Every fall for the past four years, my husband and I have gone apple picking. And each year the first culinary priority is a proper apple pie.
With apologies to salted caramel and brown butter, I like my apple pie plain and simple. Sounds straighforward enough, but it’s taken me a few tries to get this apple pie right to where I like it. I like lots of apples — lightly and classically spiced, tender but not mushy, sliced and not chunky, and not too sweet.
Normally with fruit pies I spring for a fun lattice top; but this time around, inspired by a photo I saw from dessert artist Linda Lomelino, I decided to gild the lily with a cinnamon roll crust. I used my favorite partially whole grain, all butter crust, but this technique should work with your crust of choice.
A few notes:
- Although I’ve written out this recipe as if I were doing this in one day, my current pie procedure is a 2-day process. This is mostly because the scheduling is easier for me (having an active kiddy-kins makes it hard to do all at once), but I actually think my crusts have turned out better with the extra chilling and relaxing. Here’s my process: the night before baking, I roll out my crusts. I line the pie plate with the bottom one. I roll out the top one onto a piece of parchment and transfer that parchment to a sheet pan. I also peel and slice the apples and start the maceration process. Then I wrap everything in plastic and chill in the fridge overnight.
- The cinnamon roll crust is quite easy to put together, but it can get soft with the extra handling and rolling. Just stick it in the fridge if it starts feeling soft at any point.
- My pie plate is on the deep side so this is the right amount of apples for me. If you have extra, just cook them on the stovetop and add to your oatmeal; or sprinkle some granola on top for a tasty snack! Or make a baby pie using your dough scraps!
Apple Pie with a Cinnamon Roll Crust
Makes one 9-inch pie
- One recipe of your favorite 9-inch double pie crust, divided in 2 (this is mine)
- 1.5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 50g / 1/4 c granulated sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon
- 3.5 lbs apples (about 6-8 medium-sized), peeled and thinly sliced (I like a combination of tart and sweet apples such as Gala, Northern Spy, Mutsu, and Cortland)
- Juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon
- 50g / 1/4 c dark brown sugar
- 50g / 1/4 c granulated sugar
- A couple handfuls of coarse sugar
- 2 Tbsp tapioca flour
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- A few gratings of fresh nutmeg
- 1/4 t allspice
- 1/2 t coarse kosher salt
- A few dashes of Angostura bitters, optional
- 1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp cream or milk and a pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp coarse or pearl sugar
- Combine the sliced apples with the lemon juice, dark brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Allow to macerate for at least one hour at room temperature (or up to overnight in the fridge).
- Roll out the bottom half of your pie crust and transfer to a greased pie plate. Trim the edges, leaving a 1/2 to 1 inch border all around. Cover with plastic wrap and chill while preparing the rest of your pie.
- Drain the macerated apples into a colander set over a small saucepan to catch the juices. Bring the juices to a boil over medium heat and cook until reduced by half, stirring occasionally. It should be thick and syrupy. Set aside to cool.
- Roll out your top crust into a 12 inch round. Brush the melted butter evenly over the whole surface and sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture on top. Gently but tightly roll up the pastry into a log. (If the pastry is soft at this point, transfer to the fridge for a few minutes to firm up before proceeding.) Using a serrated knife, trim off the ends and cut the pastry into 1/2″ slices. On a piece of lightly floured parchment paper or Silpat, arrange the remaining slices into a tight circle. The slices should be touching but not overlapping. Gently roll out into a 10-inch circle (or large enough to fit your pie plate — it should be about 1/8-1/4″ thick). Transfer the parchment with your crust to a sheet pan and refrigerate while you prepare the rest of the pie.
- Combine the spices, salt, lemon zest, and tapioca flour in a large bowl. Add the drained apples and stir to coat evenly. Add bitters if using, and stir again to combine.
- Remove the pie plate from the fridge. Scatter a handful of coarse sugar over the bottom of the crust. Arrange the apple slices inside, trying to pack them in as tightly as possible and mounding slightly in the center. (I find if you take the time to layer the apples neatly and carefully with no big gaps, you won’t have the problem of a big gap between the filling and the top crust. It’s worth the extra few minutes.) Drizzle the reduced juices and scatter another handful of coarse sugar over the apples.
- Invert the cinnamon roll crust over the top and gently peel off the parchment / Silpat. Trim the top crust and crimp the edges with a fork to seal. It’s ok if there is a little separation of the rolls — they will serve as your steam vents. Chill the entire pie until the pastry is firm, at least 20 minutes.
- While the pie is chilling, preheat the oven to 425F with racks in the middle and bottom and a baking sheet on the bottom rack. Prepare the egg wash by whisking the egg and cream/milk together.
- When you are ready to bake, gently brush the egg wash all over the surface of the pie, followed with a generous handful of coarse or pearl sugar. Transfer to the bottom rack of the oven, on the preheated baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Turn down the oven to 375F, rotate and move the pie on its baking sheet to the middle rack, and bake another 30-45 minutes or until the crust is a deep golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Allow to cool on a wire rack for at least 3 hours before slicing.
I couldn’t resist making a lil’ baby pie with the scraps…