I take a supremely low-key approach to apple pie: no precooking the apples or reducing their "juices" (a misnomer, because the liquid is predominantly dissolved sugar) on the stove. My method involves simply macerating the apples in brown sugar and spices until they're ultra-tender, then tossing in a little tapioca starch just before assembling the pie. It's baked relatively low and slow, giving the crust time to turn golden and crisp without overcooking the apples, which turn to mush at temperatures above 195°F (91°C). The result is an easy apple pie that slices like a dream, with a thick but saucy filling.
Reprinted from BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts with permission from W. W. Norton.
Why It Works
- Maceration reduces the fruit's volume, meaning more raw fruit can fit into the pie.
- The liquid left over is dissolved sugar, not water, so it doesn't require reduction.
- Tapioca starch forms a light, clear gel that's never cloudy, slimy, or gloppy.
- Subtle use of varied spices creates depth of flavor in the pie.
- Baking to an internal temperature of 195°F (91°C) keeps the filling thick, not watery.
- Yield:1 double-crusted 9-inch pie
- Active time: 1 hour
- Total time:5 hours
- For the Filling:
- 8 ounces light brown sugar (1 cup, packed; 225g)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon (3g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt (see note); for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 4 1/4 pounds tart apples (about 8 large apples; 1.9kg), such as Granny Smith (see note)
- 1 ounce tapioca starch (1/4 cup, spooned; 25g), such as Bob's Red Mill
- Old-Fashioned Flaky Pie Dough, rolled and chilled per directions for a double crust
- For the Egg Wash:
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/2 ounce heavy cream (1 tablespoon; 15g)
- 1/8 teaspoon (0.5g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume or use the same weight
For the Filling: Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves in a gallon-sized zip-top bag (do not add tapioca at this time). Peel, quarter, and core the apples, then slice into 1/2-inch wedges; significant deviation can change the consistency of the filling.
Measure 50 ounces sliced apples (11 rounded cups; 1.45kg) into the bag, seal tightly, and tumble until roughly coated. Macerate at room temperature, flipping the bag occasionally to distribute the syrup, until the apples have lost a third of their volume, at least 3 hours. The apples can be held up to 8 hours in the fridge.
Add tapioca starch to the apples, reseal, and toss to combine. Pour apple filling into the prepared pie shell, nestling the slices into a flattish mound. Stand top crust a few seconds at room temperature until pliable, then drape on top. Pinch to seal both crusts together and trim to 3/4 inch. Tuck the dough under itself, so the pie looks something like a bonnet, or crimp into loose waves (the crust will not hold a tightly crimped design). Refrigerate the pie until cold and firm, at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 400°F (200°C).
For the Egg Wash: Whisk egg, yolk, cream, and salt together in a small bowl, then brush over the chilled pie. With a sharp knife, cut six 3-inch vents around the top, wiggling the blade left and right to open each into a wide vent.
To Bake: Place pie on a parchment-lined aluminum half sheet pan and bake until 195°F (91°C) in the very center, about 75 minutes. This is easiest to monitor with an in-oven digital thermometer, which can be programmed to chime on reaching the target temperature.
To Serve: Cool at least 1 hour at room temperature before serving. Wrapped in foil, leftovers will keep 3 days at room temperature. Warm in a 350°F (180°C) oven to restore the crispy crust and saucy filling.