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Easy, Homemade Apple Pie

Backed by the science of baking, this homemade apple pie recipe ensures a perfect outcome - every time. Luscious, full-bodied, apple filling inside of a tender, flaky piecrust shell is so good, you'll be craving this pie again, and again.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword apple, apple pie, pie, pie crust
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Resting & Cooling Time 3 hours
Total Time 4 hours 30 minutes
Servings 10 servings

Ingredients

Buttery, Flaky Pie Crust

  • cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ¾ cup cold butter, cubed (1½ sticks)
  • ¼ cup cold vegetable shortening
  • cup cold vodka (you may not need all of it)
  • cup cold water (you may not need all of it)
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 egg

Apple Filling

  • 8-10 large Grannysmith and/or Honeycrisp apples (a combination of both works great)
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup apple cider or juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 15 drops orange bitters (found in the cocktail section)
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour

Instructions

Buttery, Flaky Pie Crust

  • Mix your vodka and water together and place it in the freezer, along with your cubed butter and shortening. It doesn't need to (and shouldn't) freeze, but while prepping our next ingredients, we want to keep it really cold.
    TIP: Chilled butter (as opposed to melted) creates pockets in the crust, which, when baked, release moisture and air, giving you light and flaky layers. You should be able to see little flecks of butter in your rolled dough, if you've done it right, illustrated in this photo.
  • In the bowl of your food processor, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt to evenly disperse the ingredients.
  • To the food processor, add in your cold butter and shortening.
    TIP: Shortening, with a higher melting point than butter, can create even flakier layers in pastry. However, since it provides no flavor, we add just a little in, to perfectly balance taste with texture.
    Pulse the food processor until the mixture resembles pea-sized lumps.
    If you're using a pastry cutter, smash the butter into the flour with the spokes until you break up some of the chunks and achieve a similar texture as above.
  • Next, drizzle in just enough of the water/vodka mixture, while pulsing the food processor, until the dough begins to hold together. Remember, we want this liquid ice cold so as not to melt any of the butter.
    TIP: I like to add about half of the liquid, and then test it: scoop a handful of the pastry dough out and squeeze it together. Then, use your thumb or finger to break that lump apart in the center. If it immediately crumbles, you need to add more liquid. Once a lump in your hand splits into two pieces, you're dough is thoroughly moistened. Watch my video above for a visual of both examples.
    Vodka, though it may seem odd, does not flavor the pie crust. Rather, it works as water to moisten and bring together the crust components, however, it inhibits gluten formation, so your crust stays super tender and delicate - not tough.
    You may not need to use all of your liquid now. If not, leave it in the fridge for later.
  • Turn your dough out onto some plastic wrap and knead it together a few times into two, round discs. Wrap each one separately and chill in the refrigerator for about an hour while you prep your apple filling.
    TIP: This chilling time is important to let the dough and butter rest. It also allows the moisture to distribute further into the flour, which brings everything together.
  • Once your dough is thoroughly chilled, bring it out to your counter, along with any leftover liquid (or a new glass of cold water.) Let the pastry dough sit on the counter for 3-5 minutes before starting to roll it out. Then, flatten one of the discs to create your bottom pie crust. I rolled mine about a half-inch thick.
    TIP: If your crust is too crumbly while rolling it out - don't fret. Just use your fingertips to sprinkle it with a bit of the cold liquid until it sticks together.
    Place the bottom crust in your pie dish, pressing it into the edges. Place this into the refrigerator to chill while creating your top crust decorations.
    Use a pastry wheel and shaped stampers to create long lines for lattice and other decorations. Before creating your lattice top, you can chill the pieces for a few minutes so they don't lose their clean shape. I create my lattice on parchment paper first to make sure the lines are parallel and clean. Press everything together to adhere the lattice together as one, solid piece.
  • Fill your bottom pie crust with the apples, and top them with the reduced apple liquid.
  • Then, carefully peel your lattice off of the paper and transfer it to the top of your pie. Press the edges down to seal and use a kitchen knife (a paring knife works best) to clean up the messy edges. Top the pie with your remaining pie crust details and cut-outs.
  • Vigorously whisk together the heavy cream and egg to create a wash. Then brush this on top of the pie crust, paying careful attention to coat all of the crust thoroughly, but not allowing any puddles or pools to remain in the crevices (they will burn and taste bitter.)
    TIP: Adding cream to an egg wash helps the pie crust caramelize, as well as emulsifying the yolk to the white, making it easier to apply evenly.
  • Bake the pie, uncovered, in an oven preheated to 425°F for 20-25 minutes. Once your edges are lightly browned, cover them with foil/pie crust protector, reduce the heat to 375°F, and bake for an additional 50-65 minutes.
    Near the end, if the top/middle of your crust is becoming too brown, you can gently cover it with more tinfoil.
    TIP: Your pie will be done when the apple filling is bubbling and the crust is fully browned. However, don't pull the pie out as soon as you hear bubbling. A fully cooked pie needs to bubble for around 10 minutes to fully cook and thicken. Don't be worried about overcooking the pie, as much as undercooking it. Apple pies are hearty. If you're unsure, you can keep it in the oven for a bit longer to make sure.
  • Let the pie rest on the counter until it comes to room temperature, about 3-4 hours.
    TIP: The cooling step is important, so resist the urge to cut right into your pie. If you do cut it, all of the juices will leak out of the pie and flow into the uncut section. There is really no way to get around this, so plan in advance to allow ample cooling time. Plus, cornstarch and flour continue to thicken - you guessed it - as they cool. Your pie filling needs to cool in order to come to the right consistency.
    (Okay, I'll get off my cooling-time-soap-box now, but it's so essential! Pies, brownies, even resting your meats! It's all part of the process.)

