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Oct 10, 2013 09:22 PM

Apple Pie Recipes?....Pretty Please!

The apples are wonderful right now in Washington state and I've tried 3 different apple pie recipes within the past two weeks, all of them turned out okay.

My husband and two boys LOVE apple pie and I want to find a recipe that I can go to with success. And hopefully pass on to them in the future!

Any recipes, tips or guidance is greatly appreciated!

Thanks! :)

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  1. Oh and has anyone ever tried the apple pie featured in Reader's Digest titled "Grandma's Apple Pie" by Jack Nordick. I was thinking of trying this recipe next.

    1. What are you looking for in an apple pie?

      Texture: Do you like a pie where the apples cook down quite a bit? If so, use Macintosh apples. I like my apples tender yet still retaining some bite, so I usually use Cortland apples, as they stand up to long baking and are plentiful here in the orchards of the northeast US.

      Sweetness: People like my mother in law make a pie so sweet that it rivals that gelatinous canned filling. I prefer some added sugar, but not too much. As I mix the spices and apples together, I start off going light on the sugar and taste as I go since some apples are sweeter than others and will need more or less sugar to suit my taste.

      Top: double crust pie or crumb top? If I am making a crumb top, I will ease up on the sugar in the filling since the topping will be adding sugar to the pie.

      Crust: I am a fan of half butter (for the flavor) and half non-hydrogenated shortening (for the flakiness). Again, this is VERY subjective based on your own taste.

      While a basic recipe is good for timing and temperature, I find everything else about apple pie to be subjective to your own taste. My go-to proportions for a deep dish pie are:

      8 cups apples sliced 1/4" thick
      2/3 c each of cornstarch and sugar (sugar may be scaled down or up, depending on apples)
      1 tsp cinnamon
      1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
      pinch of salt

      Mix all together and dump into prepared pie dough. Either top with a second pie dough round or top with crumb top. My default crumb top:

      2/3 c AP flour
      3/4 c packed brown sugar
      1/2 cup rolled oats (NOT instant or quick cooking)
      1/2 tsp salt
      1 tsp cinnamon
      6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
      3/4 c chopped nuts (I use pecans or walnuts)

      In my oven, the crumb top pie bakes at 375 for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Usually at some point I have to tent with foil to prevent too much browning.

      Good luck finding your family's favorite recipe. I am sure all of your trial and error will still be well received!

      8 Replies
      1. re: mels

        Wow! Thank you so much for the detailed response, mels. I really appreciate it!

        I was worried that folks would be irritated with yet another Apple Pie discussion feed....because I know there are many here. And I did go through many of them in looking for recipes.

        You are right, I need to decide what exactly we are looking for in an apple pie and create a recipe to fit these needs.

        I do like it when the apples are quite tender but still retain some bite. The last apple pie I made (with Jonagolds) had too much bite. So, I've been wondering if I should try a precook method.

        I really wish I could get my hands on some Cortlands or Northern Spys, after reading about how much folks love these apples in their pies in the Northeast. Maybe I should try heading down closer to Seattle where the markets carry better selection on apples.

        I have only ever used a double crust but the idea of a streusel topping does sound delicious. I have an Amish cookbook with a popular apple pie recipe that uses a streusel topping. I haven't tried the recipe yet but maybe I'll give it a try. I guess I am just looking for the ideal classic (double-crust) apple pie.

        Thank you for sharing your recipe! As I am on a mission, I'm sure I'll give it a try soon.

        But, you're right, I know all the effort is gladly received by the three guys in this house! :)

        1. re: natalielovesfidalgo

          I always pre-cook my apples for pie - it helps set their texture, so they can soften without turning to mush - here's what Cook's Illustrated has to say on the subject: Precooking the apples solved the shrinking problem, helped the apples hold their shape, and prevented a flood of juices from collecting in the bottom of the pie plate, thereby producing a nicely browned bottom crust. Why didn't cooking the apples twice (once on the stovetop and once in the oven) cause them to become insipid and mushy? We learned that when the apples are gently heated, their pectin is converted to a heat-stable form that keeps them from becoming mushy when cooked further in the oven. But the word "gentle" is key. We found that heating the apples and seasonings in a large covered Dutch oven to a temperature of 120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit stabilized the pectin; higher temperatures caused the pectin to break down.

          Anyway, I find that the microwave works just as well - I nuke them for about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice, then let them cool before putting them in the pie (I do this no matter what recipe I'm using). This also has the added benefit of getting their juices flowing, so that you can more easily estimate how much thickener you'll need.

