The Unsinkable Apple Pie

The classic American pie often displays an empty space between the top crust and the apple filling because the apples sink considerably in the baking.  Of course, there is the crumb topping, but my favorite part of a pie is a rich flaky crust.  I have experimented and tweaked the classic recipe and, I believe, improved on it not only by eliminating that empty space by partially cooking down the apples to begin with  and straining off excess juice, but also by using an instant tapioca thickener, 3 varieties of apples, candied ginger and Calvados.  The tapioca perfectly thickens the filling leaving it neither runny nor dense. The variety of apples and the candied ginger add a complexity of taste and the Calvados gives it just the right kick.


Dough for bottom crust:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 T superfine sugar

1 t salt

4 T butter

4 T Crisco

1 egg yolk

ice water

Repeat ingredients for top crust.

3 Golden Delicious apples

3 Macoun apples

3 Granny Smith apples

¾ cup sugar

juice and zest of 1 lemon

4 pieces candied ginger, cut into a small dice

1 t cinnamon

¼ t freshly grated nutmeg

2 T instant tapioca

¼ cup Calvados

2 T butter

egg wash of 1 beaten egg yolk

1 T turbinado (raw) sugar


For bottom crust, place flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor with metal blade in place.  Pulse just until mixed.  Add butter and Crisco in 1-tablespoon pieces and egg yolk.  Process until only pea size pieces of fat remain.  Distribute 3 tablespoons ice water over mixture and process just until mixture holds together when pinched between fingers.  Add a little more water if necessary.  Form into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a half hour.  Repeat process for top crust.  Better results are obtained if each crust is made separately.

While pie dough is chilling, make filling. Peel and core apples. Cut each quarter into 4 slices.  As slices are placed in a bowl, add sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest from time to time and toss.  Add candied ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Spoon into a saucepan and cook stirring from time to time on moderate heat until apples reduce but are not cooked through.  Mix in 2 tablespoons instant tapioca.  Remove from heat and stir in Calvados.  Let cool.  Strain and save juice. Straining the juice is an important step to assure the firm filling you see in the photo.

Roll out bottom pie crust to a 12-inch round and fit into a 9-inch pie pan.  Trim overhang.  Spoon apple filling onto bottom crust, mounding in the center. Scatter 2 tablespoons butter cut into small bits onto filling. Roll out top crust to a 12-inch round, place over filling, trim overhang and crimp edges.  Make 3 or 4 cuts in top crust to let steam out.  Lightly brush crust with egg wash and sprinkle on turbinado sugar.  Place pie on the middle shelf of a preheated baking sheet in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes then turn down to 350 and bake for 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown and thick juices are bubbling up. Cool on rack.  Simmer the juice you have saved until thickened to a syrupy consistence.  Serve pie with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream over which you have ladled 2 T of the apple syrup.  Generously serves six.

Photographer Bill Brady Food Stylist Brian Preston Campbell


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