Apple Pie

You can find apple pie recipes everywhere. I have tried several. This is my favorite. I found it several years ago on America’s Test Kitchen, and it lay dormant in my computer until September 2018 when I tried it out for a dinner with friends. They were blown away. I made it again for Thanksgiving, to another round of applause.

The key to this recipe is pre-cooking the apples. You can stuff the pie crust pretty thickly: 5 pounds of apples will allow you to make a super deep-dish pie (though you don’t need a deep dish to make it). Pre-baking the apples ensures that juices do not pool in the bottom of the crust during baking, or create an empty crust dome on top of the pie. I have also made the pie with as little as 2½ pounds of apples. The pie pictured on this page was made with about 4 pounds.

Granny Smith apples are generally recognized as ideal for pie, and are available wherever apples are sold. They hold their shape when cooked, and they add a pleasantly tart flavor. But feel free to mix in a sweeter variety as well, such as Golden Delicious, Jonagolds, or Braeburns. America’s Test Kitchen recommends a 50-50 mix of tart and sweet apples.

If you subscribe to America’s Test Kitchen, you can view their whole half-hour TV episode (Season 6, Episode 23), which demonstrates in detail how to make this pie, and why the recipe works so well.

Pie Crust

  • 2½ cups (12½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), cold, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • ⅓ cup ice water, or more if needed

Filling

  • ½ cup granulated sugar (3½ oz.), plus 1 tsp. for sprinkling on top
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar (1 3/4 oz.)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Up to 5 pounds firm apples, peeled and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
  • 1 egg white, beaten lightly

Crust:

1. Process flour, salt, and sugar together in food processor until combined, about 3 seconds. Add butter and pulse until butter is size of small peas, about ten 1-second pulses.

2. Using fork, mix sour cream and 1/3 cup ice water in small bowl until combined. Add half of sour cream mixture to flour mixture; pulse for three 1-second pulses. Repeat with remaining sour cream mixture. Pinch dough with fingers; if dough is floury, dry, and does not hold together, add 1 to 2 tablespoons ice water and process until dough forms large clumps and no dry flour remains, three to five 1-second pulses.

3. Turn dough out onto work surface. Divide dough into 2 balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk; wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate until firm but not hard, 1 to 2 hours, before rolling. (Dough can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Let thoroughly chilled dough stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling.)

Filling:

4. Mix ½ cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, zest, and cinnamon in large bowl; add apples and toss to combine. Transfer apples to Dutch oven (do not wash bowl) and cook, covered, over medium heat, stirring frequently, until apples are tender when poked with fork but still hold their shape, 15 to 20 minutes. (Apples and juices should gently simmer during cooking, not boil.) Transfer apples and juices to rimmed baking sheet and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. While apples cool, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place empty rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 425ºF.

Assembly and Baking:

5. Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out between 2 large sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap to 12-inch circle, about ⅛ inch thick. (If dough becomes too soft, return to refrigerator until firm.) Remove parchment from one side of dough and flip onto 9-inch pie plate; peel off second layer of parchment. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, roll second disk of dough between 2 large sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap to 12-inch circle, about ⅛ inch thick. Refrigerate, leaving dough between parchment sheets, until firm, about 30 minutes.

7. Transfer cooled apples to a colander, and shake colander to drain off as much juice as possible. Discard juice, or find another use for it. (My wife’s Greek-immigrant grandfather made a similar recipe at his diner in New York; he used to pour the juices back into the pie through a hole in the top crust just after it came out of the oven.) Transfer apples to dough-lined pie plate; sprinkle with lemon juice.

8. Remove parchment from one side of remaining dough and flip dough onto apples. I drape the dough over a rolling pin to roll it over the filling. Peel off second piece of parchment. Pinch edges of top and bottom dough rounds firmly together. Trim edges of dough to about 1/2 inch beyond the edge of the pie pan, then press top and bottom layers together and fold under edges. Then flute edges by pinching with fingers to create a zigzag pattern around the edge of the crust. (See photo below.) Cut four 2-inch slits in top of dough to vent.

9. Brush surface with beaten egg white, and sprinkle evenly with remaining teaspoon of sugar. Refrigerate or freeze pie about 20 minutes before placing in oven to help the crust retain its shape during baking.

10. Set pie on preheated baking sheet. Bake until crust is dark golden brown, 45 to 55 minutes. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool at least 1½ hours before serving.

The pie before baking. The fluting around the edges could be more sharply defined than it is here. Refrigerating before baking can help it retain its shape. My fluting collapsed on this attempt.

 

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