How to Make an Apple Pie
Many novice bakers soon learn that just because you have a recipe for apple pie does not mean you know how to make one. Even if you follow the recipe exactly the results may be different that your grandmother's – and that can be frustrating.
Whether you are trying to make an apple pie or apple tart to impress the relatives or to win a blue ribbon at the county fair there are a few tips that can help you create a winner. Keep in mind that if you have never made a pie before it may take a little practice to make the perfect pastry.
Choose Quality Ingredients
Your pie will only be as good as the quality of ingredients that you put into it. Make sure all the ingredients are fresh – using canned apple filling will not achieve the flavor and texture you want in your pie. Spices should be fresh and you will want to use butter, not vegetable shortening.
Best Apples for Pie
You should be careful when choosing apples for pie. Choose firm, fresh, organic apples in season. Check to make sure that they have no bruises or spots that will change the flavor. For the most intense apple flavor choose several different varieties rather than just one – it will give your pie layers of flavor.
- Cox's Orange Pippin
- Granny Smith
- Honey Crisp
- Newton Pippin
- Northern Spy
- Pink Lady
You should always peel and core your apples. Keep them from discoloring by dropping them into a large bowl of organic apple cider mixed with about ¼ cup of lemon juice. Not only will your apples stay a clean, white color but the apple cider will add more apple flavor.
When the apples are all peeled and sliced drain them well and toss with the spices as instructed in your recipe.
Apple Pie Supplies on Amazon
Most spices don't stay fresh very long, especially if they are ground. Buy the best spices you can get – Penzey's specializes in spices and the flavors are magnificently fresh and sharp. If you have a WholeFoods store nearby you can choose spices from the bulk foods section. Use your nose – the spices should have a strong scent of their own.
One of the most common spices for an apple pie recipe is cinnamon. If you have only bought cinnamon from the local grocery store you are probably unaware that there are many varieties of cinnamon, each with its own distinct flavor. Adding an unusual cinnamon to your pie, or even a combination of cinnamon types, will make any apple pie recipe extraordinary.
The most common, and the type that you will find in your grocery store, is Ceylon cinnamon which is mild and, compared to the other varieties, sort of insipid. A nice cinnamon for apple pie is China Tung Hin which has a deep spicy cinnamon flavor that brings out the flavor of the apples and fairly bursts in your mouth. Vietnamese cinnamon is spicy to the point of being hot and Korintje is mild and sweet but has more flavor than the Ceylon.
Other common spices are:
Use fresh, whole nutmeg and grate it yourself for the best flavor. If you feel very adventurous add just a pinch of cayenne pepper. It will increase the heat without changing the flavor – making the cinnamon seem spicier.
Decide on the Pastry
There are a variety of pastry types to choose from when you are making an apple pie or tart recipe. Each of them is slightly different and will give a different look, texture and flavor to your dessert. As a general rule you should use either Pate Brisee or Pate Sucre as the bottom crust of your pie. It cuts easily, holds together, and stays crisp.
You can choose almost anything for the top of the pie. Possibilities are:
- Pate Brisee is a flakey, mild pastry that allows the flavors of the apples to shine.
- Pate Sucree is a sweetened pastry dough that enhances the flavor of the apples and is especially good with very tart apples as a contrast.
- Phyllo Dough is a very thin dough that you can find in your grocer's freezer. It is very thin and you lay one sheet at a time over your pie filling, brushing each sheet with butter, until you have several layers. It comes out delicate and flaky.
- Puff Pastry can also be found in your grocer's freezer. The result is a buttery, flakey crust.
- Streusel is made from sugar, nuts, spices, butter, and flour and is sprinkled on the top of the filling before baking. It comes out sweet and crumbly – also a good choice for very tangy apples.
How to Make Flaky Pie Pastry
About thirty minutes before you plan on making the pie dough (either pate brisee or pate sucree) put your flour, salt, and other dry ingredients in the bowl and place in the freezer. Put the rolling pin in there, too. Keep the butter in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it and have a bowl of ice water to dip your fingers in. Why?
