What’s more American than apple pie? Using these tips from Susan Williams, you’ll be able to impress everyone at those summer barbecues. Read more from Susan on her blog.
People think making an apple pie – especially one with a delicious homemade crust – is SOOOO hard, but really, it’s much easier than you might think. And with my six tips for making a homemade apple pie, plus a couple of tools, you’ll be rocking out the best apple pies you’ve ever made (or never made!).
Making a homemade pie, with a homemade crust takes a little practice, but once you know how, the skill is yours, for the rest of your life! And that skill will bring you, and those you love, rich rewards, year after year.
1. The Granny Smith variety of apples make the very best pies, and they are readily available, as well. They’re not some far off unobtainable variety that only ripens in the wilds of Washington State for one week a year. You can find these bright green beauties in just about any grocery store in the nation. Why do they make such a good pie? Two reasons: flavor and texture. Their flavor is tart and tangy, and a perfect foil for all the sugar and spices you be putting in that pie. (Ever had a pie that was too sweet? I have. They’re boring!) Granny Smiths allow for no boredom. Your taste buds will be delighted! In regard to texture, some varieties of apples, while having a nice flavor, turn to mush when you bake them, creating a pie that is practically applesauce. But the Granny Smith variety of apple holds together nicely for baking – softening, but not dissolving.
2. Get yourself one of these babies: it’s called an Apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer, for want of a jazzier name. I bought mine in a little country store, but they are readily available online. It makes short work of a job that used to take me an hour: peeling, coring, and slicing a bunch of apples. They cost around $20.00, but I’ve had mine for over 20 years, so at a dollar a year, that’s a pretty good investment, considering the time it’s saved me. A 3 pronged fork goes into the core of each apple, and then you turn the crank, the apple spins, and the blades on the machine peel and cut the apple into horizontal slicesI take each peeled, cored, sliced apple and cut the apples into halves, and then quarters, and then, I’m done.
3. This picture illustrates tips 3, 4, and 5, and they all pertain to crust. To make the perfect flaky pie crust, I employ three methods, that ensure great results. The first of these is that I use a scale to weigh my ingredients. One cup of all purpose flour weighs 4.25 ounces or 120 grams. When you measure your flour with a scale, the results you will see in your crusts become a lot more dependably predictable. Measuring flour by weight narrows down the variables that bakers have to contend with ….like the humidity in the atmosphere on the day you bake.
4. The second tip contained in that last picture is that I use vegetable shortening sticks when I make a pie crust. They are already measured (just like you’d find the measurements on the side of a stick of butter), and so I don’t have to mess with scooping and squishing the shortening down into a measuring cup, nor do I have to deal with cleaning up the shortening that sticks to the measuring cup and my fingers. Using these saves me a lot of time and mess: I just slice off the amount of shortening that I need. This type of shortening costs a bit more per ounce, but some elements of convenience are worth it, and to me, this one is SO worth it!
5. The last tip contained in that picture that will help you make a delicious homemade apple pie is to always use ice water when you are mixing up your pastry dough. What causes pie crusts to be flaky is when the fat that is in the pastry dough gets hit by the heat of your oven, the fat melts, and from it, steam escapes. Steam provides lift amongst the flour molecules, and this produces a flaky crust. So always, always use ice water when measuring in your tablespoonfuls of water into your pastry dough. You don’t want the fat in the pastry to melt UNTIL it hits the oven.
6. The last tip I recommend for baking a spectacular homemade apple pie is that you procure two things: whole nutmeg, and a Microplane grater (it’s like a wood rasp) for grating that nutmeg. I used to think I hated nutmeg, but that was because the only kind I had ever tasted was the ground nutmeg that you buy from a can or jar in the baking aisle. To me, its flavor tasted a lot like cigarette ash. That was before I had ever tasted freshly grated nutmeg, which was a flavor and aroma revelation to me. You can buy whole nutmeg at many local grocery stores now. I purchased mine at Whole Foods, in their bulk spice section. The Microplane grater is one of my absolute all-time favorite cooking tools. I use it not only for grating nutmeg, but for zesting citrus, grating mountains of light, fluffy parmesan cheese, and grating chocolate over desserts.
If you’d like to see the recipe for my own apple pie, it’s here, on my blog. And if you think you might need to remember these tips for next time you make a pie, why not Pin this post to Pinterest?
Have you ever made your own homemade apple pie, with your own homemade crust?