The quest for the Perfect Fresh Apple Pie!
I spent a lot of time over the past couple of weeks searching for the perfect apple pie recipe--amply filled with slices of deliciously spiced apples with no "cave" between the crust and filling, and especially no oven boil-over (the piemaker's horror, especially the night before Thanksgiving. . ) I tried different varieties of apples and different combinations of ingredients searching for the Holy Grail of Pies. I'll explain the analysis later in the blog, but the three things I found most important were: Choosing the right apple variety, precooking the apples partially to get a full pie, and using Ultra Gel® instant thickener to avoid boil-out (which is what happens when the juices that accumulate as the apples cook boil out of the top of the pie and result in an ever-loving mess in the bottom of your oven. And to add insult to injury, the smoke that results usually ruins whatever is baking.) Here, my friends, is the confidence to make the Perfect Apple Pie!
Yields 1 pie
- 8 c. peeled and sliced tart apples (about 1/4" thick) - pack tightly in measuring cup
- 2 T. lemon juice (1 T. for very tart apples)
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 t. cinnamon
- 1/2 t. nutmeg
- 1/4 t. cloves
- 8 T. Ultra Gel instant thickener (available at www.carnetfoods.com or Amazon)
- Homemade or purchased pastry for deep dish 9" pie
- Peel and slice the apples into a microwave-safe comtainer (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 get 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 starting to thicken.
- Prepare the bottom crust.
- Add the thickened filling to the crust, 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 an additional thirty 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 cook to boiling temperatures throughout.
About apples: I live in a great apple-growing area, so many varieties of fresh apples are easily available, and I think I tried them all! Granny Smiths are a national favorite for cooking for good reason--their tartness is a perfect foil for the added sweetener. The favor of the pie made with Granny Smiths was great but I was hoping for a little more firmness in the texture. Galas were too sweet, Honeycrisps were good, as were Jonnygolds. My current personal favorite, however, is the Fuji which seems to stay firm even when precooked.
About precooking apples: Do it!! Put the sliced apples in a covered casserole dish or cover with plastic wrap and microwave for six to eight minutes, stirring every couple of minutes, until a fork can be inserted. This takes the crispness out of the apples and
allows them to be easily arranged in the pie plate without the expectation of further shrinking, which leaves a very unflattering "cave" between the filling and the crust.
About using the right thickener: This is the real secret to the smooth texture and lovely sheen of the Perfect Apple Pie. Since Ultra Gel® is an instant starch, it grabs the moisture when it is released from the apples and immediately thickens it, which keeps it from boiling out of the pie. And those lovely thickened juices are at their mouthwatering best when still warm. Side of ice cream, anyone?
Incidentally, pies thickened with Ultra Gel® can be made and frozen ahead of your big celebration (don't try this if you thicken with traditional cornstarch or flour). After preparing the pies, bake them for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees, then remove from the oven, cool, package, and freeze. Do not thaw before baking--bake at 400 for about 15 minutes to crisp the crust, then turn down to 350 until hot all the way through (remember--they're already thickened). Cover the edges with foil if they start getting too brown.
Happy Holidays to all!!