Perfect Apple Pie

Updated on June 16, 2018
Carb Diva profile image

Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes... one ingredient at a time.

As American as Apple Pie

"As American as apple pie." An interesting idiom, but when you really examine it, apple pie is anything but American. Apples did not originate in this country (or even in this hemisphere) and the concept of enclosing a fruit filling within a flaky pastry crust is European in origin.

So, how did the humble apple pie become a cultural icon? Food historians tell us that the expression "American as apple pie" is really not all that old. In World War II, when asked what they were fighting for, American troops would often reply "Mom and apple pie," and so America, motherhood, and apple pie became interminably entwined.

Let's Get Started

Here's how to make a great apple pie. There are three different pastry recipes from which to choose, an easy filling using fresh apples, and an alternative streusel topping.

Equipment You Will Need

  • measuring cups and spoons
  • large mixing bowl
  • food processor
  • pastry blender (if making the basic pie dough)
  • waxed paper
  • 9-inch glass pie dish
  • rolling pin
  • small saucepan
  • vegetable peeler
  • paring knife
  • cutting board
  • strainer or colander
  • rubber spatula

Let's Begin at the Beginning, the Crust

Sour Cream Crust

Butter and sour cream make this crust very rich and flaky; I find this recipe a bit easier to work with than traditional pie crust recipes that use only shortening or lard.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Instructions

  1. Place flour, salt, and butter in the bowl of food processor. Cut in butter using on/off pulses. The mixture will resemble coarse crumbs.
  2. Add sour cream and pulse until blended.
  3. Add milk and process until dough forms. Gather dough into a ball. Cut the ball of dough in half.
  4. Place a sheet of waxed paper on work surface and flour lightly. Place one piece of dough in center of the floured waxed paper, turn over to coat both sides with flour. Place a second sheet of waxed paper over top of dough. (You now have a "sandwich" of waxed paper, floured dough, and waxed paper).
  5. Using rolling pin, gently roll dough into an 11-inch circle.
  6. Remove top layer of waxed paper and then gently drape back on dough. You are doing this to release the dough so that it no longer adheres to the waxed paper. Quickly flip the dough/waxed paper sandwich over and remove the other sheet of waxed paper.
  7. Gently ease the dough into 9-inch pie plate, being careful to not stretch the dough.
  8. Fill the pie with the apple filling (recipe below).
  9. Roll out the second piece of dough using waxed paper as described above.
  10. Carefully place the rolled dough circle over the apple filling. Crimp the edges as desired. Cut several slits in top crust to allow steam to vent.
  11. Bake pie for 60 minutes or until crust is golden and juices are bubbling.

Other Pastry Options

Cream cheese dough has a slight tang and creates a soft yet crisp crust.

Cream-Cheese Dough

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup cream cheese
  • 4 tablespoons water

Instructions

  1. Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add the shortening and cream cheese and combine with on/off pulses until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Sprinkle one tablespoon of the water evenly over the mixture and pulse until a dough forms. Depending on your humidity you might need to add some or all of the second tablespoon of water.
  2. Proceed with steps 5 through 9 of the sour cream pastry recipe above.


This is the standard pie crust recipe, the one your grandmother used years ago.

Basic Pie Dough

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 6 to 7 tablespoons cold water

Instructions

  1. Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl; add the shortening and work into the flour with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle on the water, a tablespoon at a time, stirring lightly with a fork after each addition.
  2. Proceed with steps 5 through 9 of the sour cream pastry recipe above.

A two-crust (double crust) apple pie
A two-crust (double crust) apple pie

And Then the Apple Filling

Ingredients

  • Pastry for 2 crust pie (choose one from above)
  • 4 1/2 cups granny smith apples - peeled cored and sliced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine apples, lemon juice, sugars, salt, and cinammon. Let stand for 30 minutes.
  3. Strain apples, reserving liquid. Toss apples with cornstarch before transferring to pie crust in pie pan.
  4. Bring reserved juices to a boil in a medium saucepan; stir until mixture reduces to a syrup.
  5. Add butter to syrup and stir until melted.
  6. Pour mixture over apple slices in pie crust.
  7. Cover with pastry (or streusel topping) and bake for about 60 minutes.

