This classic Apple Pie recipe features layers of juicy apples laced with spices baked inside of the flakiest pie crust. It is the ultimate apple pie thanks to a few extra special techniques and ingredients.
The Ultimate Apple Pie
Looking for the best apple pie to serve at your celebration this year? The recipe that will have everyone begging to know how you did it? And hope the next time you show up you'll bring another one with you? This is The Apple Pie Recipe that will leave everyone in awe.
It's layered with super juicy and tender apples, lightly spiced and enrobed in a caramel-like apple cider reduction, and baked in the flakiest pie crust.
Good things take time, and this recipe is over a decade in the making! I'm so absolutely thrilled to share it with you this season.
So, let's get to making it, shall we? The text below offers tons of tips and helpful notes, or you can scroll to the bottom to grab the recipe and get started!
More of a visual person? Check out the video of me making it below!
What Sets this Recipe Apart from other Apple Pie Recipes
Whenever I see a recipe labeled as being "the best" (especially on the internet) I always want to know...well, why? What makes this recipe the best? Because everyone's best is different. Let me get down to why this is at the very least, the ultimate Apple Pie recipe. I wanted this recipe to be a celebration of what an apple pie is supposed to be. Whether or not it is the best...I'll leave that up to you to decide!
To start, this recipe calls for the very best apple pie apples: Gala and Granny Smith. This sweet and tart combination has the perfect texture and flavor.
Next, the apples are macerated to release their juices and flavors. Those juices are then strained out, and combined with fresh apple cider, butter, and vanilla, and then boiled down to create a caramel-like syrup that is added to the pie.
Additionally, macerating the pies serves another purpose: by releasing the juices before the apple pie bakes, it allows for a precise and smaller amount of thickener (cornstarch) to be added to the pie. This not only allows for the perfect consistency but also allows for a more true apple flavor to shine through.
Finally, the pie is properly assembled (more on that below!) to prevent any excess gaps between the apple filling and then baked in the most unbelievable flaky pie crust.
Are there some extra steps in this recipe compared to a typical apple pie recipe? Yes! Are they worth it? Double yes.
So, now you know what you are getting into--you can either skip on down to the recipe or browse through all of the anecdotes, tips, and troubleshooting advice I have to give when it comes to The Apple Pie Recipe.
Here is an overview of the ingredients needed for this recipe. The full recipe is listed below in greater detail.
Here is a list of some of the primary tools I used in this recipe. You won't necessarily choose to use them all, but they are exactly what I used here. The links may contain affiliate links.
- stand mixer (to make the pie dough)
- johnny apple peeler (very useful to peel the apples!)
- 13"x18" sheet pan (also known as a half sheet pan) used to bake the pie on to catch any drippings
- rolling pin
- ruler (if planning to make a lattice)
- pastry wheel or knife (to cut the lattice)
- pastry brush (for brushing on egg wash)
- strainer (to strain the macerated apples)
- small pot (to boil down the cider and apple juice)
- kitchen essentials: baking scale, bowls, measuring cups and measuring spoons, rubber spatula
Best Baking Apples for Pie
In my early career, I struggled to bake a good apple pie. It wasn't until I started to pay particular attention to the type of apple I was using did I start to get a handle on consistently creating an excellent apple pie. I used to use a random assortment of apples that I grabbed at the farmer's market, which often included heirloom varieties. This was entirely my mistake, as I didn't truly know if the apple I was using was good for baking.
For a pie, you want to have an apple that can hold its shape, has a nuanced flavor and a slight tartness to break up the sweetness of the sugar. Using a combination of apples is helpful because it introduces a few different types of flavors and textures to the pie.
Gala and Granny Smith apples are both the best choices for apple pie because they don't get mushy after a long bake in the oven, they have a sweet and tart flavor to them, and they are readily available in nearly every grocery store. Those apples are my recommendation for this pie. If you stray from this combination, here are some other suggestions:
- Yellow Delicious
- Pink Lady
- Ginger Gold
Let's Talk About that Pie Flaky Crust!
Part of what makes this apple pie recipe so fantastic is the flaky crust. I developed this flaky pie crust recipe just for this apple pie. After all, a good apple pie has to have an amazing buttery flaky crust.
While the ingredients of this pie crust recipe are very similar to traditional pie crust recipes, the technique in making it is what sets it apart from all the others.
This flaky crust recipe uses more butter, and leaves said butter in larger chunks. Because of this, more water is needed to bring it together. To keep it tender, a stand mixer is used to bring the dough together quickly. The dough is then folded to create a faux lamination effect, which results in an uber-flaky pie crust.
If you prefer a more traditional pie crust, there are plenty on this website. The butter pie pastry is more like a classic pie crust, with a nice balance of tenderness, flavor, and flakiness.
Because there is a lot of information to share when it comes to making this pie crust, I made a separate post and recipe dedicated to making it. The flaky pie crust recipe is also linked in the recipe card below.
Double Crust Vs. Lattice
What type of top crust you choose is a personal preference!
If you want that classic Americana finish to your apple pie, a lattice will undoubtedly do the trick. Many people are intimidated by making a lattice pie crust, but it’s pretty simple to do if you follow a few easy tips and tricks. Here is a complete Guide to Making a Lattice Pie Crust if you are unfamiliar with the technique.
However, a full top crust is much easier to put on a pie. All you have to do is roll out pie dough into roughly a 10" to 11" circle and place it on top of the pie. Tuck the edges underneath the crust and crimp as desired. Do not forget to poke steam holes. Do this after you egg wash, so the steam holes don't get sealed.
