How to Make Apple Pie Filling

Discovering how to make apple pie filling is one of those things that practically defines being an American...well, an American home cook, anyway! Making pie crust is a close second. The ingredients in apple pie are simple, which means the quality of those ingredients is key. Select an apple variety that suits your tastes, whether it's tart, sweet or a combination of both. (Some tart apples include Granny Smith, Winesap and Jonagold; sweeter varieties include Fuji, Rome and Golden Delicious.) Keep in mind that sweeter apples tend to be juicier, which can lead to a runny pie--you may want to use a thickener like cornstarch or tapioca if you go with all sweet apples. Peel and slice the apples right before cooking, as they tend to brown quickly once exposed to the air. Tossing the slices in a bit of fresh lemon juice helps slow the oxidation process. Although the apples have natural sugars, mixing in a bit of granulated or brown sugar (or both) helps ensure sweetness. Cinnamon adds a touch of mellow spice, and nutmeg--especially freshly grated--perks up the pie filling's flavor.
Hey, everyone. I'm Judith. Well, what are we making today? We are making classic apple pie from scratch, shall I say. It is worth the wait to do it from scratch. So what you'll need is about 4 medium Cortland apples, about 2-1/2 medium Granny Smith apples, 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, 2/3 of a cup of packed light brown sugar, 1/4 of a cup plus 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons of cornstarch, half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon with more to taste, 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, 1/8 of an teaspoon of ground nutmeg, 1 large egg white, 2 teaspoons of unsalted butter softened plus 1 tablespoon of cold unsalted butter cut into small 1/4-inch cubes, 4 to 6 tablespoons of all-purpose flour, and 1 recipe of flaky pie pastry. So for the flaky pie pastry, you'll need 10-1/2 ounces of unbleached all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar, 3/4 of a teaspoon of table salt, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 cup of chilled unsalted butter cut into 1/2-inch cubes, 1/2 cup of chilled vegetable shortening cut into 1/2-inch pieces, 5 to 6 tablespoons of ice water or more as needed. Okay, everyone. So, first, let us work on the flaky pie pastry. Now as I said, there's more steps so this is a little bit longer to do but it will be worth the while. So, in a food processor here, I'm gonna get this top off and we're gonna add in our flour and our sugar, that little 1/8 of a teaspoon of salt and the baking powder. And actually, what we wanna do is get that nice and cold. So we're just gonna pop it in the fridge for about 30 minutes. So it's been about 20 to 30 minutes. Our dry ingredients have been in the fridge. We've taken it out and now we're gonna add in-- actually, what we're gonna do first is just pulse it a little bit to break it apart. Here we go. And now we're gonna add in half of our butter and half of our shortening right there. So in that goes-- and we wanna pulse this 5 times and process for 5 seconds. Now, we're gonna add in the remaining butter into that and the remaining shortening, and we're gonna do exactly the same, pulse for 5, process for 5. And what we wanna end up with is a mixture of large crumbs and small crumbs. So we're gonna empty these contents into a large bowl. And now, we have to have a steady hand. We're gonna add in our water a little bit by a little bit, 1 tablespoon at a time. So, just get 1 tablespoon. I'm just gonna [unk] it with this and take it around the edge of your bowl. And what you wanna do is get your fork and flick it into the center, like so. And this is gonna create our flaky pastry so we can get air coming through the bowl. So just 1 tablespoon at a time. We're gonna keep going with that. So once you've added in your 5 tablespoons of water, check the consistency. Get a small little handful and if the flour holds together, which it is, hurrah, then that's just about right. If it doesn't hold together and it's still a little bit crumbly--as you can see, this still is slightly crumbly--you can add more water 1 teaspoon at a time. Just be very careful that it doesn't get too wet. So, that is looking alright there. Very good. So once we've got our dough to the desired consistency, now we're just gonna press it to the side of our bowl and get another handful, place it and just bring it together and we're gonna add that to that mass together. So we wanna do about half of the contents of the bowl. So, we've got about half of the contents pressed up to 1 side of the bowl, and let it all stick together quite well and then for the remaining half, we're gonna put it to the other side of the bowl 'cause we need 2 pieces of pastry and we'll do exactly the same thing as we did with the first half. Alright, so we have 2 separate dough on either side of our large bowl here. And what we wanna do is just form them into 2 round bowls, like so. Now, flour them a little bit, flour your surface and flour your hands. And what we're gonna do now is we're gonna roll out these 2 bowls into about 5 to 6 inch disks. So let's roll our dough out. You can flour your rolling pin a little bit too on the surface as I said, to about 5 to 6 inch disks. There we go. Alright, so that would be perfect, but the best you can. That's fine. So just take off any excess flour there. So, we're just gonna do that. Then we're just gonna smooth the edges of the pastry with our hands to bring it all together. So there you go. There you have your 2 pieces of flaky pie crust. What we wanna do now is put them in between plastic wrap and refrigerate them for 30 minutes. Alright, so now for the apple filling. So, we've taken our apples, our Cortland apples, our Granny Smith apples. We've peeled them with. We've cored them and we've cut them into half. So with the flat side down, let's put them on our cutting board. Let's start with the Cortland apples 'cause they're gonna actually