A perfect apple pie, every way you slice it.
How much do I love a good homemade mile-high apple pie? So much that I do not have birthday cake for my birthday. I have apple pie. And warm caramel apple pie, made with an equal mix of white and brown sugar and topped with a pat of butter? Nothing better.
Three elements make up the holy trinity of good apple pie: A flaky, all-butter crust; tart, juicy apples; and the perfect combination of sugars and cinnamon.
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Crafting Your Best Caramel Apple Pie
Rather than a caramel sauce or any additional bells and whistles, this pie relies on the subtle butterscotch-molasses flavor of brown sugar to achieve a caramel flavor that tastes sweet and a little earthy, but does not overshadow the tart apple flavor.
People seem to be intimidated by pie baking. But since the apple filling is little more than sliced apples tossed with sugar, cinnamon, and a little lemon juice, the reluctance to dive into pie baking generally comes from the prospect of making a pie dough from scratch.
Never fear. Homemade pie dough is not hard; you just have to know the right technique. I fact, your don’t even need a rolling pin. A clean wine bottle will do (and has built-in happy hour). So the first step is to read How to Make Perfect Pie Dough for the step-by-step lesson and recipe.
Caramel Apple Pie Pro Tips
Once your pie dough is chilling in the refrigerator, prepare the apples. Use crisp, tart apples that will not turn into mush when baked. Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, and Northern Spy are good choices.
To correctly slice apples for pie:
- Peel the apples and sit them upright. Slice each apple downward into two hemispheres, avoiding the core.
- Cut one slice of apple from each remaining side of the core.
- Then, cut each hemisphere into about three pieces.
The apple slices will then get tossed with sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a little lemon juice to brighten the apple flavor. Flour is added as a thickener, so you don’t cut into cooked apples in a pool of juice. A pat of butter goes on top for extra lily gilding.
A couple more tips:
- Serve apple pie warm, but not hot. The apples and juice need to set up a bit before slicing.
- This is a big one that I learned in pastry school: When you add the apples into the pie pan, press them down so they are compact in the pie shell. The apples will settle when they cook, but if they are already compressed, you won’t end up with a top dome of pie crust, several inches of air, and then the fruit far down below when you cut into it. (This is also the reason to add vents to the top of the pie.)
- Don’t forget the egg wash. This adds the golden brown gloss to the top of the pie.
Most of all: It is ok — better, even — to have an imperfect pie. Pies are homey and rustic. So do not worry if your edges look a little wonky, or the top comes out lumpy. It is all part of the charm, and tastes just as good. Maybe better.
What is your favorite apple pie recipe or tip? Share in the comments.
Carmel Apple Pie With All-Butter Crust
- 1 recipe Perfect Pie Dough (link in instructions, below)
- 8 to 10 crisp, tart baking apples, such as Granny Smith or Honeycrisp
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon cold butter
- pinch salt
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 egg, whisked with a few drops of water
- Prepare one recipe Perfect Pie Dough through Step 4. This will include dividing the dough into two halves, and chilling.TIP: The pie dough can be made up to two days in advance and chilled, wrapped, in the refrigerator.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. While the pie dough is chilling, peel the apples. Cut each apple into thick wedges, about 8 wedges or so per apple, and place the wedges in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the lemon juice, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, pinch of salt, and all-purpose flour to the apples and mix well to combine. Let stand for about 15 minutes, until juices form.
- While the apples are resting, roll each chilled pie dough to 1/8" thick, using a little extra flour to dust the dough and countertop.
- Place the first pie dough into a 9" deep-dish pie shell, and lightly press into place. There will be overlap. Add the apples. Gently press the apples down to settle them into a compact mound.
- Drape the second pie dough over the apples. Using a knife or kitchen shears, cut the excess dough from the pie, leaving about a 1" drape on all sides.
- Tuck the draped dough lopping off the edge of the pie upward, folding it down onto the rim of the pie. Use the tines of a fork to crimp the edges and seal the two doughs. Lightly brush the egg wash over the pie. Do not do too thick of an egg wash or you will get little omelets on your dough.
- Bake 50 minutes to one hour, until the crust is golden brown and the apple juices are bubbling. PRO TIP: Put the pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet or some tin foil to catch any apple juices that may spill out of the pie during baking.
- Serve warm.