The Apple Pie

The Apple Pie

Seeing as how apples are originally from Kazakhstan, I wouldn’t call apple pie the “ultimate” American dessert. That honor I’m afraid must go to pumpkin pie … pumpkins being a new world food, but I digress! Everyone and his/her grandma, and aunt, and probably an uncle or two have their own apple pie recipe and this one is mine. It’s the only one I have and quite frankly it’s the only one I need. It does call for two unusual items, a pie bird (Google it) and grains of paradise (see note below). It’s not that I’m trying to be difficult, but this is the only apple pie I’m ever making so I wanted to get it right. Hope you like it.

Apple Pie


  • 6 ounces unsalted butter (cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
  • 2 ounces vegetable shortening (cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
  • 5 to 7 tablespoons applejack or apple brandy (calvados)
  • 12 ounces all-purpose flour (plus extra for dusting)
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar


  • 4 1/2 pounds of peeled and seeded apples from a mix of Granny Smith (Honeycrisp, Braeburn and Golden Delicious, about 8 large apples)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (divided)
  • 3 tablespoons tapioca flour
  • 2 tablespoons apple jelly
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon grains of paradise (freshly ground (see note))


  1. Refrigerate the butter, shortening and applejack for 1 hour.
  2. Combine the flour, salt and sugar in your food processor by pulsing 3 or 4 times. Add the butter and pulse 5 or 6 times, until the texture looks mealy. Add the shortening and pulse another 3 or 4 times, until incorporated.
  3. Pop off the lid and sprinkle in 5 tablespoons of the applejack. Replace the lid and pulse 5 times. Add more applejack as needed until the mixture holds together when squeezed. Weigh the dough and divide it in half. Shape each half into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.


  1. Peel and core the apples and slice into 1/2-inch-thick wedges). Toss apples with 1/4 cup of the sugar, place in a colander set over a large bowl, and drain for 1 1/2 hours.
  2. Transfer the drained liquid to a small saucepan, place over medium heat and cook until it is reduced down to a mere 2 tablespoons then set aside to cool. Toss the apples with the remaining sugar, the tapioca flour, jelly, cider, lime juice, salt and grains of paradise.
  3. Heat oven to 425 degrees F.
  4. Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator. Place the dough on a lightly floured piece of waxed paper or parchment paper. Lightly sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and roll out into a 12-inch circle. Place in a 9 1/2- to 10-inch tart pan that is 2 inches deep. Gently press the dough into the side of the pan, crimping and trimming the edges as necessary. Set a pie bird in the center of the bottom of the pan. (If you’ve got one it really will help to vent steam out of the pie. If you don’t have one, you can skip it but…your pie won’t be quite as solid inside.)
  5. Arrange the apples in the unbaked pie shell in concentric circles starting around the edges, working toward the middle and forming a slight mound in the center of the pie. Pour any liquid that remains in the bowl over the apples.
  6. Roll out the second disk of dough as the first. Place this dough over the apples, pressing the pie bird through the top crust. Press together the edges of the dough around the rim of the pie. Brush the top crust with the reduced juice everywhere except around the rim of the pie. Trim off any excess dough.
  7. Place the pie on a half sheet plan lined with parchment paper and bake on the floor of the oven for 30 minutes. Transfer to the lower rack of the oven and continue to bake for another 20 minutes, or until the apples are cooked through by not mushy. Remove to a rack and cool at least 4 hours before serving. And by the way, ice cream won’t really improve this pie, but whipped cream is OK by me.

Grains of Paradise are the seeds of an herb in the ginger family and although their flavor is black peppery and they can be ground in a pepper grinder, there is a lot more spiciness going on in grains of paradise as well as citrus and a bit of nuttiness…complex stuff. I find it works miracles with apples. You probably can’t get it at your local megamart, but most good online spice shops do sell it. Well worth a try.

Alton Brown's Apple Pie Recipe


Add yours
  1. 1
    Vonnie Armstrong

    I made this wonderful pie this year. It was a fabulous success! I used mixture of 5 Granny Smiths and 3 Honeycrisp. Have been told every year my contributions to dinner is THIS Apple Pie. Thank you Alton!

  2. 2

    Intrigued, so I used this recipe for Thanksgiving this year. Turned out wonderful and I loved the taste. I agree with the previous comment that compared it to beers and tasting the different “notes.” The various apple varieties really do come through and the minimal spicing — sans the usual cinnamon and nutmeg — really let the various apple flavors come through. A few comments: Couldn’t find any Grains of Paradise, so substituted a 50/50 mixture of ground cardamom and ground black pepper. Used a ceramic pie dish as I wasn’t able to find a large enough tart pan. Worked fine and I did do the first 30 minutes on the floor of the oven. The pie dish survived but the parchment paper was toast (is it really necessary?). Cut the 20 minutes on the bottom rack short 10 minutes or so because the edges of the crust were beginning to blacken. Everything seemed well cooked and didn’t seem to suffer from cutting the time short. Based on some of the comments I’ve read here and my experience, I think the next time I’ll just start on the bottom rack and bake for a total of 40-45 minutes. I really liked this pie and had fun baking it with my 13 year-old daughter…but I agree with previous comments; it is somewhat time consuming and laborious (but isn’t that part of the fun?).

  3. 3

    The pie is perfection. Grains of Paradise were a unique experience which made this pie the new go-to apple pie. Use the tart pan as directed to avoid obvious issues of glass blowing up.

  4. 4

    Warning: DO NOT use a glass pie plate in the bottom of the oven… my pies severely burned and the pie plates exploded. Glass everywhere! What a disaster…

  5. 5
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