Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Homemade Apple Pie and the Basics of Pie Making

Homemade Apple Pie and the Basics of Pie Making

Many people I know are master cake bakers, cookie makers and cupcake decorators and I envy their talent. Me? I make pie. Really good pie. And that is way easier than any of the above, which is why I'm frequently surprised when I hear otherwise accomplished cooks say they fear pie. So today, we're going to talk about pie and when we're done, you'll know how to make really good pie.

Homemade Apple Pie and the Basics of Pie Making
Have you ever seen any of those shows about local pie competitions where everybody has their own secret crust (it's all about the crust) recipe? They all seem to feel very strongly that whatever shortening they're using is the correct one that will result in both a flaky and tender crust. Um...OK.  I like butter. The French like butter too and you may hear two pastry terms bandied about:

Pate Brisee - This is a standard pastry dough that uses flour, butter, salt, ice water and a little sugar. It can be used for both sweet and savory dishes.
Pate Sucree - this is a sweeter pastry dough that uses more sugar and also includes an egg. It's used for sweet dishes.

German cheesecake
German cheesecake with pate sucree
I made a pate sucree when I made German cheesecake but it's a much harder dough to work with. Therefore, my all-purpose pie dough is a pate brisee but with the addition of extra sugar since I like a sweeter crust for my pies. The dough is simpler to roll out and transfers to a pie dish fairly easily. And the secret to having it turn out well is cold. The butter must be cold and the dough must be chilled. Don't skip these steps because heat is the enemy of pie dough and you will have a wet sticky mess that will never properly come together.

Rustic Peach Pie
"Rustic" Peach Pie
But if you keep things chilled, you will be rewarded with an amazingly delicious dough, far superior to anything store bought. I make lots of fruit pies in the summer but I skip the fussy edging and crimping. "Galette" is a fancy term for a free-form pie. I prefer to call it "rustic" and it's the only kind I bother with when the weather is warm and I want to be out in the garden, relaxing on a chaise and sipping one of Brian's amazing frozen peach daiquiris. Simply roll out the dough into a large circle, place the fruit filling in the middle and fold over the edges.

Homemade Apple Pie and the Basics of Pie Making
But when the holidays roll around, I start making proper pies and apple is our favorite. Need help rolling out a circle to the correct size? Invest $3.99 at a housewares store for a silicone pastry mat like this one. It will give you not only the guide circles in various sizes but also a good surface on which to roll out the dough. And if you're still in the market for a rolling pin, choose a marble one. Marble remains cool which will help keep the dough cool.

Homemade Apple Pie and the Basics of Pie Making
Ultimately, wrestling the dough into the bottom of the pie dish is far less scary than matching up a top crust if you're not experienced. But you don't have to do a standard top if you feel intimidated by it. You can make a crumb topping or just cut out shapes with a cookie cutter and lay them on top. It looks festive and is ridiculously easy to do.

Homemade Apple Pie and the Basics of Pie Making
Once you feel comfortable enough to attempt a top crust, roll out the dough to the size needed and drape it over your rolling pin.  Then move the rolling pin over the pie and un-drape. Pinch the edges together to keep the juices from spilling out the sides but cut a vent in the top to let out steam. Not happy with how your edges turned out? Spend $5.00 for a set of tiny cutters and create a border design. All your guests will ooh and aah when you present it. Now...go bake a pie!

2 Sticks unsalted butter, well chilled and cut into 1/2" pieces
2 1/4 Cups all purpose flour
1/4 Cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup ice water

Combine the butter, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a food processor with a steel blade and pulse just until it resembles course crumbs. Slowly pour in the ice water and pulse just until combined and a dough ball forms. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Apple Filling:
3 Golden Delicious apples (or other sweet apples)
2 Granny Smith apples (or other tart apples)
1/2 Cup sugar
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon all purpose flour
1 Teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon milk
1 Tablespoon sugar

Homemade Apple Pie and the Basics of Pie Making
Peel, core and slice the apples. Combine them in a bowl with the sugar, lemon juice, flour, cinnamon and salt. As you mix you'll notice quite a bit of liquid puddling in the bottom of the bowl. Strain the mixture into a colander before placing in the pie shell.

After the dough has chilled, cut it in half and roll each half on a well-floured surface into about a 10" circle. Place one circle on the bottom of a 9" pie dish and pour the apple mixture into the dish. Cut the tablespoon of butter into several pieces and dot the top of the filling. Place the remaining dough circle on top of the filling and crimp the edges for a tight seal. With a knife, make a couple of slits on top for steam to vent.

Brush the top of the pie with the milk and sprinkle with the tablespoon of sugar. Place the pie dish on a sheet pan (to catch drips) and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Allow the pie to cool completely before slicing. Makes 8 servings.


  1. I can muddle through a pie crust, but I still find it daunting. Your recipe sounds similar to what I use, but I'm going to use your exact proportions next time! Thanks for all the hints, Anita.

    PS...I featured your Pear Cosmos on my blog today! Thanks for that fantastic recipe, too!

  2. Ah yes! Nothing beats a tender, flaky pie crust. I have that same marble rolling pin (same color marble). I will look for the silicone pie rolling mat. It is much less expensive than the Rol-pat I've had on my wish list for a long time.

  3. I actually like making pies :) I am not an expert..but nobody has complained yet about applied pies I have made :D

  4. My wife would like for you to adopt her please.

  5. Thank you for the tips - I'm new to this and I've never made my own crust but now I feel I can try!

  6. Pie is in the season: love it! We made, scratch that, I made two pies yesterday and we ate it all! Great post!

  7. I just made a total flop of a chicken pot pie (which of course is husbands favorite and my worst dish), so he and I think you for this one! Can't wait to try it... I've been searching for at least 2.5 years for a good all-butter recipe!

  8. What a lovely and informative post! I am one of those who fear pie, but now I think I may try it :D Yours look so yummy.

  9. You make it look so easy :) I am terrible with any type of dough-rolling..thanks for the tips. I may just give a pie a whirl for the holidays!

  10. I haven't made a pie for a long time... I usually only make tarts. Thanks for sharing on Foodie Friends Friday.

  11. You guys remind us of another Loving Couple that have been baking hand in hand together for 40-years the loving couple of Anita Pelaez and her devoted husband Kutchie. They bake standing side by side America's favorite Key Lime Pies. We hope you get the opportunity to try one someday.


    Jacqueline and Tom Selleck

  12. Congrats on being featured at Weekend Potluck today! Come on over and grab an "I Was Featured" button in my sidebar. Happy Friday,
    Tonya from 4 little Fergusons :)

  13. I'll have to try your pie crust recipe Anita. I just can't seem to ever get it to come out right every time.

  14. Thanks for the pie tips! =)
    Congratulations for being featured at Weekend Potluck!

  15. Fabulous pie and tutorial! So tickled you linked up at Weekend Potluck...and then was featured! Hurrah for you.

  16. Hi Anita,
    What perfect timing! I am considering attempting my second apple crumb pie—the first one was a bit traumatizing—and just found your wonderful post on my friend's pinterest. It came out okay in the end, but the process was a bit of a nightmare.
    I would love any insights you can give me!
    Thank you also for the explanation of a patee brisee - that's obviously what I was in search of.
    Looking forward to reading your future posts.

  17. thanks for share.

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  19. Gotta love this old school classic, great recipe, thanks for sharing.



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