fats...

            2. Lotsofscots Oct 20, 2012 08:27 AM

              Did you use identical pans for baking? Were they on the same rack in the oven, baked at the same time?
              More info before we can sleuth this out, but one of the tricks in baking apple pies is to find a way to keep the liquid from sogging up the crust. Some people prebake the crust, some slightly pre-cook the apples so that the liquid can thicken before touching the crust.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Lotsofscots
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                LilyB Oct 20, 2012 11:38 AM

                Yes, identical pans and on the same rack at the same time. It is possible the right side of the oven is hotter than the left, I suppose...

                1. re: LilyB
                  Lotsofscots Oct 20, 2012 12:54 PM

                  When I am making multiple apple pies, which is most of the time, I fill the crust with the spiced apples, then measure the amount of juices in the pan and put an equal amount in both. Sometimes I discard about half of the spiced juice because it is too great an amount and would just make a gloppy pie. As a thickener I use half flour and half cornstarch because it gives a nice, clear cooked fluid.

              2. biondanonima Oct 20, 2012 08:27 AM

                I don't know what the science behind this might be, but I generally find that streusel pies take longer to bake than crusted ones. I usually pack my streusel on pretty thickly, so perhaps it insulates the apples more than a crust does? It could also be the opposite - the streusel lets out more moisture than the crust does so the apples don't have a chance to steam in their own juices?

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