Apple Filling

  • Peel, core, and slice your apples into evenly-sized pieces. Mine are usually between ¼-½ inch thick.
    TIP: It isn't so much about cutting them to a specific ruler measurement, but more so the necessity of cutting them even with each other. If they aren't close in size, they will cook differently, resulting in a pie filled with some mushy bites, and other too-hard bites.
  • Add the apples to a large pot on the stove over medium heat, as well as the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Let the butter melt, mix, and then add the apple cider/juice, vanilla, and orange bitters. Let the mixture simmer until the apples are just starting to soften.
    TIP: I prefer to pre-cook my apples like this, as opposed to baking them raw, for the following reasons:
    1) When apples cook, they release liquids. If you allow this to happen fully in the pie, you have no way to control the viscosity of the liquid, which can sometimes result in a super watery, soggy pie and crust.
    2) When apples cook, they shrink, so if you fill your pie and top it with beautiful lattice-work, and then let the apples shrink in the oven fully, you risk the pie sinking in the middle and looking concave, rather than full and bursting.
  • Once the apples are just beginning to soften (you don't want them mushy - air on the side of too firm rather than too soft) strain them out into another bowl. Toss the slices with the flour and cornstarch, and let them cool to room temperature on a baking tray or some other sheet.
    apple slices for easy apple pie
  • Place the strained apple-liquid back into the pot, and simmer it until it reduces and thickens. You can add some sifted cornstarch to help the process if it's not thickening by itself. It depends upon the sugars and liquid that came out of the apples, so it will never be exact.
    TIP: This process of reducing the apple liquids intensifies the sweet flavors, creating a super flavorful pie filling. However, it also benefits you to thicken the liquid before adding it to the pie crust, because then it is less likely to leach into the bottom pie crust. This way, you'll have a super crispy, flaky pie crust bottom.
    Once the liquid is thick, caramel-y, and reduced, pour it into a cup or container to cool. Both the apples and this liquid needs to be cooled, otherwise, you risk melting the butter in the crust when you assemble the components.

Notes

This pie will keep at room temperature, loosely covered, for two days. After that, if you manage to have leftovers, you can keep them in the refrigerator for another two days. 
You can prepare the components in advance. Keep the apples and liquid stored in separate containers, in the refrigerator, for one to two days. The pie crust can be kept wrapped in its plastic in the fridge for 5 days, or in the freezer for 1-2 months. (If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before using.) However, only assemble the pie immediately before baking.