Nothing makes a home feel more homey than the aroma of a freshly made apple pie baking in the oven. Homemade apple pie is one of my simplest pleasures, and for years I have been trying to master the perfect pie recipe. For most apple pie lovers and makers, striking the perfect balance between sweet and tart is anything but easy. And, don’t get me started on pie dough — the thought of making it is enough to send me into a panic! With so many varieties of apples out there: Honey Crisp, Delicious Red, Winesap, Gala, Northern Spy, Golden Russet and Honey Gold, where does one begin? And then there are apples I never knew existed like Belle de Boskoop and White Transparent. The thought of all this preparation and decision making can give me cold feet, settling for a store-bought pie only to end up disappointed in the end. So, as the holidays approach, we asked some of our favorite pastry pros, our mothers and grandmothers, to share their tips and techniques to help us find pie success every time!
Stay Fruit Focused
You don’t have to limit yourself to just one variety for a perfectly tart, yet sweet pie. Marlene from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada prefers the tried-and-true Spy and Granny Smith Apples. Marlene is a mom to three boys, Grandmother to 11 grandchildren, and my mother-in-law. This homemaker and lover of all things sweet says, “The secret to the perfect apple is the Spy Apples, which are hard to find, and only available in the Fall season. The next best is the Granny Smith, which holds it’s shape while cooking and is nice and juicy.”
“Put your apples in the pie raw to ensure you get a filling with texture instead of mush,” says my mom Deborah, who is also a Grandma to five grandchildren.
We did some digging ourselves and found that the most popular apples for apple pie are the MacIntosh, Granny Smith, and Red Delicious. Now we’ve added the Spy apple to our list, thanks to Grandma Marlene.
Keep it Cool
“The secret to good Pastry is to keep all ingredients cold and do not overwork the dough. The dough should be a bit lumpy,” says Grandma Marlene. Always use cold water and butter too. The dough needs to be cold. If the butter is soft or melted, then the crust will be too tough. When kneading the dough, use a light hand to ensure a flaky pie crust.
Save yourself some trouble and use a crumb topping. My mom says that, “adding a crumb topping gives the pie texture and is lovely looking and tasting.” We agree. Grandma Marlene’s secret to the perfect crumble is to use oatmeal.
We learned too that another secret weapon to tasty pie is adding a ½ tsp of ground cloves. Yes, cloves!! Cloves give apple pie that je ne sais quoi …that flavor that excites your tastebuds, but you’re not quite sure what it is until someone points it out. I can remember my grandmother putting cloves in her pie, and if she were here today, I’m pretty sure she’d say that a dash of ground cloves were the secret to her apple pies.
We put a number of apple pie recipes to the test, and listed our favorites here:
PERFECT PIE DOUGH
We tried this crust from Simple Recipes, and LOVED it! http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/perfect_pie_crust/
Here’s what you’ll need:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes*
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6 to 8 Tbsp ice water
GRANDMA BALLARD’S APPLE CRUNCH
We can’t say enough about this recipe share. Thank you, Grandma Ballard from Springfield, Missouri!
Butter loaf pan. Fill about 3/4 or more with diced apples.
Mix in a small bowl and pour over apples:
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon ( or more to taste)
1 TBL lemon juice
In another small bowl mix, blend well and pour over other mixture:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup sifted flour
1/4 cup butter (softened)
Bake at 325 for 1 hour.
APPLE AND CLOVE PIE
Racqual Sweeney’s homemade irish-style apple and clove pie is TRULY the taste of home:
- 5 cups of peeled and sliced apples (about 5-6)
- 1 cup of brown sugar
- 3/4 cup flour
- 3/4 cup of rolled oats
- 1 Tbs of cinnamon or less
- 1/2 cup of butter
- 1 tsp lemon
- 2 TBS water
Arrange apples in buttered deep dish or pie pan.
Combine sugar, flour, oats and cinnamon.
Cut in butter, add lemon and water. Mix until crumbly.
Press mixture over apples
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes till brown on top and apples are cooked.
With each layers of apples add a little dash of sugar and cinnamon.
Grandma Marlene says: “A little dash here and a little dash there. Serve with a little ice cream….enjoy!” We agree!!