Make Your Best Apple Pie Ever with Our Food Editor's Intel
To ace the American tradition of making apple pie each fall, our editorial director of food and entertaining, Sarah Carey, has spent years (yes, years) testing pie with different apples, using all of one type or another type, combining different varieties of apples in the filling for one pie, then trying different varieties of apple in her filling. How much sugar is just right? What spices enhance the apple filling rather than overwhelming it? What is the right ratio of filling to pastry? And the pastry? Well, actually that wasn't an issue. Sarah used our go-to pastry, the Test Kitchen's Pâte Brisée, for her pie experiments. Here, we share the fruits of her diligent research, our ultimate recipe for apple pie and a bonus recipe for Apple Crumb Pie, which builds on the foundation of our new go-to apple pie recipe but subs an irresistible crumb topping for the top pastry crust.
What has Sarah learned from her research? That the best filling is not made entirely of all one type of apple. That a pie made with just MacIntosh or just Granny Smiths will not be your best work. Her recommendation is to combine different varietals with nuanced flavors and textures. The sublime result: a bold, aromatic filling bubbling under a crust (or crumb) topping.
The ideal mix ranges in taste from sweet to tart to good, old-fashioned apple flavor, and includes some firm ones that hold their shape, so you don't wind up with a pie full of applesauce. These assortments have it all.
Heading to the grocery store to pick up your apples? Sarah suggests choosing one of these two mixes: The first, pictured left, would be a mix of sweet-tangy and firm Braeburn (one and a half pounds), tart Granny Smith (one and a half pounds), and classic McIntosh (a half pound). The second option, pictured right, would be to choose sweet-tangy and firm Golden Delicious (one and a half pounds), tart Granny Smith (one and a half pounds), and classic Macoun (a half pound).
Farmers' Market Picks
Visiting the farmers' market (or a grocery store with a more robust selection) for your apples? Choose one of these mixes instead. Sarah likes a blend of sweet-tangy and firm Suncrisp (one and a half pounds), tart Stayman Winesap (one and a half pounds), and classic Northern Spy (a half pound), which is pictured left. The second option, pictured right, is a mix of sweet-tangy and firm Pink Lady (one and a half pounds), sweet-tart and floral Esopus Spitzenburg (one and a half pounds), and classic Jonathan (a half pound).
For a classic, make that the classic apple pie use Sarah's Best Apple Pie made with a full recipe of our pâte brisée. If you're making the Apple Crumb Pie, you'll only need one disc of the pastry (the recipe makes two), so stash the other one in your freezer for making another apple crumb pie soon. Sarah says, "If possible, use a glass pie dish. You can check the crust through the clear bottom to make sure it's well browned to the center."
Another ace tip from our pie expert is to be patient. It takes about an hour of hands on work to put the pie together (we're not including the time to make the pâte brisée here), and about an hour for the pie to bake, but you'll need to allot more time than that for this delicious project. Sarah says the filling is best if the apples are tossed with spices, sugar, and a splash of apple-cider vinegar and allowed to sit for at least three hours before making the pie. (She recommends doing this step a day ahead, refrigerating the apples.)
And apple pie is not a dessert to serve straight out of the oven. Even a perfectly thickened pie like these recipes may seem too juicy when cut into immediately. Sarah explains that as the pie cools, its filling will solidify which also makes it cleaner to slice. That's why she recommends waiting six hours before serving.
Food styling by Rebecca Jurkevich; prop styling by Sarah Smart.