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Monday, November 2, 2015

The Best Apple Pie

I love apples.

And who doesn't love pie?

So, it should make sense that everyone should love apple pies, right?


I had always grown up hating how slimy and huge the filling of apple pies can be, traditionally.  People would rave about someone's apple pie, I'd taste it, and then be like... 'meh'.

It's the filling.

Apples are hard to cook to a good consistency, so why did people ever think it would be a great idea to just throw some huge chunks of the stuff into some dough and bake it?  Did they expect it to be nice and cooked inside?

Or do people just not really care as much as I do?

Well... years and years went by, and I would always just opt for a nice berry pie or something instead of apple, whenever it came time for pie.

Then I met my wife.  Of course it didn't come out immediately that she ALSO has the SAME issue with apple pies that I did.  That took some time, but eventually it did come out, and we rejoiced!

Well, at first we just sort of commented on it, like 'huh!' and 'that's cool!'.

What am I getting at, you ask?  Why am I rambling, you wonder?

I made my first ever pie this week.

And it was an apple pie.

And I was bound determined to have the filling NOT be slimy, NOT be undercooked, NOT be woody, and just generally, NOT suck so hard.


Why apples, you ask?  Mostly because I had a crap tonne of them.

But also because I really was interested in the challenge of making a better apple filling.

I JUST posted my Culinary Spatter's All-Butter Double Pie Crust Recipe which turned out so well, it will forever be my staple pie crust recipe and a reference for me for all subsequent pie-making.

So, I won't go into how to make the crust.

Instead, I'll just use this post to talk about the apple filling.

First comes the hard part.  All the peeling, coring, slicing, and chopping of that fruit.


My apples were starting to get a little iffy looking, so it was definitely time for pie.

I picked 10 apples total, 5 tart green ones and 5 sweet red ones.

This balance is important.

Then I began the terribly arduous task of peeling them all.

And then cutting, and coring them.

Because apples suffer quite badly from oxidization, I used the trick of a bowl of water and lemon juice with a plate on top of it, to keep the cut apples from browning too badly.

And it worked well, I'd say.

Then I sliced them all.

Now, this is USUALLY the state in which I see apples in most every apple pie I've ever seen.  Those are way too big if you ask me.

So now we've reached step number ONE of how Culinary Spatter's apple pie filling is going to be better than traditional ones.

1) MINCE the apple.  Not quite apple sauce here, but pretty close, people.

I'll just breeze right into step two here as well, just to keep things moving along nicely.

2) COOK the apple filling.  Now, not every pie does NOT cook the apples... many of them do, but nevertheless this step is CRUCIAL.  Do not expect your apples to cook enough just inside a baking pie.

So, I cooked the crap out of my apples.  And I made the filling nice and flavourful

Brown sugar, Vanilla, Lemon Zest, star anise, cinnamon, and some freshly ground nutmeg.


That could be used to make pretty much anything taste delicious, I imagine.

Anyway, I coated those minced apples in that and then cooked it for close to half an hour.

Until they were maybe 2/3 their original size.  Which is the other reason you should always cook your fruit fillings before baking - the raw fruit will shrink and can leave a huge cavity or empty space under your pie crust!  Lame!

Anyway, once FULLY cooked (no raw apples in here, baby!), I drained the apples thoroughly.

So, point 3) Drain cooked apples of juice.

The resultant apple mixture was really sticky and gummy, but without any SLIMINESS to it at all.

At this point it's just assemble and bake.

So, take your double crust recipe that had been chillin' in the fridge, and roll out a piece for the bottom.

Fit it into your pie plate as best you can, piching the edge to the fringe of the plate (or pressing with fork tines, or what-have-you).  Also fix any weak spots (like I did there in the bottom) by pressing any excess dough over top.

Next, and cool point number four:

4) Blind Bake the bottom crust.  Many crusts can be undercooked on the bottoms, while the tops are all super golden.  In fact, it is really easy to burn the tops while the bottoms are still totally soggy and moist.  So... we bake the bottom shell just on its own.  If you want to, you can use pie weights, but I didn't.

25 minutes at 375°F, and then take it out to cool slightly.

At this point, it looks quite shabby, but it's only half-cooked, and not even remotely finished, so don't despair!

Once cool (ish), spoon in the filling, making it slightly convex.


Next, roll out your second dough disk, for the top.

At first I was grieving the fact that I couldn't seem to get it very thin, or very circular looking.  But I quickly learned it doesn't really matter too much.  This was more than enough for my 9" pie, and the circular shape can be 'fudged' afterwards, once on the pie.

Cut vent holes into the top, in order to prevent spillovers or explosions.

Pinch the edges as best you can.  I probably could have used some sort of decorative edging tool, but I kinda liked the rustic look.

Then brush the dough lightly (try to avoid pooling) with your egg wash or whatever wash you prefer.

I used one whole egg, beaten with one spoonful of 3.25% milk. 

Now for point five.

5) Preheat the oven to 375°F as well as a rimmed baking sheet!  Get that sheet hot first.  This gives a good head start to the pie in terms of a heat source.  Plus it is a good idea to not try to grab the pie itself, because... well... that crust is delicate man!

Once preheated, place the entire pie plate in the middle of the baking sheet, and on the bottom rack of the oven.

Bake for 25 minutes, checking to make sure the crust isn't burning.

Take the whole thing out, sheet and all, for a second.  Try to remember which way it was in there, because you'll want to rotate it 180° when you put it back in.  

And now we'll do the sixth and final of Culinary Spatter's excellent points for making apple pie filling better than the rest.

6) place a ring of tin foil around the edge of the crust.  This prevents burning the outer ring while waiting for the centre to cook fully.

If you find this difficult to manage, try just cutting a pie-shaped circular hole from the middle of one large piece of foil, and then using the outer shape to surround the edge of the pie.

Once the crust has been protected like this, put the whole thing (baking sheet as well) back in, making sure to rotate it 180° this time.

Bake for another 25 minutes or so.  Until the entire top is nice and golden, and there is steam rising from the vent holes.

Now, this being my first ever attempt at ANY pie, ever.  You can imagine my surprise at how well this turned out.

In fact, I think I'll just end this post with a gratuitous amount of pics, and have them speak for themselves.

The crust was delightful.  The filling was the best apple filling I'd ever had.  And together, that made this the single BEST APPLE PIE the wife and I had ever had.  Hands-down.


Don't forget to let the pie cool first!  And for a considerable time, too!  Don't want to burn yourself (or others!)

Here we can see the ghostly apparition of the wife's hand, impatiently reaching prematurely.

Just look at that filling!  So dry and fluffy and delightful!

So flakey!


Of course, it was no raspberry pie... but for an apple pie it was the best I'd ever tasted.