This pie was the best ever - flaky and flavorful.
Pile apples high with at least two varieties, use fresh spices, and taste filling before baking.
Consumers love pie! But baking pie seems to be problematic for many people. I am totally sympathetic to the pie-challenged, since pie making was not always my favorite baking activity. But practice definitely results in better pies. Over the years I’ve learned a few tips for making wonderful tasty and flaky apple pie:
Sadly, I’ve found that recommendations for best baking apples were not always accurate. I learned early in my bakery career there was inconsistency in those lists. My biggest irritation was piling a mountain of apples into the crust for making a mile-high apple pie; but then occasionally the apples baked down to mush while the pie crust stayed nice and tall. I solved the problem by using a mixed variety of 3 kinds of apples and from then on my apple fillings were always excellent.
Last week for home use, I bought two kinds of apples. There are so many new varieties I wanted to try, I just picked ones that looked good to my hungry eyes. The pie was for family so I wasn’t concerned about customer complaints. It wasn’t until the next day when I was slicing those apples that I checked several internet lists and the two kinds I had purchased were both said to be “mush” in baking. Damn. I briefly considered making a strudel which would surely hide the problem, but I decided to make a pie and cut the slices thicker. Success! The “mush” prone thicker apples held up just fine. (I haven’t replicated this procedure but I would try it again the next few times I make apple pie. If you inadvertently buy apples that may not hold up in baking, and try this method, please email to let me know your results.)
Apple Pie Tips: 1. Use at least two varieties of apples. 2. Cut apples into both slices and smaller chunks. The smaller pieces fill in the crevices. 3. Most recipes don’t have enough flavor. After mixing your filling, taste it and see how you like the taste. Older spices tend to lose flavor so feel free to add more spice (and more sugar).
About Pie Dough
Recently I’ve been involved with a pie crust project which means lots of pie baking. As I researched the subject, I came across foodie/scientists, foodie blogs, and their “science of cooking” which is a misnomer (here’s one of the many articles I found.) Proper scientific methods include repetition to achieve repeated similar results. Unfortunately, many foodie/scientists jump to conclusions, write with authority, and create ever more myths. I am not a food scientist. I can only share what I have learned from practical application and baking thousands of pies (sometimes grudgingly) throughout my career.
Pie Dough Tips: 1. For many years I used ice cold water but on several occasions there was no ice water when it needed to be added to the mixer. My practical experience taught me that results for using ice water vs cold tap water were the same. Now I use cold tap water. (Warm water will soften the fat too much.) 2. I like a wetter dough which = softer dough, and easier to roll out. 3. I read all about the science of using vodka (actually any alcohol works, it depends upon the flavor and color you’re looking for) so I’ve been experimenting with using vodka for part of the water. To reduce the number of variables, my current pie project is only using vodka. 4. In family focus groups (taste and texture tests) I’ve learned that while butter is nice, an all-vegetable shortening and vodka makes for a flaky crust and a delicious taste.
Not a scientific study: Three year olds don't always like weird pie foods, top left, but five year olds will eat their own piece plus their brother's.
I still often use my part butter crust recipe, but below is a variation that results in consistently excellent pie.
yield: enough for two double crust pies
5 cups all-purpose flour (approx. 1¼#) plus extra for rolling
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups vegetable shortening (1#)
¾ cup cold water (or use part vodka, part water)
1. Have your filling ready, and set aside.
2. Pan spray baking tins and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
3. In a large bowl, lightly mix flour and salt, then cut in shortening. When mixture looks fine-grained, drizzle in water/vodka and mix into a ball. Knead lightly, then separate into four pieces, two slightly larger. Use at once or wrap and chill for one hour or up to five days.
4. Don’t worry about working fast – take the time you need. Roll out larger pieces of dough and place in lightly greased pie pans. Trim any dough hanging more than ¼” over the edge. Add filling, roll out top crust, and place over filling. Gently roll edge of top and bottom crust together and press down to seal. Flute edges, or not, in any way you want. Vent top of each pie. If you wish, pie tops can be brushed with water, milk, butter, or beaten egg. You can also sprinkle with sugar. Or just leave plain.
5. Place pie pans on a cookie sheet with a large piece of parchment or aluminum foil under each pan. Bake in preheated 375° oven 45-60 minutes. Pies are done when juice has bubbled out for a few minutes.
6. Let pies cool at least two hours before cutting. To freeze, cool to room temperature then wrap well and place in freezer.
Home-Based Baking at its Best! If you have a home-based food business and do not make pies, consider adding this product line to your offerings. With the trend toward home-made, seasonal, and local, your customers would appreciate purchasing fresh pies any time of year.
Visit Us on Facebook
RETURN TO THE FIX