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I was watching 'MasterChef' and noticed that the two final four contestants were sauteeing their apples in a pan for a bit before putting it in to the pie crust, topping it and popping in to the oven to bake.

When my wife and I make apple pie, we do *not* do this. Am I missing a key step to apple pie perfection? Why would you saute the apples before baking?

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To get some of the water out so the crust won't be quite so soggy on the bottom. A hot filling also makes the whole pie cook more quickly.

Makes sense, but our crust never gets too soggy. Guess we're just lucky. I thought maybe it had to do with settling the apples in the pie itself (so maybe you fit more in without oozing out over?).

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One of the key reasons Cooks Illustrated gave for precooking the apples was to prevent the top crust from setting on apples that will cook down and leave a large gap between crust and filling when cut. I've tried this method and quite like it myself.

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One of the key reasons Cooks Illustrated gave for precooking the apples was to prevent the top crust from setting on apples that will cook down and leave a large gap between crust and filling when cut. I've tried this method and quite like it myself.

Yeah makes sense....But that doesn't really bother me that much. I was more curious than anything.

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So, I may or may not have to make an apple pie. There is is no shortage of recipes around, but I figured I'd also check here and see if any of my trusted advisers -- yes, I think of you all as my "kitchen cabinet" -- had any tips, twists or favorites to offer up (particularly regarding crust). Not looking to win the blue ribbon at the county fair, just want set out a stand out pie.

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So, I may or may not have to make an apple pie. There is is no shortage of recipes around, but I figured I'd also check here and see if any of my trusted advisers -- yes, I think of you all as my "kitchen cabinet" -- had any tips, twists or favorites to offer up (particularly regarding crust). Not looking to win the blue ribbon at the county fair, just want set out a stand out pie.

It is well known that lard makes the best crust. If you're not serving lipophobes, Bruce at the Westover Market butcher shop makes leaf lard (kidney fat) from ostensibly local and humanely raised cattle. Using this will result in a fantastic crust. Keep everything very cold when working the fat into the flour. Don't overmix. Pastry is not too difficult.

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No good advice on pie crust, but just that some of the best fruit pies I've made in the recent past have utilized a technique I'd read about and seen on Cook's Country: pan sauteeing the fruit in butter prior to filling the crust and baking the pie. With especially juicy fruits like peaches and apples, this has several advantages. First, you can caramelize some of the sugar and also get some of that wonderful browned butter flavor. Second, you reduce and concentrate the juices, obviating the need for as much flour or tapioca to thicken them, lest you end up with a runny pie. Third, with pre-cooked apples you won't get as much shrinkage under the dome of the crust, so if you want a really heaped-high apple pie, you can get it without it taking hours in the oven to cook through.The pie only needs as much oven time as it takes to brown and bake the crust.

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It is well known that lard makes the best crust. If you're not serving lipophobes, Bruce at the Westover Market butcher shop makes leaf lard (kidney fat) from ostensibly local and humanely raised cattle.

Technically, lard is the fat of a pig. Rendered beef fat is suet. Not that both can't make fine crusts, but suet is more often associated with savory crusts, for meat pies and such, although it is an ingredient in mincemeat pie filling.

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Technically, lard is the fat of a pig. Rendered beef fat is suet. Not that both can't make fine crusts, but suet is more often associated with savory crusts, for meat pies and such, although it is an ingredient in mincemeat pie filling.

Oops, you are correct it's pig fat, my bad. You should use it though. My mom used crisco to good effect, but lard is much tastier. To clarify, Bruce sells leaf lard (rendered pig loin and kidney fat). I'm not even sure he has suet (but he might).