          I also always use a blend of apples - I try to put one or two small McIntoshes in the mix, because I love the way they disintegrate to make delicious goo, but the rest are firmer and a mix of tart and sweeter (Northern Spies are great when you can get them, but even a blend of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious can make a great pie).

          1. re: biondanonima

            Cooks Illustrated recipes always turn out great and I can't believe I didn't think to check out their cookbook for a recipe. I like the idea of gently cooking the apples. I wish I would have done that with the Jonagolds that I recently used. I think the pie would have been quite a bit better if I had precooked them.

            Also, I love the idea of using an apple that disintegrates (only 1 or 2), so the sauce between the apples or "delicious goo" really adds to the overall flavor of the pie. Other than McIntoshes, what other apples will disintegrate but offers good flavor?

            Thanks for your response! :)

            1. re: natalielovesfidalgo

              Since there are dozens of mass-market variety apples in supermarkets, varying by region, not to mention hundreds of heirlooms available at regional orchards, it is best to ask about characteristics at your local orchards. Or look in your library or bookstore. There are many books on apples; a large one by Amy Traverso came out last year.

              If you want opinions on the varieties available to you, list them.

              1. re: natalielovesfidalgo

                I use the Cooks Illustrated recipe with the modifications I mentioned in my earlier post (more types of apples, organic only, leave the skin on), but I always end up with WAY too much filling. Anyone else have this experience?

          2. re: mels

            I really like tapioca in my fruit pies. What would you think of your recipe but substituting tapioca for the cornstarch? Maybe I'll try both...

            1. re: natalielovesfidalgo

              I much prefer tapioca to cornstarch as a thickener for fruit pies, although I usually use flour for apple (IDK why, just the way my mom did it, I guess). I wouldn't hesitate to substitute tapioca in this case.

            2. re: mels

              mels, I made your apple pie with crumb top last Sunday and it was absolutely delicious! One of my boys said he would much rather I never make another crust top again. Thank you so very much for sharing! By the way, I used Boskoop apples and it was delicious. An apple I never knew existed until two weeks ago! It's amazing how much I've learned since starting this quest for a perfect apple pie!

            3. This is the filling recipe we prefer - mildly sweet. I like tart firm Haralson apples for pies. Slicing the apples thin (mel's 1/4 inch seems about right) is key to even baking and good texture. For the crusts, I use either the oil-crust from Joy of Cooking (easy & economical) or simply the (pricey but good) Pillsbury refrigerated crusts.

              6 cups sliced tart apples (about 6-8 apples, pared, cored and thinly sliced)
              (optional) 1 Tablespoon lemon juice – use if apples lack tartness
              ¾ to 1 cup sugar (heaping ¾ c. measure)
              2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
              ½ to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (heaping ½ teaspoon measure)
              Dash ground nutmeg
              Dash salt
              2 Tablespoons butter

              Pie pastry for 9-inch, 2 crust, pie

              If apples lack tartness, sprinkle with about 1 Tablespoon lemon juice.

              Combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Mix with sliced apples.

              Line 9 inch pie pan with pastry.
              Fill with apple mixture.
              Dot with buttter
              Adjust top crust over the apple filling, cutting slits to allow steam to escape. Seal edges of top and bottom crusts.
              Sprinkle top with sugar.

              Bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes or until done.

              4 Replies
              1. re: MidwesternerTT

                Thank you MidwesternerTT!

                To be honest, I'm not sure if I've ever tried a Haralson apple. I wonder what a similar apple would be?

                In my second apple pie, I cheated and used the Pillsbury refrigerated crusts. I must admit, it turned out great! So, it's nice to have that option if I'm feeling lazy.

                One thing I have not done (in all three pies) is add lemon juice. I think I'm going to use Honeycrisp apples in the next pie and I wonder if adding lemon juice would be a good idea, as Honeycrisp apples can be a tad sweeter.

                Thanks for sharing!

                1. re: natalielovesfidalgo

                  Hold off on those Honeycrisp in a pie -- best as an eating, not baking apple. Take a look at this page from my local orchard, describing various apples.


                  1. re: MidwesternerTT

                    Oh, okay! Thanks for the advice. I read on some page that Honeycrisps were good in pies but, now with some extra research, it looks like you're right...I'm better off using Honeycrisps as a snack!

                    Thank you for the link. I've bookmarked that page. Lots of good information on many different kinds of apples! :)

                  2. re: natalielovesfidalgo

                    Another option for enhancing an apple pie is using a tbsp. of
                    orange or tangerine juice in place of the lemon. You don't taste the orange, but it calls out the sweetness and keeps the apples from turning brown. Another little trick I use is putting about a half-cup of raisins or currants in a bowl with a bit of water and a tbsp of brandy or orange liqueur, covering it and zapping it in the microwave for a minute and adding it to the pie. I always get compliments on my apple pies with these tricks. I live in Northern California, and the best pies for baking here are Gravensteins.

