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. 1

    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.

  2. 2

    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.

  3. 4

    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.

    • 5

      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.

  4. 6

    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.

  5. 7

    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?

  6. 9

    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!

  7. 10
    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.

  8. 16

    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.

  9. 17

    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?

  10. 18

    Those having trouble finding grains of paradise should try their local home brew store. That’s where I found mine. I would also recommend increasing the amount of crust dough by 50-100%. On a 11″ tart pan (even one with only 1-1/8″ high sides), I did not have adequate crust coverage. Mine will turn out closer to a gallette. Cooling now. Good color. Will advise this evening on taste.

  11. 19

    Its the loving time spent placing the apples my son appreciates most about the pie. Each slice is uniquely beautiful. You want to study the apple layers and shades of color. Each bite is delicious drawing you back for another.

  12. 20

    This pie has a strong and complex flavor, although I did add a little extra of grains of paradise. I’d say this is a great pie for beer drinkers who like to try different beers. It gives the same experience when dissecting the flavors. Its initial taste is different from mid taste to after taste. I worked very hard to make the pie just as is and I was well rewarded.

    The only problem I had with the recipe is placing the pie on the bottom of the oven. My bake setting must be different, or the way the bottom heating element is used on the bake setting, but 7 minutes in on the bottom of the oven placement brought smoke billowing from the oven. My parchment paper was reduced to ash, but luckily the bottom of the crust had not been overheated yet.

    I replaced the parchment paper on the baking sheet and continued on the bottom rack for the remainder of the 50 minutes. It had the same golden to dark brown highlights like the pictures shown above. My apples were soft and you could pick out the different apples with each bite. All the crust is delicious and tastes of apple as well.

    Well worth the effort! but make sure you start early! It’s at least 7 hours from cutting the apples to eating the pie!

    • 21

      I reread my comment and it seems like I didn’t like the pie that much. I have to correct that it is my favorite pie! I think anyone would love it, not just beer drinkers.

  13. 23

    “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!”

    I’m sorry AB, but I have to disagree. Blueberries are also new world and blueberry pie doesn’t call for nearly as many spices (all of which are non-native), so the ratio of new world ingredients to non is much higher in the blueberry than the pumpkin.

    Besides, I’m pretty sure that you already declared blueberry pie to be more American than apple pie in the Good Eats episode, “Kinda Blue (Blueberry)”.

  14. 26
    Matt W

    Alton I love Ya, but…
    I just did not enjoy this pie. I made it a few years ago. I was very excited about making it, but the flavor just isn’t my cup of tea. At the time you stated you thought that GOP was going to become the next spice craze, but I’ve never heard of anything else it’s used with. Do you have some other recipes to share that uses it?
    I will always be you fan.

  15. 27

    I have tried this a couple times and don’t feel like i get much flavor from the GOP. I purchased online from a big retailer, and grind fresh before adding. Any thoughts… I know it won’t be cinnamon/nutmeggy but i really don’t feel like it adds anything other than black flecks.

  16. 28

    I’m a pastry cook and I’m very excited to try this recipe out! Couple of things I’ve learned from this recipe. You’ve been a culinary inspiration to me since I was watching your show in my cooking class in 6th grade! Wish I could watch you make this and explain all the scientific reasoning!

    • 29

      He made it on one of his Good Eats episodes.. Wish I could tell you wich episode and season it was on, but Google it and I’m sure it will come up. I’ve made it before and seriously has ruined all other apple pies for me! This is the best apple pie recipe ever!!

  17. 30

    I have never cared for apple pie since I dislike the apple/cinnamon/sickly sweet brown sugar combo for whatever reason. You’ve gone on and inspired me to give apple pie a second chance with this recipe. I am intrigued.

  18. 31

    Best apple pie I ever had was from the Apple Pie Bakery at the CIA. Always tried to figure out the secret recipe and this sounds very much like it could be it.

    • 35

      Thank you! I was wondering if I was going to have to order online but we do have a nicely stocked homebrew store in town so I will try there first!

      • 42

        I am allergic to cinnamon too! I only know a small handful of others with this allergy. I have discovered that it is not the real turkish cinnamon that I am allergic to, but rather cassia which is sold under the name cinnamon here in the states.

    • 43

      In his Good Eats episode he explains why he leaves out the spices… I’ll sum it for you tho, the cinnamin and brown sugar takes away from the flavors you get from using 4 different apples. Besides it’s called apple pie, not apple spice goop in a pan! Try it before you start hating…

      • 44

        Well said, Louis.

        I’ve made the recipe exactly and it was awesome, but I missed the cinnamon (my second favorite spice behind black pepper), so I add a light sprinkle anyway. But do try the recipe as is before tinkering with adjustments, it really is great.

  19. 45

    I tried to make the pie 3 times and each time the crust breaks when I try to push the bottom up. Should I butter the sides before putting in the crust?

    • 46

      If the crust is breaking, it sounds like your crust is too dry. You might want to add a spritz or two of water to your dough and make sure you let it rest so the starches can hydrate before rolling out.

  20. 47

    I’m always glad to find another use for my little stash of grains of paradise. (Was AB the one who taught me about them? Probably, but I’ve been too busy enjoying mulled cider with them to remember my original source of inspiration.)

  21. 50

    I haven’t tried it yet but sounds interesting. One thing I found that makes the apples in the pie taste a lot better is to cut them into cubes instead of slices. I’ve always found when eating pie with the apples in slices the slices end up being chewy and you kind of choke them down. Maybe if you see this, try it, I’d love to know if you think it makes a difference.

    • 52

      Any apple trees that were found by the settlers at Jamestown were likely planted by the Viking explorers that ACTUALLY discovered the new world

    • 53

      They were planted by settlers right from the start, apples were already well established in Europe in Roman times. Though early settlers might have been describing crab apples, which are (also) native to North America, or another native fruit that looked like apple, as the word was sometimes used for tree fruits in general.

  22. 54

    This sounds and looks magnificent! I can’t wait to try it! I have come to rely on your techniques more than any recipes and this one teaches me some things I did not know: pie bird, grains of paradise, reducing the liquid to brush on top, and baking directly on the floor of the oven. I wish I could hear your scientific explanation for that one!

    • 56

      Having made the pie myself, I would guess that the right amount is 4.5 pounds. I use closer to 5 pounds (about 9 apples) in my pies using this recipe, and it still doesn’t look “piled high” after having been cooked. If you look at the Food Network website’s version of this recipe, the comments often mention that 3 to 3.5 pounds of apples was insufficient. My guess is that Alton has more control over editing this version of the recipe (it being his own website) and, as such, can edit as he receives feedback if he so chooses.

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