I’ve been playing around with apple pie recipes lately. The one I use most often is one from a very old cookbook from a bank that no longer exists. The recipe is okay but I really wanted to find one that’s a wower. I’ve tried other recipes over the years but have always gone back to my original “bank” apple pie with the exception of the pie crust. I decided to try a couple of different ones this summer since I wanted to take advantage of the Mister’s craving for apple pie. I’m going to share 2 types of recipes here since the fillings represent 2 schools of thought.
The first one is using Rose Levy Beranbaum’s method of macerating the apples. Alton Brown is also a fan of this method. The thought behind this is to eliminate “pie dome”. By removing some of the water from the apples before baking, it helps prevent the filling from shrinking. I followed the recipe from Joy of Baking. Hmm, what do you think?
Okay, I’ll admit. I’ve seen bigger domes before (that doesn’t sound quite right) but there’s still a dome. I compared my filling to the picture on Joy of Baking and I think I had way more than that picture.
So I didn’t pack down the filling in neat little circles but it is still pretty obvious that my filling is rather tall in comparison. That’s about 2.5 lbs of apples, like the recipe calls for and I did let it sit for 2 hours. Maybe another hour would have made it flatter?
I also decided to use the accompanying pate brisee (pie dough) recipe, which is all butter. I was a little hesitant about using an all butter recipe since it can get a little tricky if I didn’t work fast enough or keep the dough cold. I have been using a butter and shortening recipe which creates great flaky pie crusts. But what the hey.
I chilled everything before starting. Yes, everything. I put the flour, salt and sugar in the food processor container with the blade and stuck it in the fridge for 1 hour. It came together as expected and rolling was not bad. Here’s what the top crust looked like. BTW, my pies always look rustic. That’s a nice way of saying they never have beautiful fluted edges but I don’t care.
The other reason why I wanted to try this recipe was the fact that it uses a baking stone for the bottom crust. Alton Brown recommends putting the pie on a baking sheet and putting that directly on the bottom of the oven floor. This recipe calls for heating up a baking stone or a baking sheet at the lowest level. I went the baking stone route since I thought that would provide the best chances of a flaky bottom crust.
Here’s a shot of the first slice of pie. It was a little difficult getting a nice clean slice out due to the dome.
I thought the filling was okay, definitely good apple flavor but it wasn’t all that sweet, which could be good for some, but I like my filling to be a little sweeter. I have to agree with Cook’s Illustrated by not liking the macerated apples. CI said the apples became dried out, rubbery and unpleasant. I didn’t think it was unpleasant but it did have a slight rubbery texture to it, kind of like a reconstituted dried apple. It tasted okay and it actually lost some of the rubberiness the second day.
I was disappointed with the crust though. It wasn’t flaky enough for me and seemed like it was missing something in flavor. But still overall, not a bad pie, just not a wower for me. Also the filling didn’t set up as thick as I would have liked. I did bake the pie to the max time according to the recipe but it could have gone maybe another 5 minutes in the oven since the apples still have a bit of firmness to it, which I like. Don’t care for mushy filling. I also noticed that my top crust wasn’t golden brown like my other pies. I attributed this to being on the lower rack. What was really nice was the bottom crust, nicely brown. The baking stone is the way to go. So onto the next pie.
I figured the reason why I didn’t like the crust is because it was missing the shortening. So I decided to make Cook’s Illustrated Classic Apple Pie. I’ve made CI’s fool-proof pie crust before and it was pretty good but the classic apple pie recipe is similar to the one I use, with the exception of how the water is added to the dough. I didn’t chill all the dry ingredients since I’ve worked with this type of dough before and it wasn’t as fussy. According to the recipe, this dough is suppose to collapse with the filling as the pie is baking. So what do you think, better? Yup.
It really did collapse with the filling. I decided to use the baking stone method from the previous recipe even though CI’s recipe calls for the pie to bake on the middle rack. Again, you can see the top crust is not golden brown but blonde. It, however, was a much better tasting crust than the previous one. This was the flakiest crust I’ve made to date. What’s different about this recipe is that the water is folded into the dough rather than processed in the food processor. CI claims this method really provides an easier to roll dough, which I would agree, but it was a bit more crumbly and slightly harder to handle. Once I started to roll it out, the dough got softer and the shortening that’s closer to the top was starting to get soft and a bit sticky. What really helped was rolling the dough between something. I used parchment for the bottom and plastic wrap for the top (the piece I used to wrap and chill the disk in). This made it so much easier and eliminated the need for additional flour. Also made it easy to get the crust into the pie pan and on top of the filling.
The filling was not as runny as the first recipe but still a little bit more than I like. Sometimes a runny filling means the pie wasn’t baked long enough. I baked it 5 minutes longer than the recipe called for and the apples were even softer than the first recipe. So yes, I think it baked long enough. Any longer and the apples would have been too soft. I think next time an extra tablespoon of flour may do the trick. I also liked the flavor of this filling much better than the first. The addition of allspice was a good one. It also had a bit more sugar but then it calls for more apples. Overall, this apple pie has been the best pie I’ve baked to date. I might play a little more with the amount of water in the crust but flavor is spot on. Flaky, crusty, buttery and better rounded than an all-butter or all-shortening crust.