                2. I make my mother's delicious Sour Cream Apple Pie, and I think I've posted the recipe here on CH. I'll see if I can find it, or I'll type it up for you.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: kitchengardengal

                    Yes! If you could find it, that would be great! I love adding sour cream to recipes (and I just made an apple pie with the addition of whipping cream) and I bet it adds nice complexity to an apple pie! Thanks! :)

                    1. re: natalielovesfidalgo

                      Sour Cream Apple Pie

                      1cup sour cream

                      3/4 cup sugar

                      2 tbs AP flour

                      1/4 tsp salt

                      1 tsp vanilla

                      1 egg

                      5 cups peeled sliced apples

                      1 9" unbaked pie shell

                      Struesel Topping

                      Mix :

                      1 /2 cup brown sugar

                      1/3 cup flour

                      1/4 cup butter

                      Beat sour cream, sugar, flour, salt, vanilla and egg in a large bowl. Add sliced apples and pour into the pie shell.

                      Bake at 400' for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with struesel topping and bake for 20 minutes more. CHILL till completely cool, several hours, including in the fridge.

                      I usually double the topping, it's so good. I don't mess with the rest of the recipe because this is the way we always made apple pie growing up, and it is perfection. I still make it every fall and holiday season.
                      This is not a pie to eat warm. In fact, it is heavenly straight from the fridge for breakfast the next day. If you plan to serve it the same day you bake it, start early in the morning so it has plenty of refrigerator time.

                      1. re: kitchengardengal

                        Sounds delicious! I'll give it a try. Thanks for sharing your recipe with me. :)

                        1. re: natalielovesfidalgo

                          You're welcome! I love to share our family recipes.

                        2. re: kitchengardengal

                          Sounds delicious. i love apple pie but always felt like it lacked something..maybe a cup of cream and struesel toppings will boost the flavor and texture of the pie.
                          How many medium sized apples does it requre about?

                          1. re: Monica

                            5-ish? Depends on how big your pie pan is, too. I use a deep dish pan, so I keep peeling and slicing till it looks like enough to fill the pan.

                    2. Consider a pandowdy. It's been my first-choice apple dessert for many years. (I am using "pandowdy" in the standard sense I've seen in traditional US cookbooks like the 1940s Regional Cookbook and mid-century Fannie Farmers, and at Durgin-Park in Boston, more or less the US's oldest restaurant.)

                      A pandowdy is basically sliced, seasoned apples cooked in a deep glass dish, such as a loaf dish, under a layer of biscuit dough. When cooked (after patiently letting it cool down to warm -- it's also very good served cold), you cut through the dough and apples, serve out portions with the apples on top, and offer unsweetened heavy cream to pour over it as a sauce. Unique, old-fashioned, always popular.

                      No formal recipe is needed, though consider using "cottage pudding" batter rather than biscuit dough, if it's more convenient. "Cottage pudding" is a simple cake batter including an egg, which you pour rather than shape, to cover the apples.

                      For a 2-quart buttered loaf dish, I fill about halfway or a little higher with sliced peeled apples, preferably on the tart side. Sprinkle with 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar, and generous cinnamon, a teaspoon or more (some recipes add nutmeg too). Then (important step, neglected in some versions) place the dish with the apples into a preheated oven (350 or 375 F) until the apples are soft and wilted. Remove from oven, dot with butter, and cover with about half an inch of baking-powder biscuit dough (unsweetened), or (unsweetened or very lightly sweetened) cottage-pudding batter -- recipes should be easy to find if not familiar. With biscuit dough, cut some steam slits. Finish baking for about 30 minutes; top should be browning, dough cooked through. Allow to cool considerably before serving as above.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: eatzalot

                        Well that sounds delicious. I am getting mass amounts of apples from my CSA right now so I am always on the lookout for something new. Thanks, eatzalot!

                        1. re: eatzalot

                          That does sound delicious! Cottage pudding batter? I may have to google a recipe for that. I really appreciate all the detailed responses I'm receiving to my original post! Thanks everyone! :)

                          1. re: eatzalot

                            One quick thick do you slice your apples for the pan dowdy? 1/2 inch thick? Thanks!

                            1. re: natalielovesfidalgo

                              For a pandowdy I slice them around 1/4 inch thick, less rather than more. The pre-cooking (in the open baking dish in the oven, as described above) gives the right texture of apples which, in the final product, should be wilted and cooked down to concentrate their flavor, almost a sauce.

