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
Serves 10
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  1. 6 ounces unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  2. 2 ounces vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  3. 5 to 7 tablespoons applejack or apple brandy (calvados)
  4. 12 ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  5. 1 teaspoon table salt
  6. 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  1. 4 1/2 pounds of peeled and seeded apples from a mix of Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Braeburn and Golden Delicious, about 8 large apples
  2. 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  3. 3 tablespoons tapioca flour
  4. 2 tablespoons apple jelly
  5. 1 tablespoon apple cider
  6. 2 teaspoons lime juice, freshly squeezed
  7. 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  8. 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.
  1. 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


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  1. 2

    Do not put this on the floor of your oven. It caused a major power surge and flipped a 100 A breaker, and took out half the power in my house… I do not have an exposed heating element either. Just put it on the lowest rack! I need a new oven 🙁

  2. 3
    Hugh V Tannenbaum

    Very important! The first time I made this pie, I had a shiny aluminum tart pan. I followed the recipe to the letter and after the four-hour cooling, i dropped the pan from the pie and the sidewalls had NOT been cooked through! Alton uses a dark pan. I saved the day by scooping out the insides into bowls, crumbled the top crust (which was perfectly done,) spread the crumbled crust over the bowls and called it an Apple Crumble!. It was delicious. The second time I made this pie, I blind-baked the crust first, spread a thin layer of the apple jelly on the bottom and proceeded to complete the pie as instructed. Total success! Great recipe. This year I was able to find a dark tart pan and it came out beautifully. That one I gave to my daughter for her Thanksgiving and I’m about to start the second pie to take with us to the Thanksgiving dinner we’re going to. This is not a quick process. Take your time and follow all the instructions and you’ll wind up with a delicious pie.

  3. 6

    While the pie bird sounds fun and interesting, I really like lattice work on fruit pies. Could I just use a pizza cutter to make strips out of the top pie crust and make a lattice work on top instead?

    Also, does anyone know if it is still tasty when served cold?

  4. 7
    Eric Olson

    You should be able to find apple jelly at any grocery store but if you can substitute with other jelly that you think pairs with apple. The jelly isn’t so much for flavor but do up the pectin to thicken the sauce

  5. 9

    @John Tape – I went for a mix of cinnamon, ginger, mace, and cardamom. There was a little spot that bubbled up through the crust, and the taste there came out really nice… strong apple component, with the ginger and cinnamon providing depth and the cardamom offered a bright note.

  6. 10

    I decided to finally try my hand at an apple pie since my husband has been gently nudging me about it for the last decade or so. I will admit up front I made the tragic, fatal mistake of not reading the full recipe first, so I ended up going with the standard Alton Brown pie crust (part lard, part butter), and tossed the apples in sugar to get the glaze and everything. I did have to deviate on the filling, because I couldn’t find apple jelly or grains of paradise, so I did my own thing with the spices (cinnamon, mace, ginger, and cardamom) and subbed the cider + lime juice with apple cider vinegar (since I take it the point was to add acidity and apple flavor). My husband has already been warned with the standard “I make no promises” that I give him on any new dish.

    Here’s my concern though… the temp of 425 already had the top crust burning, badly enough that it scared me into foiling the edge and dropping the temp down to 375 for the remaining 30 minutes. Has anyone else run into problems with the heat being too high? Or should I just have trusted St. Alton and his mighty Meg of the Nut? Just about very other apple pie recipe I looked at went for a lower temperature.

  7. 12
    John Tape

    Most of Alton’s recipes are great. But this one does not come up to his usual standards. In the first place, you should be warned do not try this pie unless you have plenty of time. This is not to be done quickly or easily. It is a significant amount of work. But that is OK. I don’t mind that if the end result is worth it. Secondly, 4.5 pounds of apples is a ridicules amount of apples for any normal pie–unless you are baking a pie for Goliath. Third, the pie is bland. 1/4 teaspoon of grains of paradise gets completely lost in 4.5 pounds of apples. The recipe is in some serious need of nutmeg or cinnamon to perk it up. After all the work necessary for this pie, it was disappointing. I won’t be making it again.

  8. 13

    Thanksgiving was so crazy I’m going to make this for Christmas along with other treats. I did eventually find the AppleJack Brandy at a Liquor Store close to my house and on a whim I looked at Krogers for the Apple Jelly because I was already there and they have it with the rest of their jams, jellies, and peanut type butters. I’m in Indy so Apple Butter has always been here and isn’t new, you can find it here anytime of year with all the jams, jellies, and flavored butters, it’s really good on hot biscuits. Just to tell you it’s not just apple, it’s apple with spices but not overwhelming, because I’m more of a plain Jane type person with food and it’s really good.

  9. 14

    Made this for Thanksgiving this year. I already use Grains of Paradise in my meat rubs for the smoker, so had plenty on hand. The Apple jelly on the other hand is impossible to find. I guess next year I’ll have to plan ahead and make my own, but I did find something called Apple Butter at the health food store – it’s just condensed apple cider reduced to peanut butter consistency. It worked just fine as a substitute. Took the advise of a comment here and made half again more of the dough recipe and glad I did, only had a tiny bit left over in the end. Here’s my issue though – because the crust has pretty much zero gluten from using Apple Jack, when I carefully dropped the outer pan ring and put the pie on a serving plate it fell apart. The crust is super light and flaky – almost cookie like, and has no strength. I have no idea how they got the one in the picture to hold up like that. Tasted awesome though, and I’ll be making it again.

  10. 16

    So I live in Indy, Indianapolis to be more specific and there are no “local homebrew stores” to find the Grains of Paradise, so should I just look online, I’m not a pepper fan, I actually hate it, but for this I was going to at least try it. I can’t find Apple jelly or even the AppleJack Brandy, anyone have any ideas? This is also my first pie, I really want to learn and do more pastry, but have no idea where to begin, I’m going to school for Drawing and Illustration now which I love, I’m just conflicted.

    • 17

      Hii I️ made this pie and it’s delicious. I️ didn’t use apple jelly I️ couldn’t find it either so I️ subbed apple sauce instead. I️ found grains of paradise on Amazon but also used cinnamon as a sub once and it was just fine. The main thing is to use the variety of apples Alton recommends and you’ll create a delicious pie.

  11. 18

    I have made this pie several times and always keep it on the bottom rack the whole time. Results are perfect.
    Re: apple jelly–Stop & Shop sells its own brand.

  12. 19

    My oven has a heating element on the bottom. Do I just put the pie on the lowest rack? Or is there a trick to pouring it on the bottom?

  13. 21

    Alton Brown could give me a recipe for shoe leather and chocolate and I’m sure it would come out awesome! My grandmother has be gone for many years now and she made the best apple pie. Ever. Period. Sadly, not one single person can replicate her fall classic! This is a very nice substitute! Long live Alton!

  14. 22
    Carey A

    Does anyone know if you could use the apple cider in the crust instead of the applejack or apple brandy? My husband is extremely allergic to alcohol (as in causes seizures), I just get nervous even putting any in a recipe unless I am positive the alcohol cooks completely out which I don’t know if it does in a pie crust.

  15. 28

    I’m about to try this recipe mostly because I”m intrigued by a new spice I’ve never heard of. GOP! The GOP tastes peppery to me but I’ll hold out my final opinion until i get to taste it in this pie and not from the palm of my hand like a salt lick.

  16. 29

    I’ve come across this recipe several times and it looks amazing. But I’m not sure I want to live in a world with apple pies not improved by ice cream. Apple pie and ice cream goes together like peas and carrots, Starkey and Hutch, Michelle and Barack. Is nothing sacred?

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