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Perfect Apple Pie Recipe

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

A recipe as easy as pie!

A recipe as easy as pie!

As American as Apple Pie

"As American as apple pie" is 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
The crust is the crucial first step.

The crust is the crucial first step.

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 the 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 the work surface and flour lightly. Place one piece of dough in the center of the floured waxed paper, turn over to coat both sides with flour. Place a second sheet of waxed paper over the top of the dough. (You now have a "sandwich" of waxed paper, floured dough, and waxed paper).
  5. Using a rolling pin, gently roll dough into an 11-inch circle.
  6. Remove the top layer of waxed paper and then gently drape back on the 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 a 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

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Read More From Delishably

  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 a 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.

Basic Pie Dough

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

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 the 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 a 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.

© 2015 Linda Lum

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