be cut into different sizes. So, what we want to do is crosswise. Let's just do one at a time. We're gonna cut these into about 3/4-inch slices. So, that should do it there and then from there, we're gonna cut them diagonally in half. So pop them into a bowl and we're gonna do the same with all of our Cortland apples. So, we've cut our Cortland apples. They are all there in the bowl. Now, with our Granny Smith apples, we're gonna cut them crosswise but we're gonna cut them into 1/4-inch slices and leave them whole like that, whole slices. So, cut them there, and we're gonna do the same with all of the apples, and we could just put them on top of our other apples there. So, our apples are ready. They're all cut just how we want them and what we're gonna do is sprinkle over that lemon juice on top of there. Give it a good stir. I will set that aside for the moment. Alright. So in another bowl, we are gonna combine our brown sugar, our 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, our cornstarch and our cinnamon nutmeg always goes so well in an apple pie, and our kosher salt in there too, and we'll give that a good stir together. And in a separate bowl, we're gonna put our egg whites and 1 teaspoon of water, and we're gonna whisk that together. So, in your 9-inch Pyrex pie plate, we're just gonna butter up the bottom of it. Make sure it's oven-proof and don't forget to get the sides and the rims as well. Alright. So now we wanna lay a pastry cloth on top of our cutting board. Now if you don't have a pastry cloth, you can use a cotton kitchen towel, a thin one but a large one will do. So we're using that now and we're gonna get about 2 to 3 tablespoons of flour and put that over the cloth, like so. Now we also want to flour our rolling pin. Make sure that's done. Brilliant! Okay. So we've taken our flaky pie pastry from out of the fridge, so it's nice and cold now. So we'll take it from our plastic wrap and we'll layer that on top of our cloth. Now we wanna roll this out until it's about 1/8 of an inch thick and about 15 inches wide. So we've rolled out the pastry to our desired length. Obviously, just take care it doesn't break apart because you will get some cracks here and there. Now, put your rolling pin into the upper third of your dough pastry. Lift your cloth over just gently so it wraps over your rolling pin and then you can roll the rolling pin towards you so the pastry flaps over. And we're gonna get our Pyrex pan. We're gonna leave a little bit of overhang if possible and we're just gonna gently put that pastry into the pan. Now if it's not centered, don't worry. Just very gently put the pastry into the contours of your pan, like so. There you go. So it's not gonna be perfect, but you can always cut around the side of the edges when you need to. So we have our pastry down into our pan as best as possible. So now with a little brush, get our egg white mixture and we're just gonna brush the bottom and the sides of our pastry with that all the way. So, now we're gonna put our contents into it of course. So let's get our apples that we put together and we are gonna mix our sugary mixture into those apples. In that goes. Give it a good toss so all of the mixture combines with the apples. We're gonna arrange the apples into the bottom of our pie. Just arrange them in. Oh, that smells so good with the cinnamon and the sweet apples. There you go. Alright. So once that's on there, we're gonna get that butter that which you cut into little cubes before and we're gonna dart that on top of the apples, like so. Alright. So we're getting there. There's only a few more steps left. So, now let's work on our top pastry layers. So, again, let's put enough flour on our pastry cloth to cover about 15 inches across. We'll get our pastry dough and we want to roll that out into about 15 inches as well and about 1/8 inch thick. We'll do the same thing. Get your pastry cloth, roll it over. I'm being very careful now. Let's get our pie back on top of here. We're gonna layer it on top and hopefully that will create a little bit of the edgy hangover, which it does; very good. Alright, and we're just gonna combine those 2 little pieces of pastry into each other like so. Make sure you have-- it gives enough slide, you know, there's enough room there for the dough to breath in a little bit. Very good. Alright. So once our top pie crust is on there either with a fork or with your thumbs, we can just crinkle that into the other piece of pastry, so we get a nice outer rim. And then we're just gonna brush it with a little bit of cold water so nothing burns. That's gonna brown nicely, all the way around. So last but not least, let's cut some little steam vents into the top of the apple pie so that that steam comes through and then we can see when it's baking when the juices inside are bubbling, and we're just gonna sprinkle our remaining sugar that we had, that granulated sugar on the top of our pie there. Beautiful, and that's gonna give a lovely sweetness. Wonderful! Okay, so that is ready now to go into the oven. It's gonna go in at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 65 to 70 minutes until you can see through our little steam holes that inside it's bubbling, all the juices are going and it should be nice and golden brown at the end. Now, to prevent the outer edges from burning, we're gonna put a little bit of aluminum foil around the edges so that doesn't burn too quickly. So that is ready now to go into the oven. So, we've taken our apple pie out from the oven. For the last 5 minutes-- we cooked it in there for about 65 to 70 minutes and the last 5 minutes, we took off the aluminum foil from around the edges and left it in there for another 5 minutes. We then let it rest for about 3 hours. I know, it was very hard. We wanted to dig in, but we let it rest for 3 hours and now it is ready to serve up. So you can slice it up, serve it with some nice vanilla ice cream or some cream and that will go down a treat. So there you go everyone. That is how you make classic apple pie.