Speaking of apples, I used a combination of Gala, Braeburn and Granny Smith in the pies. Really like the flavor combination of these apples together. As with both pies, the inside bottom crust was a bit soft but I think the use of a pie bird might help with that. I decided not to use my pie bird with these since I wanted to test them out as is to see how the crust turns out (and not everyone has a pie bird).
Classic Apple Pie (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Classic Apple Pie)
Makes one 9-inch pie
Pie Dough Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups (12.5 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour , plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter ,very cold, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, chilled, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (I stuck the shortening in the freezer for 20 minutes)
6 – 8 tablespoons ice water
Apple Filling Ingredients:
2 large Granny Smith apples (about 1 pound)
3 large Gala apples (about 1.5 pounds)
3 large Braeburn apples (about 1.5 pounds)
2 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon raw sugar, for topping
Add flour, salt and sugar in a food processor fitted with the steel blade, pulse to combine. Add shortening and pulse until the texture is like coarse sand, about 10 seconds. Add butter and pulse about 10 times (1 second pulses) until mixture looks like coarse crumbs where the butter is no larger than small peas. Turn the mixture into a medium bowl.
Sprinkle 6 tablespoons ice water over mixture. With blade of rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix. Press down on dough with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 2 tablespoons more ice water if dough will not hold together. Squeeze dough gently until cohesive and divide into two equal balls. I used a scale to get them equal sized since I suck at eye balling. Flatten each into disks and wrap each disk in plastic, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days, before rolling.
Right before you’re ready to roll out the dough, adjust oven rack to lowest position and place baking stone on rack. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
Remove dough from refrigerator. If stiff and very cold, let stand until dough is cool but malleable. Place one dough disk between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap. You can also lightly dust a work surface and roll out the dough that way. But be careful not to use too much flour and that you turn the dough a quarter turn after each time you roll it to help prevent sticking. A dough scraper is handy to scrape a sticky dough off the surface. Roll dough disk into a 12-inch circle. If rolling the dough between parchment paper, just peel away the top parchment, lift the bottom parchment and gently flip the dough into the pie pan and ease the dough into the pie pan, taking care not to stretch the dough leaving portion that overhangs lip of pie plate in place. If rolling on the work surface, there are a couple of ways to get the dough into the pie pan. You can fold dough in quarters, then place dough point in center of the pie pan and unfold dough. Another method is to use the rolling pin to ease the dough into the pan. Put the rolling pin at the top of the dough and gently roll the dough onto the rolling pin. Lay the dough into the pan and unroll the dough. Again, taking care to not stretch the dough as you ease the dough against the sides of the pan. Don’t worry if the dough cracks. You can always patch those up with scraps. Refrigerate while preparing the filling.
Peel, core and cut apples into 1/4-inch slices. You should have about 8 cups of apples. Toss sliced apples with lemon juice. In a medium bowl, combine granulated sugar, flour, spices and salt. Toss the dry ingredients with the apples. Turn fruit mixture, including juices, into chilled pie shell and mound slightly in center.
Roll out the second piece of dough into a 12-inch circle and place over filling. Trim top and bottom edges to 1/2 inch beyond pan lip. Tuck edges of dough underneath itself so that folded edge is flush with pan lip. Flute edging or press with fork tines to seal. Cut four slits at right angles on dough top. Lightly brush milk onto top of crust and sprinkle evenly with raw sugar. If the pie dough gets very soft, place the pie in the freezer for 10 minutes, which is what I did.
Place a piece of aluminum foil on the stone (or pan) to catch any apple juices that might boil over. Place the pie on the stone and lower the oven temperature to 425 degrees F. Bake until top crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Rotate pie from back to front and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Continue baking until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to almost room temperature, at least 4 hours.
As you can see, I still didn’t get the “dark golden brown” color that both recipes call for but it was very flaky and yummy. Next time I think I’ll move the pie up to the middle rack at the turning point (after 25 minutes of baking) to see if it’ll help with the browning. Can you see the little raw sugar on top of the crust?
Hopefully you can see the flakiness in this shot. The top crust was so flaky that the small piece broke off when I tried to move it. Oops. I broke apart the slice on this next shot to show the filling and more of the flaky crust.
And finally, a shot of the bottom crust and how brown that turned out. No soggy bottom crust here.
The only bad thing about having all this pie is that it’s hard for the 2 of us to eat a whole pie before the top crust starts to get a little soggy. Doesn’t help that it’s been so darn hot and bit humid when I made these. But just stick it in the fridge and then reheat in the microwave for a few seconds will take care of that. Mmmm, think I’ll go heat up a slice and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream!
It’s going to cool down through the weekend, a nice little break in the heat. I hope y’all have a wonderful weekend!