Faster, Simpler, Better Tasting Apple Pie
By Susie Coleman
Apple pie is one of America’s most deeply rooted American traditions. We’ve all eaten our fair share; certainly most slices were probably pretty good, some as memorable as our first kiss, and there were more than a few we didn’t bother finishing. I wanted to bake an apple pie that wasn’t mushy, yukky-syrup-y or overly sweet, I wanted the apples to retain a touch of firmness and I wanted the very crust I thought I would never be able to deliver. Above all, I wanted a recipe that didn’t mean an hour in the kitchen before the pie hit the oven.
There are a lot of steps to making any pie so would a couple of shortcuts help or hinder my search for sweet and juicy, tender apples inside a flaky crust? Early on I realized that while I love to cook, I have a life beyond the sink. Many apple pie recipes call for cooking and cooling the apples before using them in a pie. While speeding up the overall oven time of the pie itself, cooking the apples down is what made them too soft and created that dreaded ooey-gooey filling. I intended to eliminate that step altogether. Still, I wanted a “wow” apple pie recipe for Fall gatherings that would knock everyone’s socks off and be ready for the oven in 30 minutes or less.
Over the years, I tinkered with Grandma’s recipe and came up with “Oh, My! Apple Pie” — which actually tastes like apples, not sugar. Outstanding in flavor, texture and appearance. And I learned how to get those pre-prepared pie crusts to play nice, every time.
Which apples are best for pies? You can’t go wrong with Granny Smith; these apples are sweet/tart and firm and will hold up in a pie. If you’re lucky and you live in an area with a good apple harvest, you want to look for Jonathan, Winesap, Pippins and Jonagold. Try using any of this next group of firm, sweet apples mixed with a tart apple: Braeburn, Fuji, Pink Lady, Suncrisp, Rome Beauty, and Empire. Stay away from apples that become mushy when cooked; Macintosh and Cortland lead that list. (Forget commercially canned apples, too, though home canned is a decent option.) Whatever apples you choose, the fresher the better for your pie. Wash well before peeling.
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Photos by Susie Coleman
- 8-10 medium Granny Smith Apples (7 large)
- 1 package Pillsbury Pie Crust (the kind that come rolled up)
- ⅔ cup Sugar
- 1 tablespoon Flour
- 1 tablespoon Lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon Cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon Nutmeg (optional)
- ⅛ teaspoon Salt
- 1 tablespoon of Butter
- Egg white from one egg
- Preheat oven to 425°.
- The pie crusts must come out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before you can handle them. Take the rolled up crusts out of their packaging and set them aside while you prepare the other ingredients.
- In a bowl, whisk together Sugar, Flour, Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Salt. Set aside.
- Wash apples well and peel them. Using a paring knife, cut each apple into medium size, uniform slices and chunks in a large bowl. When all the apples have been peeled, dribble the lemon juice over the slices and mix them around with your (clean) hands until the lemon juice seems evenly distributed throughout the apples.
- Next, prepare the bottom crust. Heavily flour a large wooden cutting board or your countertop. Pie crust dough does NOT like to be handled, so work with a delicate touch. Unroll the pie crust gently and lay it in the floured area. If you have long fingernails, be particularly careful not to pierce the dough. Using a rolling pin, flatten the pie crust. These prepared pie crusts are usually somewhat on the thick side, so it's our goal to thin the crust slightly. Don't use heavy pressure, just gently roll the dough out a little bit in every direction.
- Turn the dough circle over -- if you had enough flour on your rolling surface, it won't stick -- gently rub the flour that's clinging there around so that you have a thin film of flour all over the crust. Then turn the crust over again and into the pie pan so that the floured side is down. The extra flour will help keep the crust from sticking. Do not be tempted to grease your pie pan -- pie crust is about 60% shortening. There is absolutely no need to add any more.
- Fit the crust into a 9" glass or tin pie pan, using gentle fingers to shape the dough against the sides and bottom; you want to eliminate air pockets behind the crust. Be very careful not to stretch or tear the dough. Leave the overhang; we'll cut some of that off before we add the top crust.
- Arrange ⅓ of the apple slices inside the crust. Pour ⅓ of the sugar mixture over the apples. Dot with little bits of butter. Repeat these steps two more times, mounding the apples toward the center. You may think you have too many apples, but they sink down as they cook.
- Prepare top pie crust. You can use less flour with this one and eliminate the step that turns and rubs the flour in. You can make the top crust slightly thinner than the bottom crust, but take note that if you thin the crust too much, it won't get crunchy and will lose its shape.Before you put the second crust on the pie, make several slits in it for steam to escape.
- Wet a finger and run it around the rim of the bottom crust where the two crusts will meet.
- Lay top crust across pie. Use your fingers to gently press the crusts together at the rim.
- Using a paring knife or scissors, trim the overhang to about 1-1/2" all around.
- Moving around the outside edge of the pie, turn the edge of the crust under itself.
- Finish the edge by pinching or use a fork to seal. Again, watch those fingernails... it's easy to punch through the crust accidentally. Our goal is to seal all the juices inside the pie; if juices run, they tend to scorch and burn, usually on the pie itself. Not very appetizing, not to mention the stinky mess it can make in the oven. Try to seal all the edges completely.
- Lightly beat the egg white. Brush the egg white all over the top. I toss a pinch of cinnamon sugar on top of the egg white. You can use milk if you're out of eggs. Or use nothing if you prefer your pie with a "dusty" top.
- Put a pie ring or foil covers over the crust edges. To make covers, fold two or three long strips of aluminum foil 2"-3" wide, wrapping them loosely over the edges of the pie so that the crust doesn't over-brown there while baking. Do this before you put the pie in the oven and leave the foil on through the entire cooking process. If you don't do it, your crust edges will be dark and inedible. Don't worry, the crust will still brown a nice bit under the foil.
- Cook pie on center rack in oven for 40 minutes at 425°. Put a baking sheet on lower rack to catch any drips. Let pie sit on a cooling rack for two hours before serving.
- To keep over night, cover with foil and refrigerate.
- Rewarm in microwave for 45 seconds.