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Classic Apple Pie

Classic Apple Pie
Classic Apple Pie
This image courtesy of Courtesy of Agate Publishing

Editor's Note: This fall, make the most of the apples you picked by trying your hand at this recipe for Classic Apple Pie. This easy pie recipe uses Chinese five-spice powder to create a distinct taste that you're sure to love. This is one pie that definitely calls for a generous scoop of ice cream on the side, too. Although this pie takes some time to assemble, freeze, and then bake, the results will be worth it. If you want to impress family and friends at your Thanksgiving meal, then you will want to include this pie recipe on the menu. 

I knew I couldn't open a pie shop without a great apple pie. So once the pie dough recipe was finished, I started peeling apples. Apple pie poses some special challenges and honestly, if all our recipes had taken as many trials as the pie dough and apple pie did, I would have abandoned the whole idea! In a great apple pie, the juice from the apples combines with the sugar, spices, and thickener to create a dense sauce as it bakes, while the dough remains firm and flaky. The apple pieces themselves should be tender but hold their shape, giving way only as you bite into them.

There are, of course, lots of ways to make an apple pie. The method we finally settled on may seem overly complex, but each of the steps is crucial for a perfectly baked pie: macerating the apples with the sugar, starches, and spices brings out the juices; cooking the apple juices on the stove ahead of time activates the starches and ensures a thick sauce every time; and briefly freezing the pie before baking gives the dough time to cook before the fruit juices thaw and soak into the crust. Freezing also helps the pie hold its shape, because the surface of the dough, which is closest to the heat, cooks before the interior of the dough can thaw and become misshapen. The baked exterior and perfectly crimped edges you've labored over then hold their form as the interior thaws and cooks. This is the method we use to make several thousand apple pies each year. If we believed we could simplify it and get the same results, we definitely would!

The unbaked pie can be stored in the freezer for up to 1 week. The baked pie can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days and in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Cooking MethodBaking

CostInexpensive

Easy

Total Timehalf-day

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

One Pot MealYes

OccasionBuffet, Buffet Meal, Card Night, Casual Dinner Party, Family Get Together

Recipe CourseDessert

Taste and TextureButtery, Fruity, Spiced, Sweet

Type of DishDessert, Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 double-crust All-Butter Pie Dough shell
  • 8 cups (960g) apples, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces (roughly 1 inch long by 3/4 inch thick [2.5cm by 19mm]) 
  • 1 (16g) tablespoon lemon juice 
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar 
  • 3 tablespoons (45g) dark brown sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (10g) tapioca starch 
  • 1 tablespoon (9g) cornstarch 
  • 1 teaspoon (2g) Chinese five-spice powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1.5g) kosher salt 
  • Crust Dust (see notes below), for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • Pie Wash (see notes below), for brushing the top of the pie

Instructions

  1. Place the apples in a medium bowl. Add the lemon juice and toss with a spatula until the apples are well coated.

  2. Place the granulated sugar, brown sugar, tapioca starch, cornstarch, Chinese five-spice powder, and salt in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl of apples and mix until the apples are again well coated. Set aside to macerate for at least 25 minutes.

  3. Place a colander over a medium bowl and transfer the macerated apples to the colander, making sure to scrape down the side of the bowl to get all the juices, sugars, and starches. Let the apples drain for 25 minutes.

  4. Pour the drained juice into a small saucepan, scraping down the side and bottom of the bowl to get every drop. Bring the apple juice to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and continue to boil the apple juice gently until it thickens, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Once it is room temperature, chill the saucepan in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.

  5. Sprinkle Crust Dust (see notes below) into the empty pie shell. Pour in the apples, making sure to scrape out any dry ingredients or juices that stick to the side of the bowl. Make a well in the middle of the apples and pour in the thickened apple juice. Gently smooth the pie filling with a spatula and dot with the butter. Finish the pie according to the double-crust instructions, then freeze for at least 20 minutes.

  6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

  7. Brush the top of pie with Pie Wash (see notes below) and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, rotating 180 degrees every 20 minutes, until the crust is dark golden brown and the juices are bubbling thickly through the vents. Cool for at least 2 hours before slicing.

Crust Dust

At the pie shop, we use lots of different techniques to keep our double-crust fruit pies from getting soggy bottom crusts. One of my favorite showed up in several vintage cookbooks I turned to for research. Mix equal parts all-purpose flour and granulated sugar, then lightly dust it across the bottom of the pie shell before adding the fruit filling. The flour thickens the fruit juices before they can seep into the crust, and the sugar keeps the flour from clumping. At the shop we call it "Crust Dust" and keep a one-quart container of it ready at all times. It turns up in most of our fruit pie recipes, so you might want to do the same. Crust Dust can be stored indefinitely in an airtight container at room temperature.

Pie Wash

Before we bake any of our sweet double-crust or chess pies, we like to brush the dough with equal parts whole milk and cream, a mixture we've christened "Pie Wash." Before settling on Pie Wash, I experimented with all kinds of glazes and washes, from whole eggs to straight cream. I baked off a few "naked" pies for comparison. The egg wash made the pie super shiny and evenly brown, but looked too finished or "prissy" for my taste — and it made the crust too crunchy. The naked pie looked too amateur. The heavy cream browned nicely, but the large amount of butterfat made the crust too soft. Pie Wash gets it just right. There is enough butterfat in the mixture to make the outer layer of the curst tender, but not enough to compromise the flakiness. It gives a slight shine and bakes to a nice golden brown. It's also great for sticking pie dough cutouts and sugar to the top of the pies. 

Simply mix equal parts whole milk and cream in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. Give it a good stir or the cream will float on top of the mixture.

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