The problem is, when you search for apple pie recipes online, you'll get more than 9 million results. So the food experts at Rodale have narrowed your choices down to one fabulous recipe for homemade apple pie anyone can make from scratch. (Too narrow? Peruse the advice in this article then check the Rodale Recipe Finder for more apple pie options.) To ensure your success, we asked Nichols for her most important apple pie tips.
Use these practical apple pie tips and our easy apple pie recipe to create a delicious organic apple pie.
• Pick the best apples. "It's about the apples and the crust," says Nichols. "Apple pie is actually simple to make, but it's all about the ingredients. You need to use the right type of apples."
Varieties good for pie baking include McIntosh, Granny Smith, Northern Spy, and Roman Beauty. Try a taste test if you're not sure. "Use a slightly tart apple, one that has some body so it will stay stable and compact during the baking," says Nichols. While Red Delicious apples are good for eating, they turn too mushy in pies.
Choose varieties that were grown with organic methods for pesticide-free flavor and a lower carbon footprint. If you want to grow organic apples at home, perfect apple pie apples with resistance to top apple diseases include Gold Rush and Enterprise varieties.
• Prep the apples for perfect pie. When you pick your apples, they don't have to look perfect—you can cut out blemishes, and don't worry if they're oddly shaped. It is important, though, to make sure the apples are firm when you squeeze them.
You can cut the apples with an old-fashioned peeler, or do it by hand using a knife. But be careful not to slice the pieces too small. In fact, after you peel, core, and slice the apple, you can halve some of the slices, and leave some slices intact. "And you don't have to peel the apples, especially if they are good, organic apples," says Nichols.
• Create a mouthwatering crust. Some people love the combo of lard and butter in the crust, but for Nichols, all-butter is best. "My personal preference is to only use butter because I think it tastes better. I don't use lard or shortening," she says.
The secret to creating a good apple pie crust is to not overwork it. And the good news is, these days it's easy to prepare the crust using a food processor. Make sure you cut up butter into smaller squares before putting it into the processor, and just hit the pulse button lightly to avoid overworking the crust. "It has to look crumbly when you're pulsing the flour and butter, with a large, uneven, breadcrumb texture," explains Nichols. "When it's in the crumbly state, that's when you add the liquid to it."
• Roll it right. When you're ready to roll the pie crust out, less is more. "The more you work it, the tougher it gets. Minimize the amount of working the dough," says Nichols. Always roll in the same direction; when you change directions, it can toughen the dough.
Read on for Nichol's favorite (organic) homemade apple pie recipe:
Double-Crust Apple Pie
Filling Ingredients (all organic):
11 cups of your apple of choice, peeled (optional), cored, and thinly sliced (approximately 3½ pounds of apples)
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
1 tablespoon whole milk
In a large bowl, stir all apples, ¾ cup sugar, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Let mixture stand for approximately 15 minutes until juices form. Then, mix in flour. Once this mixture has been added to the pie dish on top of the bottom piecrust, dot it with the 3 tablespoons of diced butter before applying the top crust and sealing the pie for baking.
(Makes two pie disks for one double-crust apple pie)
2/3 cup unsalted butter
1¾ cups all-purpose pastry flour
7 teaspoons sugar, plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk
3¾ tablespoons iced water
1 large pinch ground cinnamon
Process the flour, salt, sugar, and butter in a food processor, using the pulse setting, until it forms a crumbly consistency. Beat the egg yolk and water together; using the feed tube, gradually drizzle in the egg yolk and water until the mixture begins to form a ball. Do not overwork the dough. Remove all of the dough from the food processor, gather into a ball, and divide in half. Flatten into two disks, wrap each in parchment paper or plastic wrap, and chill disks in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
To assemble the pie, roll out the bottom disk on a lightly floured surface until it is approximately 12 inches in diameter, and place in a greased pie dish (spray it with baking spray or coat it with a little butter). Mound in your filling, and dot it with butter as mentioned above. Then roll out the second disk to approximately 13 inches in diameter, and place on top of the pie. Pinch the edges of the top and bottom crust together with your fingers, trim to about a ½-inch overhang, then fold and crimp the pie edges. Slit some steam holes in the top crust, brush the top with milk, combine the 1 tablespoon sugar with a pinch of cinnamon, and sprinkle the crust with it.
Put your pie on a baking sheet and into the oven. Turn the temperature down to 375 degrees. Bake for approximately two hours, or until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling with a thick, syrupy texture. During the baking process, you may notice your piecrust edges getting darker than you'd like. To prevent them burning, place foil around the edges.
Let the pie cool for at least 30 minutes before eating, to prevent burns. If you place it on a windowsill to cool, be aware that it may be stolen by a passing hobo or a group of kids on their way to the fishin' hole.