As the weather gets colder, our ovens get hotter! As you get ready to plan your holiday menus, we thought we'd give you a primer on the best secrets, recipes and strategies to making a truly fabulous apple pie. Jack Bishop, editorial director for America's Test Kitchen, says vodka is a suprisingly important ingredient in his apple pie repertoire. But he also gives us a recipe that celebrates the simplicity of the good, old-fashioned American dessert. (Click through for an assortment of apple pie recipes from America's Test Kitchen and White House Pastry Chef Bill Yosses.)
White House Pastry Chef Bill Yosses' light, flaky pie crusts have earned him the nickname "The Crustmaster" from President Barack Obama. His trick to making fruit pies worthy of a president is to bake the bottom crust first, then fill and top the pie and bake it again.
Yosses prefers to mix the dough by hand to avoid overworking it but for an easier home version, suggests using a food processor.
WHITE HOUSE PASTRY CHEF BILL YOSSES' APPLE PIE
Start to finish: 3 1/2 hours (30 minutes active)
For the crust:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 10 ounces unsalted butter, cold, cut into small chunks
- 3 ounces lard, cold, cut into small chunks
- 1/2 cup ice water
For the filling:
- 2 pounds apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/3 cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
For the egg wash:
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Sugar, for sprinkling
- To make the crust, in a food processor pulse together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and lard, then pulse briefly until the mixture forms small crumbs. Add the ice water and pulse just until a dough forms.
- Divide the dough into 2 pieces and shape into discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.
- To prepare the pie shell, on a floured surface roll out one disc to a 14-inch circle. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased, deep 9-inch pie pan, leaving a 1 inch overhang. Refrigerate the crust in the pan for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
- When ready to bake the bottom crust, heat the oven to 375 F. Line the cold crust with foil and fill with baking weights, rice or dry beans to hold it in place. Bake the pie shell for 30 minutes. Leave the oven on once the crust is done.
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In a large saucepan, toss together the apples, sugar, honey, cornstarch, vanilla, cinnamon and lemon zest and juice. Let sit for 20 minutes.
- Bring the fruit mixture to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the fruit thickens. Let cool.
- When the bottom crust is baked and the filling has cooled, pour the fruit into the crust.
- Roll out the second disc of dough to about 12 inches.
- In a small bowl, beat the egg with the salt. Use a pastry brush to brush the egg on the edges of the cooked crust. Place the top crust over the filling. Gently crimp the top crust, sealing the pie around the edges.
- Puncture the top of the crust with a paring knife in several places to create steam vents. Brush egg wash over the crust, then sprinkle with sugar. Bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the top crust is golden brown.
Let cool for 1 to 2 hours before serving.
(Recipe adapted from Bill Yosses, White House pastry chef)
APPLE-CRANBERRY PIE (From Jack Bishop and America's Test Kitchen)
Makes one 9-inch pie
Vodka is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor—do not substitute. This dough will be moister and more supple than most standard pie doughs and will require more flour to roll out (up to 1/2 cup). Use sweet, crisp apples, such as Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Fuji, or Braeburn.
To make ahead: The pie dough may be prepared up to 2 days ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. The fillings can be made ahead, cooled, and stored separately in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
- 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
- 1/4 cup cold vodka (see note)
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 2 cups frozen or fresh cranberries
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 3 1/2 pounds sweet apples (6 to 7 medium), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (see note)
For top of pie
- 1 egg white, beaten lightly
- For the pie dough: Process 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar, and salt in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
- Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into 2 even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
- For the filling: Bring cranberries, juice, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally and pressing berries against side of pot, until berries have completely broken down and juices have thickened to jamlike consistency (wooden spoon scraped across bottom should leave clear trail that doesn’t fill in), 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in water, and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix 1/2 cup sugar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cornstarch in large microwave-safe bowl; add apples and toss to combine. Microwave on high power, stirring with rubber spatula every 3 minutes, until apples are just starting to turn translucent around edges and liquid is thick and glossy, 10 to 14 minutes. Cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
- To assemble: While fillings cool, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang. Ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.