                              Baking-powder biscuit dough (rolled out roughly to about 1/2 inch thick, and cut with some steam gashes) is the absolutely classic traditional pastry here. DO NOT use hokey shortcuts like Bisquick™ (which I tried, long ago) -- just make up a quick biscuit dough with some respectable cooking fat like butter, it tastes better.

                              Cottage pudding is a "modern" i.e. 20th-century adaptation, slightly lighter and maybe easier, which I first picked up from the apple pandowdy recipe in the very standard 1965-edition Fannie Farmer cookbook (likely available for a song on the used market, such as via A more classic pandowdy is in the wonderful United States Regional Cook Book (1953 ed., originally published 1939), which is packed with real Americana, and also was widely circulated -- many home cooks I know have an old copy even if, like me, they were not around themselves in 1953.

                              The finished dessert resembles an "upside-down" cake, but the intense cinnamon-flavored, cooked-down apples with their syrup, over the _unsweetened_ biscuit, is a delightful contrast, enhanced with a little heavy cream as a sauce.

                              It's a truly old-fashioned low-tech dessert, probably popular in centuries past, in the era of "indian pudding" made of cornmeal baked slowly with milk, flavored with molasses and spices. Both, incidentally, featured (at least when I last ate there many years back) at Durgin-Park, the earthy bustling New-England restaurant that has been in Boston since the 1700s, where "no one has ever reserved a table":

                              1. re: eatzalot

                                Thanks again! Have you ever considered writing a cookbook? You relay the information in a wonderful manner. :)

                                1. re: natalielovesfidalgo

                                  Very gracious of you, natalie. I own and use a great many books about food and drink. The internet has been useful for posting pointers to them, and in turn learning about others, since long before Chowhound started.

                                  I think if someone has any interest in cooking that touches on folksy US traditions like cottage pudding or apple pandowdy, it is worth specifically having a good traditional cookbook on hand from earlier days when those dishes were widely known. Not some recent slick heavily marketed title that re-packages, often distorts, and always loses the interesting surrounding details that came along with an earlier standard source. Let alone, the limited and often eccentric derivations that surface "free" on the internet.

                                  A famous US cookbook collector, from whom I bought a few good ones, remarked in a published interview once that almost nothing appears in new US cookbooks that wasn't already in print by 1935, often better. She should know, since she owned virtually every US cookbook published before and since then.

                                  I just checked via amazon "advanced search" and yes, the midcentury Fannie Farmer I mentioned (Eleventh edition) is easily available used, prices from $4.25 currently. That edition is similar to a couple of slightly older editions I've seen and used, and is a good representative example of the most mainstream US cookbook recipes as of middle 20th century. It retains some of the original annoying shortcut habits from Fannie herself, like leaning on canned condensed soups, but by 1965, few such dishes remained (compared to contemporary "Joy of Cooking" editions -- many people do not know that the JoC began as a very hokey cookbook based entirely on canned foods, until later editors reworked it).

                                  1. re: eatzalot

                                    As if I need any more cookbooks (don't tell my husband), I will check out the Fannie Farmer edition that you mention on Amazon. I did just order the United States Regional Cookbook from ebay (found a copy for under $10). The pictures looked awfully familiar to me and I wonder if my grandmother owned this cookbook as well.

                                    For the most part, I own newer cookbooks and I think I need to expand my horizons.

                                    1. re: natalielovesfidalgo

                                      The US Regional is such a gem. Partly for little touches, like the many photographs. Dated, mostly black-and-white; yet inspiring. "Breakfast De Luxe." Miss Cecelia's chicken pot pie (photo caption: "Miss Cecelia herself could not do it better") -- both in the Southern section. Meat pies made with biscuits ("Friends in need for the busy and the budget-besieged") -- New England section. I was just checking it yesterday, for tips before improvising a quick deep-dish chicken pie. Also has a cottage pudding recipe (a confusing name, it's a type of simple cake batter), but its pandowdy recipe (photo nearby, naturally) calls for the traditional biscuit dough. (From the Fannie Farmer OTOH, I got the useful tip of first briefly baking the uncovered apples until soft.)

                                      The book is divided into regions -- Pennsylvania Dutch, Creole, Mississippi Valley, New England, Southwestern, etc.

                                      You are pretty well set up for traditional home-cooking Americana once you get that. If the people who write Wikipedia's US food-history entries all had copies of that book, many of its gaffes and gaps would disappear.

                            2. re: eatzalot

                              Pandowdy is a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch dish. My mother's family made it all the time. I had it before I had a straight apple pie. They're all good IMHO.