Pointers for Perfect Apple Pie

Apple pieIt's a fall ritual...stocking up on crisp, juicy new apples at an orchard, the farmer's market, or even the supermarket. In addition to classic varieties like McIntosh and Delicious, this is the time of year when you can find unusual ones like Northern Spy, Smokehouse, Late Strawberry, and Winter Banana. And while there's nothing better, at least in my humble opinion, than biting into an in-season sweet and tart variety, inevitably the novelty wears off and you're left with a bushel, or at least a basket, that needs to be used up. That's when your thoughts turn to pie. And I'm here to help.

1. Choose types of apples that while juicy and delicious, hold their shape. Out of season I usually recommend Golden Delicious and Granny Smith that are available all year round. But this month, why not try Cortland, Jonagold, Pippin, or Winesap?

Related: Simply Delicious Apple Recipes

2. For your crust, use mostly butter for flakiness and a small proportion of Crisco for tenderness. I like to use my fingertips to cut the fats into the flour but if you're not comfortable with hands-on dough blending, see our picks for the best pastry blenders. Don't stress if the pieces of fat-covered flour aren't uniform in size...better to have some big nuggets than to overwork the ingredients. Stir in the water slowly, stopping as soon as the mixture sticks together.

3. Go sparingly on the flour as you roll out the dough--too much, and the crust will be dry and fall apart. Scatter just enough so that the dough doesn't stick to the rolling pin or rolling surface as you work.

Related: 5 Perfect Pie Recipes

4. Turning out a pie with a crisp bottom crust is one of the trickiest tasks in baking. At least at the beginning, place your pie on a lower oven rack. Then move it up to a higher rack if the top isn't browning. Don't serve your pie straight from the oven. Allowing the filling to set helps keep the juices from running out and turning the bottom crust into an unappetizing soggy mess.

5. True confession: Sometime I skip the bottom crust altogether. On top I use a thicker dough that's a cross between a pie and a cobbler--in fact I use the crust recipe in our own Deep-Dish Peach and Berry Pie, substituting sugared, floured apples for the summer fruits. Personally, I don't like cinnamon or nutmeg in my apple pie..I think it detracts from the apple flavor.

If you need new equipment, be sure to see our story on best-tested pie making tools. When you're pressed for time, try one of our top rated readymade pie crusts.

Need help forming a decorative edge? We have a video to show you how.

As far as recipes go, you can't miss with our test kitchen's deep-dish apple pie.

What tips do you have for making the perfect pie? Let me know in the comments!

-By Sharon Franke

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