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An alternative to a two-crust pie that I think is very appealing and a lot less bother is a free-form tart. When your pastry dough is ready, roll it out into a roughly circular shape, put it on a buttered sheet pan, place the filling in the middle, and turn the dough up over the filling all around, leaving about half of the filling exposed. Brush the exposed crust with a little water (you can use an egg wash, but I like just water better) and sprinkle turbinado sugar over the crust and filling, and bake. For an apple tart, I don't think I've ever cooked the fruit first, but Zora's suggestion sounds very good. For thickening, rather than tapioca or flour, I always use potato starch. I never ever use cinnamon, because I personally don't like it, but also think the relentless pairing of apples and cinnamon in American cookery isn't good for anyone.

One of the advantages of this kind of tart as against a double-crust pie is that it reduces the proportion of crust to fruit somewhat. The crust, to me, is a full partner in the pastry, but in a double-crust pie it tends to become the senior partner, especially with a fluted rim, and this sort of a tart maintains a better balance between the two, at least in my view.

This time of year, apples and pears are the obvious choices for pies and tarts, but last Sunday at the Dupont Circle market, Spring Valley had "autumn star" peaches, which are very good and would shine in this application. They said that last weekend was the end of the peaches, though.

I generally make an all-butter pastry crust. This can easily lead to tough pastry unless you use a low-protein flour (I generally use 00) and work the dough very briefly.

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Post-family tradition, Rose Levy Barenbaum taught me everything I needed to know about pie and crust that Martha didn't. What I modify: sub 2 or even 3 T lard for butter, no more. (Cedarbrook will not be at Dupont tomorrow.) RLB is the source of favorite advice: a touch of apple cider vinegar and generous pinch of baking powder in pastry. Let it chill & rest as disk in fridge; when rolled out and crimped in pie plate, freeze it before baking.

Lots of cc's of Martha's OLD, early book on pies in DC public library, though I don't know if your local branch has reopened yet. She's got great advice for making lattice pattern on top. I like to cover the lattice strips w decorative shapes cut from pastry scraps, use an egg-based glaze and turbinado sugar, but of course, you can create a deadhead template for your irregular scraps instead of maple leaves or go w something streuselish.

Filling: a little lemon juice or pomegranate molasses. Or brandy. Mix in dried apple slices from Quaker Valley. Since you're such a frog, do an apple custard tart instead.

My bookmarked links: RLB's recipe and her own website.

Ruhlman

Soggy-Pre-empt.

I'm also a fan of Regan Daly, so here's this: Apple pie.

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Mr. S likes to use Rose Levy Beranbaum's Perfect Crust recipe. It calls for a combo of cream cheese and butter. Here it is from the Real Baking with Rose website. (Scroll down to the recipe links and click on the Cream Cheese Pie Crust.) The cream cheese adds a nice tang to the crust, and it comes out perfectly tasty and flaky.

ETA: I started to post, then went to eat dinner and got caught up in watching "Sabrina" :P I see now that great minds think alike!

RLB's Cream Cheese Pie Crust.pdf

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I will pass on advice from Ann Amernick. Make each part of a fruit pie separately - the bottom crust, filling, and top crust or decorative pieces of crust - then assemble just before serving for superiority of each element. It sounds like a pain, but all that happens is you end up with an extra dirty pot from the filling and pan from the top crust triangles. The bottom crust will be flaky and crisp, the apples will be of perfect consistency and spiciness, and everyone will wonder how you did it.

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It is well known that lard makes the best crust.

I wanted lard a while ago to make biscuits for ham biscuits. I thought it would be hard to find, but the Giant in Bethesda stocks it. I don't remember the brand but I remember that the label was in Spanish.

I haven't used a lard crust. I make a nice crust with butter though. I try to have the butter in the freezer for at least an hour before I use it.

I stopped using Crisco for anything a long time ago.

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I will pass on advice from Ann Amernick. Make each part of a fruit pie separately - the bottom crust, filling, and top crust or decorative pieces of crust - then assemble just before serving for superiority of each element. It sounds like a pain, but all that happens is you end up with an extra dirty pot from the filling and pan from the top crust triangles. The bottom crust will be flaky and crisp, the apples will be of perfect consistency and spiciness, and everyone will wonder how you did it.

