Appetites: Expert’s advice for the season’s perfect apple pie

Showing off the apple
Miguel Aguilar shows his friend an apple that he picked from the Aamodt's Apple Farm in Stillwater, Minn.
Yi-Chin Lee | MPR News 2014

This time we're living in is chaotic and divisive but chef and food writer Beth Dooley knows one thing that can unite us all: the perfect apple pie. She said there are fiercely held beliefs when it comes to what makes a good pie and even how to make it. 

And it all starts with a good mix of apples, Dooley said. 

“Apples right now from the University of Minnesota are sweet. They're hard. They're tart. They're juicy. I mean, each different apple — from the Harrelson to the Honeycrisp  — all have different profiles and different cooking attributes,” she said. “So what I like to do is use a mix of different apples because then you get some that retain their shape as it cooks, and then others that kind of melt into a lovely sauce.”

When it comes to how to cut apples, Dooley said she prefers cutting them into same-size slices so they cook evenly. 

“And the ones that melt will melt evenly and the ones that are hard will retain their shape,” she said. 

Another key to a good apple pie is a butter crust, made with good-quality, high-fat butter incorporated in the dough when it’s cold, Dooley said. 

“One, because you can taste the butter, and it's so rich and delicious. Two, because I think it really does make a flakier crust,” she said. “The reason why is [that] fats like lard and even oil don't have any water in them [but] butter has just a little bit of water in it. And what happens is that as the crust bakes, those little pieces of butter will make the crust super flaky as that water evaporates off.”

Dooley spoke with MPR News host Tom Crann on All Things Considered. Listen to their conversation using the audio player above. Below is Dooley’s recipe for a rustic apple pie.

Rustic apple pie

Makes an 8- to 9-inch pie

Rustic apple pie
Rustic apple pie
Courtesy of Beth Dooley

Butter crust

  • 1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour

  • Quarter teaspoon salt

  • Half teaspoon sugar

  • Half cup very cold butter, cut into chunks

  • Three to five tablespoons cold water

Pie filling

  • Three to four medium apples, cored and sliced ¼ inch thick

  • One tablespoon granulated sugar

  • Half teaspoon cinnamon

In a large bowl, stir together flour, salt and sugar. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, work in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in just enough water with a fork until the flour is moistened.

Gather the dough into a ball and slightly flatten. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle. Arrange the apple slices on the center of the circle. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon. Fold the edges of the pastry over the apples, allowing a 2-inch gap so the apples peak through. Sprinkle more sugar overall. Bake until the apples are tender and the crust is lightly browned, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly until serving warm. 

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