Summer is (finally) here in Chicago, and in my mind the summer season is pie season. Thanksgiving has selfishly drawn pies into its orbit, but I can’t think of a better time to enjoy pie than when so much fruit is finally in season! So ok, apple pie is a big dog in the pastry world come autumn, but why not bust it out on our most American of days, July 4th? How rockwellian would that be?
Apple pie is also some sacred territory. Recipes, techniques and styles are deeply rooted in family tradition and our own personal psyche. I’m not going to sit here and tell you I plan on giving you an apple pie recipe you like better than your mom’s or grandma’s (if I do, be sure to call them up and tell them I said “in yo’ face!”), but maybe just a variation that will change your thinking on what pie can be. Who knows, maybe we can start a new tradition? Enjoy!
The kind of apples to use in an apple pie is an important question. Granny smith is almost always the go to apple, because it has a firm texture that holds its shape during baking and a tart flavor that balances well with a sweeter filling. I’m all for using granny smiths, but also like to add a few braeburn apples for good measure. Braeburn apples cook beautifully and have a great flavor that works well with granny smiths. Just avoid apples that are too sweet or mealy in texture. You can’t go wrong with an all granny smith filling, but if you want to mix it up, go for a 3:1 ratio of granny smith:braeburn.
How the apples are cut are another interesting topic. People cut them in all shapes and sizes, with varying results. I like to slice my apples thinly (not too thin or they’ll break down while baking) because I can layer them over each other in a flat stack that cuts and eats well. This shape is also easily and evenly coated by filling and gives a good ratio of both in each bite. It’s all about the details people!
In terms of pie shells, I am a bit of a rebel (as much as you can be a rebel in reference to baking pie). I’m not a fan of the classic pie tin shape. It’s shallow, not allowing for a whole bunch of filling, and the flared sides are notorious for breaking when cut. I prefer to go deep dish, and use my cake rings as a sort of pie tin. The straight edge shape is more visually attractive and a lot stronger when cutting. Plus it’s perfect for adding a ton of filling. Give it a shot!
I bake my pie on two sheet pans lined with a non stick baking mat. This insulates the bottom of the pie shell so it doesn’t over bake during the long baking time of the pie.
*I’ve included the pie dough recipe and method in the recipe card here, but for the step-by-step method for pie dough check out my post for here.
900g apples about seven apples
115g butter unsalted
50g all purpose flour
140g light brown sugar
8g vanilla paste
Peel and cut your apples. Cut them around the core and then into 1/4″ slices.
Keep the slices in a bowl of lemon water to keep them from oxidizing and browning.
Melt the butter over low heat and add the flour, mixing it into a smooth paste.
Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, while whisking, for a minute or two until it thickens slightly.
Combine the water and cornstarch and mix them into a slurry, then whisk it into the butter mixture along with the remaining ingredients.
Bring this mixture to a boil and cook, while whisking, for two to three minutes until the mixture thickens. This will also cook out any starchy flavor.
Let the mixture cool for about 5min and then add the sliced apples (strain them out of the lemon water you goon) and toss to coat. Reserve the mix at room temperature or throw it in the fridge if you plan to make your pie later.
crumble topping ingredients
125g buter unsalted
125g turbinado sugar
275g pastry flour
5g baking powder
25g whole eggs
Combine all of the ingredients and mix in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until they are coarsely bound.
Apply a light coat of butter to the inside of your cake ring (I’m using a 9in / 23cm ring). This will help your pie dough stick to it a bit.
Roll your pie dough out to 1/8″ / .32cm.
Place the cake ring into the center of your rolled pie dough and cut a circle of dough around the ring that is just larger than the height of the ring.
Loosely set the dough into the ring. If the dough is hanging over the edge like crazy and is becoming hard to handle, just cut off a bit of excess dough. I like to use scissors to do that.
Start by gently pushing the dough all the way down into the bottom corner of the ring. Press the dough into the corner of the ring creating a crease. Then, still gently, press the dough up the side of the ring, eliminating any trapped air bubbles. If the dough gets too warm as you work with it, don’t be afraid to throw it back in the cooler for a few minutes and then continue on. Heat is the enemy!
Once the pie is lined, strike any excess pie dough off of the rim with a paring knife, slicing away from the ring. If you plan to add a top crust to your pie, you can keep this excess dough. For this apple pie, slice away.
Let the dough rest, uncovered, in the fridge for at least an hour, up to overnight. This will allow the dough to dry out a little and will reduce shrinking during baking.
Brush your pie dough with egg whites (sides too) and then coat the dough in a mixture of 60:40 sugar:all purpose flour. This will help absorb moisture from the filling and keep your pie dough from getting soggy.
Fill your shell with your nicely coated apples. Try to pack each layer in tightly and criss cross the apple slices as you stack them on top of each other to give them stability. It’s going to look like a lot of apple packed in that shell, but they will shrink and settle after moisture is cooked out of them so don’t be afraid to get all of that apple in there.
Coat the top of the pie with crumble. Lots of crumble.
Bake: convection; 350F/176C for 1hour 20min; after 15min. of baking, cover the pie loosely with tinfoil to prevent the crumble from burning. Poke a hole in the center of the tinfoil to allow steam to escape and finish the bake.