Does that mean to parbake the bottom crust first? I have found that to help to avoid soggy crust syndrome.

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Does that mean to parbake the bottom crust first? I have found that to help to avoid soggy crust syndrome.

Sorry - that wasn't really clear. It means completely bake the bottom crust, then right before you serve, put the separately-cooked filling and separately-baked top crust (or streusel, or lattice, or decorative cutouts) together with the bottom crust. You have to bake it a little while with the pie weights, then take them out so it browns. I had my first pie ever like this the summer before last - peach streusel - and having the perfectly cooked fruit over a browned, crispy crust was a revelation.

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I wanted lard a while ago to make biscuits for ham biscuits. I thought it would be hard to find, but the Giant in Bethesda stocks it. I don't remember the brand but I remember that the label was in Spanish.

Most supermarkets carry commercial brands of lard (manteca). Unfortunately they are loaded with stabilizers and preservatives for extended shelf life. And the provenance is usually some major pork producer like Smithfield or Swift, with all they represent about the inhumane way the pigs are raised and slaughtered, and major environmental and labor abuses. Plus, that stuff doesn't taste very good. It's possible to get freshly made lard from sustainably raised and humanely treated pigs, if you shop at a farmers market or get it from someone like Bruce at Westover Market, who makes his own. Or buy pork fat and make your own. It's easy.

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Most supermarkets carry commercial brands of lard (manteca).

Just a note on words: Manteca in Spanish means "lard" (or at least "manteca de cerdo" does in European Spanish), while the cognate Portuguese word "manteiga" means butter, which is "mantequilla" ("little lard"?) in Spanish. Meanwhile, the word for butter in English, German, French, and Italian are all unrelated to the Spanish and Portuguese words, and all cognate with each other. Isn't that interesting?
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I am very fond of this recipe for a Breton Apple Pie, published in the Washington Post a few years back.

Aside: I just checked the OED for the etymology of "butter":

Old English butere weak feminine (in compounds buttor- ); < Latin butyrum , < Greek βούτυρον . So Old Frisian butera , botera , Middle Dutch bōter(e , botre , Dutch boter , Middle Low German botter , late Old High German (10th or 11th cents.) butera , Middle High German, modern German butter , all from Latin.

The Greek is usually supposed to be < βοῦς ox or cow + τυρός cheese, but is perhaps of Scythian or other barbarous origin.

I don't know what happened in Spain/Portugal that made them lose their historic butter-word, although food words can drift easily if the food gets the wrong class connotation (witness English "beef" instead of "cow").

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It is well known that lard makes the best crust. If you're not serving lipophobes, Bruce at the Westover Market butcher shop makes leaf lard (kidney fat) from ostensibly local and humanely raised cattle. Using this will result in a fantastic crust. Keep everything very cold when working the fat into the flour. Don't overmix. Pastry is not too difficult.

A good number of recipes call not for all of one fat or the other, but a combination of lard and butter (this article in the Times seems worth perusing, and the apple filling recipe quite interesting) -- any opinion?

Post-family tradition, Rose Levy Barenbaum taught me everything I needed to know about pie and crust that Martha didn't. What I modify: sub 2 or even 3 T lard for butter, no more. (Cedarbrook will not be at Dupont tomorrow.) RLB is the source of favorite advice: a touch of apple cider vinegar and generous pinch of baking powder in pastry. Let it chill & rest as disk in fridge; when rolled out and crimped in pie plate, freeze it before baking.

Lots of cc's of Martha's OLD, early book on pies in DC public library, though I don't know if your local branch has reopened yet. She's got great advice for making lattice pattern on top. I like to cover the lattice strips w decorative shapes cut from pastry scraps, use an egg-based glaze and turbinado sugar, but of course, you can create a deadhead template for your irregular scraps instead of maple leaves or go w something streuselish.

Filling: a little lemon juice or pomegranate molasses. Or brandy. Mix in dried apple slices from Quaker Valley. Since you're such a frog, do an apple custard tart instead.

