Cook the Apples, Lose the Gap! Mastering a Better Apple Pie

By Moulton, Sara | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), November 18, 2015 | Go to article overview

Cook the Apples, Lose the Gap! Mastering a Better Apple Pie


Moulton, Sara, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Any number of tasks may strike you as easy as pie, but anyone who's ever actually made a pie can tell you that it actually requires some care if you want it to turn out well.

Consider apple pie. Its ingredients are few and elemental: apples, of course, along with sugar, flavoring and pie crust. But choosing the right apples is a serious business. Likewise, you'll want to do what you can to prevent the apples from shrinking in the pie shell as they cook, which simultaneously makes the bottom crust soggy and creates an unsightly gap between the filling and top crust.

Let's start with the apples. Some are tart and some are sweet. Happily, autumn is apple season, which means farmers markets (and, to a lesser extent, supermarkets) should be bursting with choices. Buy an assortment, taste each kind and take notes about their flavor, paying particular attention to their sugar level. An apple's flavor intensifies as it is cooked. Unless you're nuts about one particular variety, I'd advise you to pick a mix for your pie. The complexity of the flavors will make the pie that much more interesting.

Some apples turn into mush when they're cooked, while others hold their shape for days. If you're not sure which way a given variety will go, here's a test: Cut a wedge into cubes, combine it with a pinch of sugar and a tablespoon of water, then cook it, covered, over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until just tender. Most varieties will hold their shape, but McIntosh, Macoun, Cortland and Empire will fall apart and turn into applesauce. I recommend adding a few of the fall-apart varieties to your pie. Their sauciness will moisten and bind the rest of the apples in the filling.

Now, how to prevent that gap? Simple. Gently precook the apples, which drains them of liquid and shrinks their bulk. They'll shrink no more once they're added to the pie, which means that there'll be no gap between the filling and the top crust. But don't toss out that liquid. If you boil it down as detailed below and add it back to the apples, you'll amp up the apple essence.

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DEEP-DISH APPLE PIE

Yield: 8 servings

4 pounds firm apples, (a mix of sweet and tart) peeled, cored and cut into -inch-thick wedges

1 pound applesauce apples, peeled, cored and cut into -inch- thick wedges

cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, divided

cup packed dark brown sugar

teaspoon table salt

1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Double batch of pie dough, refrigerated

1 tablespoon heavy cream

1. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, toss together all of the apples, cup of the granulated sugar, the brown sugar, salt, 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and lemon zest. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the firm apples are just tender when poked with a knife, about 15 minutes. Transfer the apples to a large colander set over a bowl and let them drain for 15 minutes, shaking the colander every so often.

2. After the apples have drained, add the juices from the bowl to the Dutch oven and simmer until reduced to about cup.

3. In the bowl, combine the reduced juices with the apples. …

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