HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


How to jazz up an apple pie...should I add cheddar? caramel? nuts?

Lots of discussions on how to make the perfect apple pie, so thanks to all for that. My husband's family is not crazy for apple pie but I feel that in addition to pumpkin (which they ARE crazy for), this is the only other appropriate pie for Thanksgiving season. Just brain storming, way in advance I know, but any thoughts appreciated. I know if I make it straight, they won't touch it.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. lol. to me, perfect apple pie is just apples. :)

    am not sure why you want to gussy something up that they probably won't eat anyway. what about pecan? pear upside-down cake?

    nutmeg-maple cream pie?


    4 Replies
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      Ooh - pear upside-down made me think of tarte tatin. I wonder if that would be more appealing for them?

      1. re: davis_sq_pro

        Oh yeah, but they have their pumpkin. I want apple, I want apple, I want apple ;-) Not that I don't love pumpkin too.

        1. re: coll

          Tarte tatin is basically a form of apple pie. Well, depending on how far you carry pie into tart. (I probably just created a religious war.) It's also upside-down and includes caramel. Might be a good way to get 'em into the apple spirit.

          1. re: davis_sq_pro

            I have the pan, but have only used it to serve appetizers so far. It would be nice to use it for its intended purpose for a change.

    2. Ice cream on top?

      Every time I've tried to notch up an apple pie -- caramel, dulce de leche, cajeta, a glaze on the crust, different spice blends, and assorted other efforts -- I've been disappointed. Seems that at least for my taste, apple pie should be a simple affair.

      What would be wrong with, e.g., a blueberry pie? They're still in season somewhere during Thanksgiving season, I'd guess? Pecan pie is also a classic at many Thanksgiving tables. No reason to try to force apple down their throats :-)

      1. Thanks for your thoughts so far. So OK. I love apple pie and I love it plain. I make it every year and end up eating it all myself. Not good! My husband's family is extremely opinionated when it come to food, and after almost 40 years of catering to them, I have learned a few hard lessons. But I have also converted them a few times too. The only other solution would be to JUST make apple pie, I guess then they might try some. Guess pumpkin is more traditional to them, but apple was a given in my family. But it's not really about me I guess. Topic for another thread!

        I'll have whipped cream for the pumpkin, but I'm on a tight budget so not springing for ice cream too, on top of me having to finish it too. It's only the four of us! To me, pie should be seasonal, based on the local farm stands. So, rhubarb is May, strawberry is early June, blueberry is late June, peach is July and so on. Fall is pumpkin and apple. Since I'm in charge of the menu (at least technically!) I like it to be seasonal. Oh and pecans....they don't like nuts in food, only eat them plain. The things we do for our loved ones!

        Maybe if I add some cranberries.....But the maple cream pie would probably go over well if it comes to it. but I'd really miss my apples. I only make pie when I have company so I don't end up eating the whole thing!

        4 Replies
        1. re: coll

          I too end up eating the apple pie all by myself. But I'm not giving it up. A couple years ago, I started making my apple pie in muffin cups. That gave me better portion control. I get 4 - 5 pies out of a single pie crust. I chopped the apples rather than slices them, and packed them in there in a mound. Baked them for about 45 minutes (well brown and knife went thru the apples easily).

          1. re: jeanmarieok

            You're right, if I served it in a different form I could probably trick them into eating it, and realizing it's not half bad!

          2. re: coll

            If they like maple, why not try an apple pie with maple as the sweetener? Or an apple maple cream? Or just maple cream with an apple compote alongside?

            1. re: biondanonima

              I'm a maple syrup addict, so I already made note, that that ingredient will be involved in some way. My family lives upstate NY, the land of maple and apples, so even though they can't be here with me I'll have to admit that's why I'd like to include in my meal. They used to come to my house but things changed, as they tend to do, and I miss them lots.

              Maybe it I tell them I made it out of respect for my family, that's all it would take? Who knows. Honesty is the best policy!

          3. Add raisins, either golden or black; dried currants, or dried cranberry or dried apricots cut in quarters. Soak dried fruit in half cup of brandy before combining
            Line pie shell with almond paste before filling.
            Or crumb/streusal topping with nuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds.
            Cheese pastry shell is another option.
            Fall crop apples are wonderful here in NYC.

            1 Reply
            1. re: chasamark

              Almond paste is a perfect idea, they love that ingredient in my Christmas cookies. Maybe even a drop of almond extract in the filling?

              I was also thinking of just adding a bit of cheddar to the shell rather than scattered throughout the apples, would be more intense. And I figure if I call it something else, like Almond Apple Cheddar Pie, they'd go for it. It's not that they're not adventurous eaters, just hard to change their minds sometimes.