What You'll Need

  • 1 1/2 - 1 3/4  pounds Cortland apples (about 4 medium)

  • 1   pound Granny Smith apples (about 2-1/2 medium)

  • 2   teaspoons fresh lemon juice

  • 2/3  cup packed light brown sugar

  • 1/4  cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 3   tablespoons cornstarch

  • 1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon; more to taste

  • 1/4  teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/8  teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1   large egg white

  • 2   teaspoons unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter cut into small (1/4-inch) cubes

  • 4 - 6   tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1   recipe Flaky Pie Pastry

Flaky Pie Pastry
  • 10 1/2  ounces (2-1/3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour

  • 1   tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 3/4  teaspoon table salt

  • 1/2  teaspoon baking powder

  • 4   ounces (1/2 cup) chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

  • 4   ounces (1/2 cup) chilled vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

  • 5 - 6   tablespoons ice water; more as needed

Step By Step

Position two oven racks in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Make the filling: Peel the apples, cut each in half from top to bottom, remove the cores with a melon baller, and trim the ends with a paring knife. Lay the apples, cut side down, on a cutting board. Cut the Cortland apples (below left) crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces, and then halve each piece diagonally. Cut the Granny Smith apples (below right) crosswise into 1/4-inch slices, leaving them whole. Put the apples in a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice.
Combine the brown sugar, 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, kosher salt, and nutmeg in a small bowl. (Don't add this to the fruit yet.)
In a small dish, lightly beat the egg white with 1 teaspoon water. Set aside.
Assemble the pie: Butter a 9-inch ovenproof glass (Pyrex) pie plate, including the rim, with the 2 teaspoons of softened butter.
Rub 2 to 3 tablespoons of flour into the surface of a pastry cloth, forming a circle about 15 inches across, and also into a rolling pin stocking. If you don't have a pastry cloth, rub the flour into a large, smooth-weave, cotton kitchen towel and use a floured rolling pin. Roll one of the disks of dough into a circle that's 1/8 inch thick and about 15 inches across.
Lay the rolling pin across the upper third of the dough circle; lift the pastry cloth to gently drape the dough over the pin and then roll the pin toward you, wrapping the remaining dough loosely around it. Hold the rolling pin over the near edge of the pie plate. Allowing for about a 1-inch overhang, unroll the dough away from you, easing it into the contours of the pan. If the dough isn't centered in the pan, gently adjust it and then lightly press it into the pan. Take care not to stretch the dough. If it tears, simply press it back together--the dough is quite forgiving.
Brush the bottom and sides of the dough with a light coating of the egg-white wash (you won't need all of it). Leaving a 1/4-inch overhang, cut around the edge of the dough with kitchen shears.
Combine the sugar mixture with the apples and toss to coat well. Mound the apples in the pie plate, rearranging the fruit as needed to make the pile compact. Dot the apples with the 1 tablespoon cold butter cubes.
Rub another 2 to 3 tablespoons flour into the surface of the pastry cloth and stocking. Roll the remaining dough into a circle that's 1/8 inch thick and about 15 inches across. Use the rolling pin to move the dough. As you unroll the dough, center it on top of the apples. Place your hands on either side of the top crust of the pie and ease the dough toward the center, giving the dough plenty of slack. Leaving a 3/4-inch overhang, trim the top layer of dough around the rim of the pie plate. Fold the top layer of dough under the bottom layer, tucking the two layers of dough together. Press a lightly floured fork around the edge of the dough to seal it, or flute the edge of the dough with lightly floured fingers.