My bookmarked links: RLB's recipe and her own website.

Ruhlman

Soggy-Pre-empt.

I'm also a fan of Regan Daly, so here's this: Apple pie.

Latticework to me seems more cherry pie than apple pie for some reason. I'm actually looking for a crossed oars framing the Capitol dome motif for decorating, as this is for a combination regatta/pie baking contest. Fortunately the art student/pattissiere/coxswain is in town for the weekend, so she may be available for finishing work.

Thanks for help in rounding up the leaf lard at Cibolla farms. Truck Patch (Mt. Pleasant, Bloomingdale) also has it, and cheaper, but I did not check to see if it had been rendered or not.

I will pass on advice from Ann Amernick. Make each part of a fruit pie separately - the bottom crust, filling, and top crust or decorative pieces of crust - then assemble just before serving for superiority of each element. It sounds like a pain, but all that happens is you end up with an extra dirty pot from the filling and pan from the top crust triangles. The bottom crust will be flaky and crisp, the apples will be of perfect consistency and spiciness, and everyone will wonder how you did it.

How does this work for a two-crust pie, giving the kind of organic curvature one expects from a mound of sliced Winesaps? Could you make the bottom crust, wet the edges and then, after dumping in the apples, press the top crust onto it and brown as needed?

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^ I understand re fruit and perceptions of what does and doesn't go w lattice; its advantage is that all that direct heat pretty much guarantees an un-soggy pie. It's pretty w apple and quince on T-day. I like lperry's recommendation a lot, especially when it comes to the bottom crust. The things about both top and filling: baked/roasted fruit's different from sautéed, and the juices from a bubbling filling seeping over the top crust and gelling there is something you look for w a homemade pie, so tweaking does seem in order. Thing is, if you bake the top crust separately and you've used lard plus (do try the cider vinegar and bkg powder, too) to make it flaky, it is going to be fragile and apt to crack when pressed.

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How does this work for a two-crust pie, giving the kind of organic curvature one expects from a mound of sliced Winesaps? Could you make the bottom crust, wet the edges and then, after dumping in the apples, press the top crust onto it and brown as needed?

What she did was make pre-cooked pastry triangles that got set on each piece of pie once it was cut, so you get the two-crust experience with maximum browning and flakiness. I've done pre-baked cut-outs with cookie cutters and then placed them on the pie after the filling was put into the baked shell. There is no attempt to connect the top and the bottom crust at the edges of the pie plate.

The things about both top and filling: baked/roasted fruit's different from sautéed, and the juices from a bubbling filling seeping over the top crust and gelling there is something you look for w a homemade pie, so tweaking does seem in order.

I like those boiled juices too, though I would argue that fruit inside a double crust gets steamed rather than roasted. Roasting a filling would certainly be an excellent idea, and the oven would already be on...

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new york baker kierin baldwin's baked from scratch classic apple pie recipe in the feb. 19 sunday new york times magazine produced one of the best apple pies i have eaten in a long, long while. precooking the apple filling -- including a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar -- is one thing that contributes to the stature of this pie. the choice of honeycrisps is another good one.

i encountered some moisture problems with the all-purpose pie dough, which is an easier-to-do adaptation from sam sifton, whose article precedes the recipe. (baldwin blind bakes her bottom crusts, weighing them down with goya beans.) i had to add considerably more liquid than specified to make the dough pliable, but i was able to do so without overworking the dough.

despite being full from chicken sausage with flash sauerkraut and richly sauced shad and a roll of caper-speckled, mild shad roe -- a dark and accomplished version of this seasonal local dish -- i was tempted to finish a recent meal at mintwood place with a slice of apple pie. then i was reminded that it would be hard to surpass what was waiting back home.

(my wife believed she recognized tom sietsema by his voice. i would not know, but whoever it was did get a table that probably usually would be reserved for more than a party of two.)

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