This Apple Pie from Scratch is perfect for Thanksgiving and fall baking! The apple pie is chock full of beautifully spiced apples and has a wonderfully flaky, flavorful double-crust using chef techniques I'm sharing with you!
Well, heller there.
It's November, and I have some serious ants in my pants. It's the full-on holiday season; the full-on 'cook everything comforting' season.
It's Friendsgiving season, Thanksgiving season, about to be CHRISTMAS. Oh my goodness. The year flew on by, huh?
Before we get to peppermint hot chocolate and baking Christmas cookies, let's set down for a second and get ready for Thanksgiving.
In D.C., Brian and I used to go apple picking (when Greyson was teeny tiny!) and we'd get so many apples, it was ridiculous! I made a ton of apple butter, and always sent them with Brian to work as gifts for the nurses, and one year we had Brian's friends from work over for Thanksgiving. Their families weren't with them (military life, you know?) so we wanted to share a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner. Not only did I make a ton of sweet potato pie, but also a ton of apple pie. It was all GONE in a matter of minutes.
That may or may not have been because apple pie is Brian's all-time favorite dessert. It was hard to take these photos because I had to plan this and shoot it before Brian came home from work. And sure enough, more than half the pie was gone before the end of the evening.
Let's talk about the ins and outs of a really good apple pie.
How to Make Perfect Apple Pie from Scratch
First, the apples.
If you've never baked with apples, please, I'm begging you, don't go thinking any ole apple type will do. Some apples just aren't made for baking or cooking. That Red Delicious and McIntosh? It'll turn into a mushy, soupy mess in your pie. Don't do it!
You're looking for apples that are great for baking and don't lose their shape or texture while cooking and baking: Granny Smith apples are popular and bring a very tart taste, and often people will mix them with sweeter apples like Gala or Fuji, but I like using Honeycrisp, since they are sweet but still got that tartness needed to balance out the sugars in your apple pie. Pink Lady apples are my all-time favorite, but they are only around for a month or so in the fall and aren't easily available.
Should I cook my apples before making an apple pie?
Yes! Precook your apples before baking the apple pie. Why?
You ever see a sad apple pie? One with that huge gap between the apples and crust? Or maybe the crust has collapsed into the pie in the middle because it had no support?
Or worse: The one that's falling apart and dripping wet? A soggy, soppy apple pie. That's what precooking the apples avoid.
Pre-cook your apples so you have a made ahead filling!
Precooking the apples releases a lot of the liquid in them, letting them slump and get a little tender. Since the apples are cooked down prior to baking (and are already a tiny bit softened) you don't end up with soggy pie and instead, have that beautiful top-to-bottom apple filling that is the perfect consistency.
Saute your apples with the spices and the butter and let it get set up in your fridge for up to 3 days. You can even freeze the apple pie filling if you're making it well in advance. Simply thaw it the day before you plan on baking it.
This technique makes this from scratch apple pie recipe perfect for make-ahead holiday baking!
The pie crust.
Flaky, flavorful, and darn-good pie crust comes from this little secret: mixing the fats. It's all about the fats in your crust, y'all. Fats are what make the pie crust. And a fat combo is what makes a great pie crust.
There's always a debate about what exact fat makes the best crust. Shortening was the end-all, be-all back during our grandmothers' time in the '50s and '60s but it lacks flavor. Butter is fantastic; it gives great flavor, browns beautifully, and aids in making your pie crust super flaky.
A butter-shortening crust is well-loved around here and I use it all the time when I don't have any...lard.
That's right. Lard.
Boom! The Lard Bomb.
Okay, that doesn't sound good at all, hahaha.
Leaf-lard can be uncommon in grocery stores (though I have found it at farmers' markets and even on amazon!), but it creates the ultimate flaky crust, and with butter, it gives the ultimate-ultimate crust in both flakiness and flavor, it's the G.O.A.T. for pie, in my opinion. That's 'Greatest Of All Time'.
Yeah, I just learned what that was a couple of days ago. Man, this next generation has me feeling old! And I'm only in my twenties!
Want more Thanksgiving recipes? Check out the Thanksgiving archives!
Lard melts at a higher temperature than butter, which helps keep the crust flaky as it bakes, just like shortening. Except lard has better flavor than shortening. You can't argue with me on that.
We also use butter in this recipe because you cannot beat butter in a pie crust! Butter is part fat, part water. The steam from the water evaporating in the crust puffs up the layers that are made by the fats, which is why I love combining both leaf-lard and butter.
If you've never tried combining leaf-lard and butter in pie crust, use this recipe and you'll see the difference!
Is apple pie really apple pie if there are no spices? No cinnamon? No nutmeg? A splash of vanilla?
I thought not.
I not only add those classic spices -cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla- but I also add lemon zest and lemon juice. Whenever I make something that's decadent and rich, like alfredo sauce, or very sweet like pies, I love adding lemon zest and juice to brighten and lighten it up so that our apple pie isn't cloyingly sweet.