Lightly brush the top with cold water and sprinkle the surface with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Make steam vents in the dough by poking the tip of a paring knife through it in a few places; it's important to vent well so that the steam from the cooking apples won't build up and crack the top of the crust.
Bake the pie: Cover the rim of the pie with aluminum foil bands. This will prevent the edge of the crust from overbrowning.
Place a rimmed baking sheet or an aluminum foil drip pan on the oven rack below the pie to catch any juices that overflow during baking. Set the pie on the rack above.
Bake until the top and bottom crusts are golden brown and the juices are bubbling, 60 to 75 minutes; to thicken, the juices must boil, so look for the bubbles through the steam vents or through cracks near the edges of the pie and listen for the sound of bubbling juices. During the last 5 minutes of baking, remove the foil bands from the edges of the pie. Cool the pie at least 3 hours and up to overnight before serving.
Make Ahead:
The pie will keep at room temperature for up to 1 day. For longer storage, cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for up to 5 days; reheat before serving in a 325 degrees F oven until warmed through, about 20 minutes.

Flaky Pie Pastry
Put the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Chill for 20 to 30 minutes.
Pulse the dry ingredients together for a few seconds to blend. With the processor off, Add half of the butter and half of the shortening. Pulse 5 times and then process for 5 seconds. Add the remaining butter and shortening and pulse again 5 times, then process for 5 seconds. You should have a mixture of both large and small crumbs. Empty the mixture into a large mixing bowl.
Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the ice water around the edge of the bowl, letting it trickle into the crumbs. Flick the moistened crumbs toward the center with a table fork, rotating the bowl as you work. Repeat with the remaining 4 tablespoons ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. As you add the water, the crums should begin to form larger clusters. Once you've added 5 tablespoons water total, take a handful of crumbs and squeeze them gently; they should hold together. If they easily break apart, the mixture needs more water: add the remaining tablespoon, one teaspoon at a time, checking the consistency after each addition. If the crumbs still fail to hold together, you can add additional water, but do so sparingly.
Gather a handful of the crumbly dough and press it against the side of the bowl to form a small mass, flouring your hand as needed to prevent excessive sticking. Increase the size of this mass by pressing it into more of the crumbly mixture until you've used up about half of the total mixture in the bowl. Make a second mass of dough with the remaining crumbs. If some of the crumbs on the bottom of the bowl need more moistening, add a few drops of water.
Form the two masses of dough into balls, dust them with flour, and flatten them into 4- to 5-inch disks. Pat the disks to release any excess flour. Score the tops lightly with the side of your hand to create a tic-tac-toe pattern. With cupped hands, rotate each disk on the work surface to smooth the edges of the disks. Wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill at least 30 minutes before using.
Make Ahead:
You can make the dough ahead and refrigerate it for up to 3 days or freeze it for up to 4 months (thaw it overnight in the fridge before using). Before rolling, let the dough sit at room temperature until pliable.
Don't have a food processor? You can cut the fats in by hand, but you must use a bit more flour--11-1/4 ounces total--and sift it first; you should have 2-1/2 cups after sifting. Also, the butter shouldn't be rock hard, so take it out of the fridge a few minutes before you start. Your finger should leave a slight imprint when you press the butter. To cut the fats in by hand, whisk the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Add the cubed butter and vegetable shortening and mix briefly with a fork to coat the fats with flour. Cut the fats into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two dinner knives, working the mixture until the particles have a coarse, mealy texture similar to that of fresh bread crumbs with some larger pea-size pieces. From there, continue with the recipe as written to finish the dough.

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