Why the Apples are Macerated
Macerating the fruit prior to making the pie is important for a few reasons.
To macerate the apples means to add sugar and salt to them to draw out the moisture.
Apple juice is released from the apple and into the bowl, while the apple is at the same time taking in the sugar and the salt. This gives it flavor!
And, it also causes the fruit to soften and shrink. This happens naturally when the pie is baking. Doing it beforehand means that it will drastically reduce any gap between the crust and the filling with the fruit when the pie bakes (see more of that below).
Important Advice About Making the Apple "Caramel"
One of the distinct differences that set this apple pie recipe apart from others is the act of macerating the apples, draining them, and then reducing them alongside some apple cider.
These steps serve a lot of different functions (such as taste and texture), but one of the primary functions is that by macerating and reducing the liquid ahead of time, the apples will need less added thickener in the filling.
This recipe uses cornstarch. Adding cornstarch is necessary to any filling, but it takes away some of the clarity of the apple flavor. By reducing the amount of juices initially, it allows for less cornstarch to be added and more of that apple flavor to shine brighter in the final dish.
However, this step only works if the apple juices are reduced properly. If the reduction is not done or not done properly (as in, not reduced enough), your pie will not have enough added thickener and the end product will be runny.
To that end, I find it incredibly useful to measure both the macerated liquid before reducing and the liquid after it has been reduced.
Different apples are going to produce different quantities of juice. For this recipe, I always use the same type of apples (gala and granny smith), but I can't guarantee that you will do the same in your kitchen. So for the best pie, I really recommend measuring your liquid before it's reduced and after it is reduced.
You should have about ½ cup thickened apple cider reduction in the end. If you have any more than that, keep reducing.
How to Avoid a Shrinking Apple Pie
Apples have a ton of moisture. When the apples are cooked, they release their moisture and then shrink. When you bake an apple pie, naturally the apple filling will first puff up and then as it cools, it shrinks.
To avoid the filling from sinking too much there are a few tips to keep in mind.
First, you want to make sure your fruit is cut into semi-thin slices of apples, that are all similar in size. Aim to slice your apples no bigger than ½" thick. I use this apple peeler (affiliate link), and I highly recommend it. It's worth the money and space in the kitchen, even if you only use it a few times a year.
And finally, layer in your fruit. Instead of just pouring in apple slices haphazardly, you want to literally layer in the slices of apples and try to eliminate gaps between the slices of apple. If there are large gaps between the apples, once they cook and soften that space will be filled in with the juices and cooked fruit and the pie will sink further.
How to Tell When It's Done
It’s important to make sure that the apple pie is cooked long enough so that it reaches a high enough temperature to activate the thickening agent and to cook through the apples.
There are a few ways to tell when your apple pie is done. The first is by sight.
Visually look for the pastry to be golden and the pie to be puffed up nearly all the way through. It puffs up because the fruit has reached the temperature needed for it to "boil". As it cools, it will slightly deflate.
Ordinarily, I would suggest looking for the pie to be bubbling in the middle as a sign it is done. But that is not the case for this apple pie. Because the apples are macerated and the juices are boiled, there will not be quite the same boiling-off effect that you see with non-macerated fruit pies. You will likely see some bubbling on the edges of the pie though.
But the most fool-proof way to make sure your pie is baked properly is to use an instant-read thermometer. I always use one to check the temperature of each and every pie that I bake. For an apple pie, you want the internal temperature to be above 200ºF.
Pies are one of the easiest desserts to prepare ahead of time, especially apple pies!
Plus, a lot of these components can be broken down into steps and done days (or weeks) in advance.
You can make the flaky pie dough ahead of time. You can prepare the dough up to 2 days ahead, or up to 3 months in the freezer.
You can roll out the pastry up to 1 day ahead of time. Roll out the bottom crust and place it in a pie pan. Keep in the refrigerator, covered completely, until you are ready to make the pie.
Can this be made ahead of time and frozen?
Apple pies are great to prepare ahead of time in totality, up until the point of baking.
To freeze this pie: Place the whole pie on a sheet pan first, and place it in a freezer. Once frozen (at least 12 hours), wrap the whole pie in plastic wrap very tightly twice, and then cover with aluminum foil. Don’t forget to label it!
It is best to cook any frozen pie within 3 months, because the longer it is stored in the freezer, the less pronounced the flavor is. However, you can wait as long as about 1 year if frozen properly.
How to Bake an Apple Pie From Frozen
You can actually bake a fruit pie directly from the freezer. You can check out this How to Bake a Frozen Pie guide for more detailed information or see these quick instructions below!
- Unwrap the frozen pie and let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes, or until the dough is tacky. Preheat oven to 425ºF.
- Bake on the lower middle rack for 10 minutes.
- Lower the oven temperature to 400º for another 60-70 minutes, or until the pie filling is bubbling or has reached an internal temperature of above 200ºF. Cover the pie with aluminum foil if it is browning too quickly.
How to Serve and Store It
Serve the baked pie just slightly warm or at room temperature. It can be served as is or with ice cream, or whipped cream.
If you serve it while it is hot, it will be soupy and won't stay in a clean slice (you won't catch me saying don't do this--as it's truly delicious, but do know it will be messy).
A baked apple pie can be stored at room temperature, covered, for 1 day. If you are storing it longer, cover it and place it in a refrigerator. It can always be reheated later to take the chill off of it and to crisp up the pastry.
More Apple Recipes
I am so honored when you make a recipe from my site! If you make this Apple Crumble Pie, please leave a comment and a star rating with your experience! If you have any questions about this recipe, feel free to comment here, too!Print
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