The Apple Pie

The Apple Pie


Everyone and their grandma has an apple pie recipe, but this one’s mine: A classic golden, flaky double-crust apple pie with sweet, velvety filling balanced with unique spices. 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, the seeds of an herb in the ginger family that can be procured at your preferred online spice shop. 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.

Oh, and you won’t want to use a glass baking dish for this — since we’re partially baking the pie on the bottom of the oven, glass cookware could (and probably will) explode.

This recipe first appeared in Season 11 of Good Eats.

Apple Pie

FOR THE CRUST

  • 12 tablespoons 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, such as calvados
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

FOR THE FILLING

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

THE CRUST

  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 until the texture looks mealy, 5 to 6 pulses. Add the shortening and pulse until incorporated, another 3 or 4 pulses.
  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.

THE FILLING

  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

78 Comments

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  1. 1
    Todd

    Penny, I have a quick question for you. I just happened to see your comment. Where in Ohio do you live because I don’t think that’s true. I have purchased Apple Jack a few times now & I live in the Cleveland/Akron area. I can’t find it in all state stores but in the state stores in Acme Grocery I have always found it there.

  2. 3
    SoniaO

    Alton, please don’t forget sweet potato pie, not just pumpkin pie as All American! Scientists have now determined through DNA that sweet potatoes originated from the Americas. BTW, I went to a lot of trouble to buy hard apple cider for this pie and the Grains of Paradise, both not easily available in Southern California. I still use your biscuit recipe, of course, using Lily’s flour, which is also not available in Southern California. You are amazing and generous with your knowledge and expertise, Alton. Forever grateful.

  3. 4
    K.

    This is by far my favorite apple pie recipe, though I don’t follow it exactly. It seems impossible to find apply jelly so I place all of the Apple cores and peels in a pan with a little water and a little apple cider and cook it on low while the apples are draining. Then I add the juice from the drained apples and turn the heat up to medium and reduce it down by half. I end up with an intensely apple flavored gel, it’s almost a jelly and it helps set the pie and adds great flavor. The other variation is I use a 9.5″ x 2″ glass pie plate atop a jelly roll pan and cook the pie on the lower oven rack (at the lowest position) for the whole baking time. Success every time and family and friends love it.

  4. 5
    penny

    I am in Ohio and Laird’s apple jack is not permitted to be sold in the state! What kind of apple jack did Alton Brown use for the apple pie crust? Where can it be purchased? In Kentucky, Laird’s apple jack is $40.00. Can it be bought more inexpensively since only 5 T are needed
    for the crust?

  5. 6
    Alexia

    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.

  6. 7
    Keelie

    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…

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