- Transfer cooled cranberry mixture to dough-lined pie plate and spread into even layer. Place apple mixture on top of cranberries, mounding slightly in center; push down any protruding apple edges.
- Roll out second disk of dough on generously floured work surface (up to 1/4 cup) to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and, following illustration 1, above, unroll over pie, leaving at least 1-inch overhang all around.
- Using kitchen shears, cut both layers of overhanging dough, leaving 1/2-inch overhang (illustration 2). Fold dough under itself so that edge of fold is flush with outer rim of pie plate (illustration 3). Flute edges using thumb and forefinger (illustration 4) or press with tines of fork to seal. Brush top and edges of pie with egg white and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar. Using sharp paring knife, cut four 11/2-inch slits in top of dough (illustration 5).
- Place pie on preheated baking sheet and bake until top is light golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees, rotate baking sheet, and continue to bake until crust is deep golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack and let cool at least 2 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.
Apple Slab Pie (From Jack Bishop and America's Test Kitchen)
Serves 18 to 20
- 3 ½ pounds Granny Smith apples (about 8 medium), peeled, cored, and sliced thin
- 3 ½ pounds Golden Delicious apples (about 8 medium), peeled, cored, and sliced thin
- 1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups animal crackers
- 2 (15-ounce) boxes Pillsbury Just Unroll! Pie Crust
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 6 tablespoons Minute tapioca
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 cup reserved apple juice (from the filling)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
- For the pie: Combine the apples, 1 cup of the granulated sugar, and salt in a colander set over a large bowl. Let sit, tossing occasionally, until the apples release their juices, about 30 minutes. Press gently on the apples to extract liquid and reserve 3/4 cup juice.
- Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pulse the crackers and remaining ½ cup granulated sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Following the photos, dust the work surface with half of the cracker mixture, brush half of one pie round with water, overlap with the second pie round, and dust the top with the remaining cracker mixture. Roll out the dough to 19 by 14 inches and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Brush the dough with the butter and refrigerate; roll out the top crust in the same way.
- Toss the drained apples with the tapioca, cinnamon, and lemon juice and arrange evenly over the bottom crust, pressing lightly to flatten. Brush the edges of the bottom crust with water, and arrange the top crust on the pie. Press the crusts together and use a knife to trim any excess dough. Use a fork to seal the edge of the pie, then to pierce the top of the pie at 2-inch intervals. Bake until the pie is golden brown, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool 1 hour.
- For the glaze: Simmer the reserved apple juice in a saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 6 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and butter and let cool to room temperature. Whisk in the confectioners’ sugar and brush the glaze evenly over the warm pie. Let the pie cool, at least 1 hour longer before serving.
Skillet Apple Pie (From Jack Bishop and America's Test Kitchen)
Serves 6 to 8
If your skillet is not heatproof, precook the apples and stir in the cider mixture as instructed, then transfer the apples to a 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Roll out the dough to a 13- by 9-inch rectangle and bake it as instructed. If you do not have apple cider, reduced apple juice may be used as a substitute—simmer 1 cup apple juice in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 10 minutes). Serve the pie warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Use a combination of sweet, crisp apples such as Golden Delicious and firm, tart apples such as Cortland or Empire.
- 1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 3–4 tablespoons ice water
- 1/2 cup apple cider (see note)
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 1/2 pounds sweet and tart apples (about 5 medium), peeled, cored, halved, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges (see note)
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- for the crust: Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in food processor until combined. Add shortening and process until mixture has texture of coarse sand, about ten 1-second pulses. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture and process until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs, with butter bits no larger than small peas, about ten 1-second pulses. Transfer mixture to medium bowl.
- Sprinkle 3 tablespoons ice water over mixture. With blade of rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix. Press down on dough with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to
1 tablespoon more ice water if dough does not come together. Turn dough out onto sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into 4-inch disk. Wrap dough and refrigerate 30 minutes, or up to 2 days, before rolling out. (If dough is refrigerated longer than 1 hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable.)