Why Granny Smith Apples?

When baking with apples the two most important characteristics to consider are taste and texture. You want an apple with sweet-tart flavor and one that will not collapse into a pan of mush when it encounters the heat of an oven. Remember, you're baking a pie, not making applesauce. My vote for taste and texture is the Granny Smith.

Apple Pie 101 Troubleshooting

  • place a large shallow pan (cookie sheet or pizza pan) under the pie pan to catch spills and bubble-overs
  • if the crust is browning too much, remove the pie from the oven, carefully cover the edges with 2-inch strips of aluminum foil or drape the entire pie loosely with a sheet of foil. Return to over to finish baking.
  • A pie bird (or pie vent) will keep your pie from bubbling over and eliminates the need to cut vents in the top crust.
  • your pie is done when you see some juices bubbling up around the edges and through the vents. The crust should be browned and a thin sharp knife inserted through one of the vents will easily pierce an apple.
  • when done, set your pie on a rack to cool.

French Apple—Another Version of Apple Pie

This one is the favorite of my daughters and a perfect excuse for making a one-crust pie. Those with a fear of making pastry (or who are unsure of their ability to successfully seal and crimp a two-crust pie) will love this recipe.

Instructions

  1. Omit the top crust
  2. Combine 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup cold butter, and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a small bowl and then sprinkle evenly over the apple pie filling in the pan.

A French (streusel topping) apple pie
A French (streusel topping) apple pie

Cinnamon Sauce

At the annual Steilacoom Apple Squeeze, pie by the slice is available for sale in Town Hall. I suggest that you splurge and ask for the cinnamon sauce on top.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Instructions

  1. Combine the dry ingredients in a small saucepan. Add the boiling water and cook, stirring constantly, until there are no lumps and the sauce comes to a full boil.
  2. Remove from heat. Add butter and stir until melted.
  3. Serve warm.

Questions & Answers

    © 2015 Linda Lum

    Comments

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      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 years ago from Washington State, USA

        Flourish - I have always thought that the crust is the most difficult part. I included these recipes because they never fail me. I especially like the one made with sour cream.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 years ago from Washington State, USA

        Dear Flourish and Rachel - Thank you for your visit and kind words. Please let me know if you use my recipes and how they work for you.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        2 years ago from USA

        I didn't know Apple crumb topping was called French apple. That's my favorite! I like that you included several varieties of crusts, too.

      • Rachel L Alba profile image

        Rachel L Alba 

        2 years ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

        Your pies are amazing. We just bought some apples at an apple orchard and now I will be making some pies. I do love the apple crumb pie you show. That's what I had in mind to make. Thanks for the recipe.

        Blessings to you. I gave this 5 stars and pinned it.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 years ago from Washington State, USA

        Chantelle - You just brought back a memory that was long forgotten--the "cookies" made from leftover scraps of pie pastry. We would sprinkle on cinnamon sugar, bake, and eat while they were still warm from the oven. Thank you for reminding me of that.

      • Chantelle Porter profile image

        Chantelle Porter 

        2 years ago from Chicago

        I love the one with the crumb topping but I would like to try the leaves. it looks gorgeous. I have such great memories of my Grandma making pies. Of course the leftover crust got made into piecrust cookies. Thanks for bringing back great memories.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 years ago from Washington State, USA

        Ahh, Bill you are so sweet. And BTW I used to sneak pieces of raw pie dough while my mom's back was turned (or at least I thought she didn't notice. Now that I'm a mom I know that mothers have eyes in the backs of their heads and know EVERYTHING).

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Actually, the perfect apple pie is one you bake for me. :) It certainly wouldn't be perfect if I baked it. My mom tried to teach me but I never got beyond eating the pie crust. :)

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