The quest for the perfect fresh Apple Pie!
I've spent a lot of time looking for the perfect apple pie--amply filled with slices of cooked apples, no "cave" between the crust and filling, and no oven boil-over (the Thanksgiving horror). I've tried many different recipes and processes over the years, but I think the real secret is in the process and the thickener. When I judge fairs, one of the things I look for in a fruit pie is the ability to "almost" hold its shape when cut. The filling should not be rigid, but should "bulge" and the liquid should be clear-colored and glossy-well-thickened but not pasty. I think you'll find that this recipe creates a finished product that can make your apple pie your family's favorite!
Yields 1 pie
1 hr, 15
- 8 c. peeled and sliced tart apples (about 1/4 " thick) - pack tightly in measuring cup
- 2 T. lemon juice (if the apples aren't quite tart enough)
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 t. cinnamon
- 1/2 t. nutmeg
- 1/4 t. cloves
- 8 T. Ultra Gel instant thickener (available at Amazon)
- homemade or purchased pastry
- Peel and slice the apples into a microwave-safe container (a covered casserole dish works well). Add the sugar, spices, and Ultra Gel and toss until evenly coated. Cover with a lid or vented plastic wrap and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Stir the apples carefully to make sure they are getting evenly cooked. Continue cooking if necessary until the apples lose their crispness and a fork can be inserted easily. Let cool at least 15 minutes. You will see that the released apple juice is already being thickened.
- Prepare the bottom crust. Add the apples, smoothing the top. Add the top crust and pierce generously to make vent holes for the steam.
- Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 350 degrees for another approximately 30 minutes. If the filling starts to ooze through the vents, the pie is done--remember that the apples have already been cooked and thickened, so no need to get to boiling temperatures in the middle.
Many people hesitate to make fresh apple pie because they consider it to be "unpredictable". I have to admit that there are a great many unknowns in baking an apple pie, not the least of which is the variety of apple used. I live in a great apple-growing area, so was able to get farm-fresh apples of many varieties and did a little testing. In my opinion, the flavor of Granny Smiths was great for a pie but the texture was a little mushy. Galas were too sweet, Honeycrisps were good, as were Jonnygolds. My personal favorite, however, was the Fuji which seemed to keep its shape well even when microwave-blanched.
And speaking of microwave blanching--one frequent complaint with using fresh apples in pies is that the apples cook down, either leaving a hole between top crust and filling or a sparsely filled pie, either of which detracts from the end product. The secret to this is blanching the apples before baking just enough to take edge off the crispness so they will pack into the crust better. This could be done in boiling water, but I like doing things the easiest way possible, so I peel the apples into a glass dish with a cover (like a casserole dish) or cover with plastic wrap, leaving a vent. Then a few minutes in the microwave will do the trick. And the lovely juices that accumulate go back into the pie.
Another unpredictability of apple pies is the baking process. As the apples cook, juices are released, which start to thicken only when they get to boiling temperatures if standard cornstarch or flour are used. So the juices tend to merrily bubble out the vent holes, creating a smoky mess in the oven. But when the apples are microwave-blanched with the sugar and Ultra Gel, the juices start to thicken right away, which controls the oven boil-over issue.
I hope you enjoy this method of producing high-quality apple pies as much as I do. I am no longer intimidated by making apples pies (which makes my family very happy!)
Incidentally, the pies can be frozen before baking for the extra convenience you need at holiday time (don't try this with pies thickened with flour or cornstarch) Do not thaw before baking--bake at 400 for to crisp the crust, then turn down to 350 until hot all the way through (remember--they're already mostly thickened). Cover the edges with foil if they start getting too brown.