- for the filling: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (between 7 and 9 inches from heating element) and heat oven to 500 degrees. Whisk cider, syrup, lemon juice, cornstarch, and cinnamon (if using) together in medium bowl until smooth. Heat butter in 12-inch heatproof skillet over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add apples and cook, stirring
2 or 3 times until apples begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes. (Do not fully cook apples.) Remove pan from heat, add cider mixture, and gently stir until apples are well coated. Set aside to cool slightly.
- to assemble and bake: Roll out dough on lightly floured work surface, or between 2 large sheets of plastic wrap, to 11-inch circle. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over apple filling. Brush dough with egg white and sprinkle with sugar. With sharp knife, gently cut dough into 6 pieces by making 1 vertical cut followed by 2 evenly spaced horizontal cuts (perpendicular to first cut). Bake until apples are tender and crust is a deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes; serve.
DEEP-DISH APPLE PIE (From Jack Bishop and America's Test Kitchen)
Makes one 9-inch pie, serving 8 to 10
Use a combination of tart and sweet apples for this pie. Good choices for tart apples are Granny Smiths, Empires, or Cortlands; for sweet, we recommend Golden Delicious, Jonagolds, or Braeburns. Wrap leftovers tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 24 hours. To reheat, remove the wrap and warm the pie in a 350-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
- 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and frozen for 10 minutes
- 1/3 cup ice water, or more if needed
- 3 tablespoons sour cream
- 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon juice and 1/2 teaspoon grated zest from 1 lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 1/2 pounds firm tart apples (about 5 medium), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (see note above)
- 2 1/2 pounds firm sweet apples (about 5 medium), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (see note above)
- 1 egg white, beaten lightly
- for the crust: Process flour, sugar, and salt together in food processor until combined, about 3 seconds. Add butter and pulse until butter is size of large peas, about ten 1-second pulses.
- Using fork, mix 1⁄3 cup ice water and sour cream in small bowl until combined. Add half of sour cream mixture to flour mixture; pulse for three 1-second pulses. Repeat with remaining sour cream mixture. Pinch dough with fingers; if dough is floury, dry, and does not hold together, add 1 to 2 tablespoons ice water and process until dough forms large clumps and no dry flour remains, three to five 1-second pulses.
- Turn dough out onto work surface. Divide dough into 2 balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk; wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate until firm but not hard, 1 to 2 hours, before rolling. (Dough can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Let thoroughly chilled dough stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling.)
- for the filling: While dough chills, mix 1⁄2 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, zest, salt, and cinnamon in large bowl; add apples and toss to combine. Transfer apples to Dutch oven (do not wash bowl) and cook, covered, over medium heat, stirring frequently, until apples are tender when poked with fork but still hold their shape, 15 to 20 minutes. (Apples and juices should gently simmer during cooking.) Transfer apples and juices to rimmed baking sheet and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. While apples cool, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place empty rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees.
- Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out between 2 large sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap to 12-inch circle, about 1⁄8 inch thick. (If dough becomes soft and/or sticky, return to refrigerator until firm.) Remove parchment from one side of dough and flip onto 9-inch pie plate; peel off second layer of parchment. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes. Roll second disk of dough between 2 large sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap to 12-inch circle, about 1⁄8 inch thick. Refrigerate, leaving dough between parchment sheets, until firm, about 30 minutes.
- Set large colander over now-empty bowl; transfer cooled apples to colander. Shake colander to drain off as much juice as possible (cooked apples should measure about 8 cups); discard juice. Transfer apples to dough-lined pie plate; sprinkle with lemon juice.
- Remove parchment from one side of dough circle and flip dough onto apples; peel off second piece of parchment. Pinch edges of top and bottom dough rounds firmly together. Following illustrations on page 31, trim and flute edges of dough, then cut four 2-inch slits in top of dough. Brush surface with beaten egg white and sprinkle evenly with remaining teaspoon sugar. Set pie on preheated baking sheet; bake until crust is dark golden brown, 45 to 55 minutes. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool at least 1 1⁄2 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.