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.
This recipe comes from the January 1996 issue of Cooks Illustrated. I tried it for the first time when we were living in Uzbekistan about a decade ago, and it has never failed to impress. The trick is to start by caramelizing the apples in sugar and butter in an oven-proof skillet on the stove, with slices arranged in a circle. Then cover the entire pan with an egg pastry that contains confectioners’ sugar rather than granulated sugar, which can make the dough grainy.
Cooks Illustrated prides itself on testing and re-testing their recipes until they find the perfect ingredients and preparation method. However, every time I have made this tarte, I have managed with half the amount of apples called for in the recipe, each cut into six wedges rather than four. Perhaps if I followed the recipe precisely, I could fit more fruit into the pan. But I’m afraid that the apples wouldn’t fully cook. Try it for yourself and let me know how it turns out.