The secret of a flaky pastry is to encase the butter with flour. You don't ever want the butter to melt enough to melt into the flour mixture. In the oven the butter will melt and leave air pockets in the pastry, keeping it light and airy.
- When you are ready to make your pastry work the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers, dipping them in the ice water to keep them cold. Keep working the butter into the flour until it looks crumbly, a little bigger than coarse grits or cornmeal
- Add your ice water a little at a time and mixing in well until you have a dough that is pliable. It may take a little more or even a little less water than your recipe calls for. When you have a ball of dough cover it in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before rolling out. This helps the gluten in the dough relax and will keep your pastry tender.
- After the resting period take the dough out of the refrigerator and place it on the clean counter that has been lightly dusted with flour. Break it in half if you have made enough dough for a double crust pie.
- Roll it gently from the center to the edge, give it a quarter turn and roll from the center to the edge again. Continue rolling and turning until the dough is about 1/8 inch thick and large enough to fit into the pie plate with a generous amount hanging over the side.
- Fit it carefully into your pie plate and repeat with the other half of the dough. Brush the bottom with melted butter and then sprinkle with a little white sugar. This will help the bottom of the pie stay crisp and keep it from getting soggy.
Assembling and Baking the Apple Pie
Place your filling in your pie and dot with about 2 tablespoons of butter cut into eight pieces. Add the top crust. If you are using pate brisee or pate sucree press the edges of the bottom and top crusts together and crimp with your fingers to seal. Brush the top of the pie with some melted butter and sprinkle a little sugar on top. Alternately you can brush the top with an egg yolk beaten with a teaspoon of water and then sprinkle sugar on top. The pie will develop a shiny, golden crust with a thin layer of crispy, sugary goodness on the top.
Make a few slits in the top to allow the pie to release steam.
You should plan on your pie taking about 40 minutes to an hour at 400F to bake properly. Of course if your recipe has a different temperature be sure to use that.
Simple Apple Pie Recipe
- 6 -8 cups apples, mixed varieties
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Pinch of salt
- ¼ cup flour
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Pie crust for a double crusted pie
- Roll out half of the dough at a time. Line the pie plate with the first half.
- Toss the peeled, cored, and sliced apples in a large bowl with the spices, salt and flour.
- Mound the apple mixture in the bottom crust.
- Dot with butter.
- Lay the other half of the dough (that has been rolled out in a large enough to cover the filling) over the filling.
- Trim and press the edges together with your fingers to seal.
- Cut a design in the top crust to allow the steam to escape.
- Cut slits in the top crust.
- Bake for 40 to 45 minutes at 400F, or until the juice thickens and bubbles through the crust.
- Let cool.
Bourbon Apple Tart
- 6 cups mixed variety of apples, sliced and peeled
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup flour
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- ¼ cup bourbon
- Pate brisee for a one crust pie
- Fit a pie or tart pan with the pate brisee
- Slice the apples and lay them carefully in the tart
- Whisk the sugar, flour and eggs until smooth
- Mix in the melted butter and bourbon
- Pour over the apples and bake for 1 hour at 375F
Apple Pie with Streusel Crust
- ½ cup flour
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 6 – 7 cups tart apples
- ¼ cup flour
- ½ cup brown sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 pate sucree crust, fit into a 9 inch pie pan
- Mix the ½ cup flour, ¼ cup brown sugar, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, cloves, and ¼ cup unsalted butter until crumbly
- Set aside
- Toss the apples with ¼ cup flour, ½ cup brown sugar, and salt and mound in the crust
- Sprinkle with the streusel mixture
- Bake at 375F for 40 to 50minutes
- Let cool
Easy as Pie!
Learning how to make an apple pie takes a little practice but with high quality ingredients and a little know how you can be making pies of all types in no time. Pie crusts freeze well and you can easily make several and freeze them in freezer bags for up to three months. That way you can make a pie with no trouble at all.
Once you learn how to make an apple pie you can master any sort of pie or tart that you want to make. It will be "easy as pie"!