            2. maybe with some toasted walnuts and some crunchy crumb on top like coffee cake?

              1 Reply
              1. re: Monica

                That would definitely make a better presentation to them, I'm thinking. As long as the nuts are ground into the topping!

              2. I would not try to force an apple pie variation on people who don't like apple pie. Just make apple and pumpkin. You can always freeze the leftovers.

                3 Replies
                1. re: miss_belle

                  Haha, I will put it next to the frozen rhubarb pie that his family wouldn't eat either! I do always make something I know they like too, so it's not like I'm being cruel (or totally stubborn, I'm just a born optimist).

                  1. re: coll

                    are they anti-pie, anti-apple, or simply anti-apple pie? because i am now salivating at the thought of apple coffee cake with a big layer of streusel crumbly topping.

                    i think cheese in apple pie is just weird, i hate maple, and i really dislike how nuts get kinda soggy when baked in fruit pies.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      Anti apple pie, and possible anti apple. But last Thanksgiving I served some apples I had picked up by Moms paired with a great cheddar I had on hand as an appetizer and they went nuts for it. So I figured, what the heck. Guess there's more than one way to skin a cat (yuck where did that saying come from?)

                2. When pies were in my regular rotation, I would add pears and berries to my apple mix in the pie, adding a little more tapioca for the extra fruits.

                  And heck yeah to Davissqpro's suggestion of Ice cream on top.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: pinehurst

                    The only ice cream I buy is from the local "home made" place, they do a pumpkin this time of year. It's pricy but maybe pumpkin ice cream on top of apple pie could be a new tradition, who knows? The spices are the same.

                    1. re: coll

                      That sounds like a win-win to me.

                      1. re: pinehurst

                        OK I think my plan is coming together. And dessert is the easiest part!

                  2. If you haven't already decided for sure, I make a mile high apple pie where you cook down the apples first. After removing apples from pan, you make a caramel sauce w/ the leftover juices. Another go to is a cream cheese apple tart. Thin layer of cheesecake like filling, apples thinly cut and placed decoratively on top. I can post either if you want.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: chowser

                      Cream cheese apple tart might be a winner, I'd appreciate it. I'm willing to go slow with them.

                      1. re: coll

                        Here it is. It's also really good w/ pears instead of apples. Or with a lemon curd, but that wouldn't go w/ Thanksgiving, or chocolate ganache topping.


                    2. I say make sure to make a pie that you/your immediate family likes and make it the way you prefer it. Then acknowledge others preferences by making another pie that they like. After hosting Thanksgiving for the past 15 years and trying to cater to multiple preferences, I now make what my immediate family prefers. I will always have an option for others as well, but I no longer try to please everyone. If people aren't happy, they can always bring something they want as a contribution to the meal. Thanksgiving dishes are often rooted in tradition,so for as many guests as there are, there will be that many traditions. It's nice to share and appreciate everyone's traditions by each contributing a dish.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Hopefulone

                        You're right and that's what I think too, more psychological than anything. They're been coming to my Thanksgiving for almost 40 years, and I've slipped in a few new things over the years that have now become standards; so why not apple pie. It's All American, what more can I say!

                      2. Make American-style apple tarts - apple pie filling in an American pie crust, just folded and sealed before baking; eat one and freeze the rest for yourself. That way you don't have to rush the portion control.

                        Cheddar goes on the side when you eat it.

                        Nix the caramel.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Karl S

                          Ooh, I had a recipe from the Times for fried peach hand pies, maybe they'd prefer it McD's style?

                          1. re: coll

                            Maybe, but the same principle: you can freeze whatever they don't eat, and not feel you have to eat them all within a few days....

                            1. re: Karl S

                              That is key to me. Which is why I have an extra freezer in the basement!

                            2. re: coll

                              I suggest individual rustic tartlets for both the apple and pumpkin pies. I use a "muffin top" pan that has 6 shallow wells, about 1/2" deep and 3 or 4" in diameter (too lazy to dig it out and look). I prefer these to a double-crust pie because there's additional evaporation to caramelize the edges and top of the fillings.

                              I don't think cheddar and almond extract should be combined in the same pie - one or the other.

                              A little brown sugar or maple sugar in the crust would be nice for both apple and pumpkin pies.

                          2. Perhaps some whipped cream spiked with calvados?

                            1 Reply
                            1. What about adding chopped crystallized ginger to the apple mixture and baking it with bits of that in the pie?

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                They all hate ginger for some reason. Sigh. I, on the other hand, will eat anything as long as ginger is involved. Always a dilemma.

                                1. re: coll


                                  Then I'd go with the individual tartlets as noted above if you can't find a combo that you think they might like. Easier to be able to eat what YOU want in small enough portions.

                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                    I need to find some friends that like leftovers, I'm thinking.