Other great spices to add to your pie are allspice, cardamom, cloves, etc. Even orange zest and a squeeze of fresh orange juice are great in apple pie!
This apple pie is perfect for fall baking and especially for Thanksgiving. I know that Thanksgiving Day is always such a busy day, so being able to prep pie filling and pie crusts days in advance is well appreciated.
Your future self will thank you!
Looking for more delicious autumn desserts? Check out:
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- 2 ½ cups (350 g) all-purpose flour, + more for work surface
- 1 ¼ tsp (10 g) kosher salt
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter (112 g), chilled and cubed
- ½ cup (105 g) leaf-lard or vegetable shortening, chilled
- 5-7 tbsp (4-104 mL) ice water
- 4 tbsp (57 g) unsalted butter
- ½ cup (96 g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (96 g) brown sugar
- 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
- 2 tsp (7 g) cinnamon, ground
- ¼ tsp (1 g) nutmeg, ground
- ½ tsp (2 g) ginger, ground
- 1 tsp (4 g) lemon zest
- 1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon juice
- 3 tbsp (23 g) all-purpose flour
- 4 lbs apples, peeled, chopped into ¼ inch slices
- 2 tbsp (15 g) cornstarch
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) apple cider*
- 1 large egg
- 1 tbsp (15 mL) cream or milk
- 2 tbsp (24 g) turbinado sugar
Make the Crust
- In a large bowl, whisk together kosher salt and all-purpose flour. Add the eight tablespoons of butter and the leaf-lard or shortening.
- With a pastry cutter or a fork and knife, cut the fats and flour together until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Most of the fat should be the size of sweet peas, and larger sized bits of fat are encouraged.
- Using a tablespoon measuring spoon, pour one tablespoon of ice water at a time in and stir with a large rubber spatula. Stir after each addition of water. Stop adding water when the dough begins to clump together.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. It should be slightly, slightly tacky and come together easily. Form the dough into a ball, then divide it into two halves. Flatten each half into 1 inch thick discs. Wrap each dough disc tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour (but they can stay in the fridge for up to 3 days).
Make the Filling
- In a large pot over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Stir in both sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, lemon zest and juice, and flour. Add apples and toss with a wooden spoon.
- Cover pot and cook the apples, stirring occasionally, making sure the sugar doesn't burn and the liquid is bubbling. The apples should begin to soften in 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and apple cider. Pour into the apple mixture and turn the temperature to low. Let cook for another 5 minutes, or until apples have softened and become a little tender.
- Let apple filling cool for one hour to overnight before assembling apple pie.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C; gas mark 5).
- Remove one pie crust disk from the fridge, unwrap it, and place it on a work surface. Roll out the disk from the center outward, lifting crust slightly and rotating it 90 degrees after every few rolls. Lift and dust underside with flour every so often to prevent the pie crust from sticking. Roll dough out to be about 11 to 12 inches, and about ⅛" thick.
- With your rolling pin, roll pie crust off the work surface to loosely wrap around the pin and carefully it roll out into the pie dish. Trim the edges to ½ inch beyond the lip of your pie dish, then turn the edge under to create the rim. Press the rim against the pan to form an even edge. Use scraps to fill in any tears, thin spots, or holes in the pie crust. Refrigerate the pie crust for 15 minutes to chill the fats.
- Remove the crust from the fridge and cover the crust with a large piece of parchment paper. Fill the parchment paper with dried beans or pie weights, then cover the edges with strips of aluminum foil to prevent browning. Bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove the parchment paper and pie weights and bake for 15 more minutes. This is pre-baking the crust so it won't be soggy once your apple pie is fully baked. Let it cool for 10-15 minutes.
- Raise oven temperature to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C; gas mark 7).
- While baked crust is cooling, roll out the second pie crust on a floured work surface.
- Add the apple filling to the pie dish, making sure to compact the apples into the crust in the pie dish, as air pockets will cause a gap in between the apples and the top crust. Place the rolled out second crust over the top, then crimp the edges with your fingers to seal the top crust to the bottom.
- Whisk the egg and cream together in a small bowl, then brush that egg wash over the crust. Sprinkle turbinado sugar over the crust as well. Using a sharp knife, cut some slits into the top crust to give the steam a place to escape.
- Place pie on a baking sheet to ensure any bubbling filling doesn't burn onto your oven, then put in the oven on the middle shelf. Bake the pie for 15 minutes, then reduce heat back to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C; gas mark 5) and continue to bake for 40 minutes. The top should be golden brown and the filling bubbly.
- Let apple pie cool completely (2-3 hours) before serving to let the filling set up. Serve with vanilla ice cream.
*If you don't have apple cider, apple juice or even water works well for its purpose.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 544Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 59mgSodium: 157mgCarbohydrates: 89gFiber: 6gSugar: 28gProtein: 9g
Eden Westbrook is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Sweet Tea and Thyme. A classically trained chef, Eden has inspired home cooks into the kitchen with cultural comfort foods, easy family-friendly eats and sweets, and glorious spreads for date night and entertaining since 2015.