Forget what you might know about apple pie, those gloppy fillings that taste more of sugar than fruit. Forget the pies that taste like candied apples. The best apple pies have a balance of sweet to tart, they have a sharp fruit flavor that has you thinking of orchards and rain. The crust flakes and crumbles in your mouth and the apples somehow have bite and yet are soft. That’s a perfect apple pie. Here is how you make it:
First of all, you need the right apples. Pass by the Delicious, the Braeburn and the Fuji. If the only baking apple options at your market are Romes and Cortlands, get those. Macintoshes add sweetness, but they turn to mush when baked, so use only a few. Better yet are the older varieties of apples, the Golden Russet, Northern Spy and Winesap. If you can, add a few Macouns to the mix. These apples have true apple flavor, not the one-note sweetness of the supermarket offerings.
Don’t worry if, after washing the apples, they all get jumbled up and you can’t tell them apart. Start with the right varieties and you can’t go wrong, no matter the proportions.
You will need 8 cups of peeled, cored and sliced apples. The slices should be thin and uniform so that the filling cooks evenly and all the way through. The best way to do this is to use a nifty gadget which peels, cores and slices with the turning of a crank. You can read all about it in this post.
You will need a 9-inch deep pie plate, and two pie crusts, one for the bottom and one for the top. Use this recipe.
You will need sugar. You can use regular white granulated sugar, but the flavor is just one note. I prefer demerara or organic sugar which tastes more complex, but without the heavier molasses flavor of brown sugar.
You will need a thickener. Some use flour, but I think that gets gummy and tastes raw. You can use modified food starch, which yields a silky and clear filling. Or, you can use instant tapioca, which is readily available at markets. Don’t use too much, or the filling will be more like candy gone wrong more than a classic pie.
The Best Apple Pie
2 pie crusts, for top and bottom
1/2 cup sugar, preferably demerara or organic
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon fine, instant tapioca or 1 tablespoon clear gel (modified food starch)
8 cups peeled, cored and sliced apples
optional: 1 tablespoon maple sugar and/or 1 tablespoon minced crystalized ginger
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the bottom crust in the pie plate and put in the freezer while prepping the rest of the ingredients. Filling a frozen crust keeps it from being soggy when baked.
2. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon and tapioca. Mix evenly.
3. Stir the sugar mixture into the apples to coat.
4. Put the apples into the crust, mounding in the center. Drape the top crust over the apples.
5. Trim and flute the edges of the crust. Slice vents in the top.
6. You can put a cinnamon stick in the center if you wish. If you like a brown and glossy crust, brush with egg wash. For a soft crust, brush lightly with cream. You can dust with a bit of sugar. But, you don’t have to do any of these things and pie will still be lovely.
7. Bake for 45 minutes, or up to over an hour. Insert a sharp paring knife into a vent to test for doneness. It should slip right in without resistance. The length of baking time will depend on the freshness and moisture content of the apples.
That is a beautiful pie! Thanks for sharing the recipe. I can’t wait to try it this weekend.
Mmmmm, that looks delicious. Concerning your recipe for pie crust, can salted butter be substituted with good results if the 1/2 t. of salt is left out of the recipe?
I’m going to try this recipe with a gluten free crust.
Looks delicious! We have an apple orchard just up the road from us. I’ve been wanting to pick up a bag of apples to make applesauce but now I have to make an apple pie too. I always use Macintosh and they do get a little mushy so I’m going to try the varieties you recommend. I never would have thought to add maple syrup to an apple pie thanks for the tip. My husband and I tap the maple trees in our yard and make our own syrup I like to make recipes with our syrup so I will have to add some to the next pie I bake.
I’m a Brit now living in America. Back in the UK, the best cooking apple was the Bramley, which was specifically cultivated for use in baking. Sadly, I can’t find them anywhere here, but your recipe goes a long way to solving my apple pie problem. Thanks very much! :)
Nice recipe. Tell me, do you ever add lemon zest to brighten the sweet flavors?
I do! I find that apple pies made in autumn with fresh-picked apples are tart enough and don’t need it, but in late winter when the apples have been in storage, or I have to buy from the supermarket (the varieties generally sweeter) I add a hint of lemon juice and organic lemon peel.