There is a reason people say, “easy as pie”. Making a pie IS easy. Of course, making a great pie is as easy as making a bad one, so it’s important to have a great recipe.
There are 3 components to pies: crust, filling, and topping.
- Crust: You want it flavorful, but not overpowering. You don’t want soggy-bottoms, but you don’t want crunchy (unless it’s a graham cracker crust, of course.) Yes, you can buy pre-made and it will be okay, but homemade is so easy and world’s better…with the right recipe.
- Filling: The key to apple pie filling is…apples. There is a myth that you should use Granny Smith or some other crisp, tart apple for apple pie. NOOOOO! Why would you want a tart and crunchy apple pie? I’ve found that the absolute BEST variety is Red Delicious (or possibly Golden Delicious). It will NOT get mushy, as some people seem to think. The pieces will soften somewhat during the bake, but will still retain their shape and individuality. And they’re sweet!
- Topping: I’m not a fan of the double crust – a bottom crust is enough for me. A streusel topping provides added flavor (apples really don’t have that much flavor), with a nice crunch.
- Caramel drizzle: I guess this is optional, but drizzling on caramel adds an additional layer of flavor.
CARAMEL APPLE PIE
- 1 par-baked 9″ pastry crust (suggested recipe follows)
- 1/2 cup (94g) granulated sugar
- 3 T (18g) + 1/4 (30g) cup all-purpose flour, divided
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 6 Red Delicious apples
- 1/2 cup (94g) dark brown sugar, packed
- 1/4 cup (21g) rolled oats (either old fashioned or quick-cooking)
- 1/4 cup (56g) butter, cold
- about 1/3 cup caramel ice cream topping
Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.
Have ready a cooled, par-baked pastry crust. The best recipe I’ve found is America’s Test Kitchen’s Vodka Pie Crust (Don’t worry – the vodka evaporates away.) Recipe follows at bottom.
In a very large bowl (use large so you don’t spill as you stir in the apples), mix together the granulated sugar, 3 T flour, salt, and cinnamon. Working quickly, peel and core the apples. Cut 3 of the apples into 1/8″ thick slices, and the other 3 a little thicker. Make sure they’re bite-sized for ease of eating – you don’t want long strips of apple. Add apples into the flour mixture and blend well. Pour into the cooled pie crust – there’s a lot of filling, so you’ll have to pile it high towards the middle. Make sure none of the apple pieces sit on the crust edge. To prevent over-browning, cover the pie edge with foil or purchased pie edge protectors (see photo of what I use). Bake at 375º for 25 minutes.
While pie is baking, prepare the streusel topping. Into the food processor put the remaining 1/4 cup (30g) flour, brown sugar, and oats. Run machine about 20 seconds to grind the oats and break up any hard brown sugar lumps. Cut cold butter into about 5 pieces or so, and add to processor. Pulse about 10 times to blend. When the pie has cooked for 25 minutes, remove from oven. Evenly sprinkle on streusel and remove the edge protectors. Return pie to 375º F oven and bake another 20-25 minutes. Don’t let the top get too brown or it will make slicing difficult to cut through. Place pie on a rack or stovetop and drizzle on the caramel topping. Let set at least 1 hour, preferably longer, or you’ll have a lava flow when you slice it.
VODKA PIE CRUST (AMERICA’S TEST KITCHEN RECIPE – amended) – makes 1 crust
Note: This needs to be made in a food processor.
- 3/4 cup (106g) + 1/2 cup (65g) all-purpose flour, divided
- 1½ T granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 6 T (70g) butter, cold
- 4 T (84g) Crisco (or any shortening), cold
- 2 T vodka
- 2 T water
In the workbowl of your food processor, pulse together 3/4 cup (101g) flour, sugar, and salt. Add in the butter and Crisco. Run the machine (don’t pulse) 15 seconds. The dough will come together into a creamy mass. Add in the remaining 1/2 cup (65g) flour and pulse about 8 times. Empty into a bowl.
Pour in the vodka and water. Gently (so it doesn’t splatter) fold together to incorporate the liquid into the dough. This is a very well dough. Press it together into a lump, cover, and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Empty the cold dough onto a very well floured, flat surface. Sprinkle flour on top and on your rolling pin. Begin rolling dough from center outwards. Keep flouring the dough and the rolling pin lightly, so there’s no sticking.
Once the dough is rolled out large enough to cover the pie plate, with an inch to spare for crimping, you’re going to have to transfer the dough. Take your time – this is a wet dough! My favorite method is to take my bench scraper and go around underneath the dough a little at a time, lifting up the dough and pushing some flour underneath as I go. Once I get to the center, I lift up one side and fold dough in half. Then I carefully lift folded dough from sides and place in pie plate (Make sure you have it very close by!)
Unfold the dough and nudge it into the corners (don’t press the dough down – you’ll stretch it). Arrange the dough so it’s not folded anywhere. Fold over-hanging dough and crimp. Refrigerate 1 hour to prevent shrinkage.
Preheat oven to 375º.
Line cold dough with waxed paper or parchment, then fill with pie weights. (I use metal washers topped with uncooked beans.) Bake for 10 minutes. Remove paper and weights by grabbing the 4 corners of paper and gently rocking the weight package back and forth to loosen, then rocking it up and out. Return dough to oven and continue baking until browned – about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on dough, particularly when you return it to the oven to make sure the crust stays flat. If you notice it rising, gently press down with the back of a fork.
Once the crust is golden brown, remove from oven and let cool to firm up.
Hello! Interesting post about my favourite pie. I enjoyed it. One question, though: what does the vodka do for the pastry crust? I’d not heard of it until now.
The vodka adds moisture to the crust so you can work it, but then evaporates during baking so the crust becomes flakey. I know it sounds crazy, but America’s Test Kitchen came up with this idea. I used to use an all shortening recipe for pie crust, but then I decided I wanted to add butter for flavour. When you add more butter, it makes the pie dough kind of fall apart – thus the vodka. There’s no taste to it once baked.
Wow! Vodka as an ingredient?! I know what you mean with buttery short pastry not forming: I tend to use icy water and very cold butter to overcome it. Hey, perhaps iced vodka would be better still? Thanks for the reply.