The Best Apple Pie Ever

The pie that restored my faith in apple pie.

CurvyMama has confessed this to you before: I’m not the biggest apple pie fan. Go ahead and say it again; I’ve heard it all before: How can you not like apple pie? What’s wrong with you? Everyone likes apple pie!

I’ve suffered the slings and arrows of my unpatriotic indifference to the all-American pie. But I am here to tell you that I’ve come up with an apple pie recipe that made even me–apple pie atheist, apple pie refusenik–go back for seconds.

Photo: Three Springs Fruit Farm

That’s right. And the secret is in a gallon jug of apple cider.

See, I had heard about people using some form of concentrated apple juices to enhance the flavor of apple pie. So I’d been playing around with it. I like the idea, because–and apple lovers, please don’t send out the hit squad for me here–the taste of apple pie has always struck me as somewhat…. umm…. distant.

Cherry pie is really intensely cherryish. Lemon pie practically wallops you over the head with lemon flavor. But apple pie? Somehow the essential flavor of the fruit gets muted when baked in a pie. And it’s not just because it is drowned out by too much cinnamon (although a heavy hand on the cinnamon compounds the problem).

What I wanted, I kept telling people, what I needed, is an apple pie that was just plain more appley.

I tried Rose Levy Beranbaum’s approach. She lets the sliced apples sit in sugar for a nice long time, which draws out their juices. She then reduces those juices, caramelizing their sugars a bit, and mixes that with the apple filling. As much as I admire Ms. Rose, however, I wasn’t bowled over by the result.

I remembered from perusing the King Arthur Flour catalog that they sell a boiled apple cider syrup, and their apple pie recipe folds this into the sliced fruit to intensify the flavor. There we go, I said. That’s got to be the ticket.

It was right around this time that The Washington Post published a recipe for making boiled apple cider syrup. They went on about how lovely it can be poured over pancakes and such. But all I could think about was making some of my own to make a kick-ass apple pie.

So that’s what I did. It couldn’t be easier: You put a gallon of apple cider (mine came from Three Springs Fruit Farm in Pennsylvania, whose cider display is pictured above) in a big soup pot and simmer it down until you have about 2 1/2 cups left. It gets thick and silky.  And when it’s fully cool, it’s a luxurious, intensely appley wonder. Look at a spoonful here:

When you are ready to make a pie, all you have to do is scoop out 1/4 cup of this syrup and fold it into the fruit along with your other ingredients before tucking them into the crust and baking.

And please, for the love of God, don’t overdo the cinnamon. Let the apples show off their essential apple-ness. All we’re doing here is intensifying! Not obscuring!

Thanks for letting me get that out of my system.

Now here are the recipes:

The Best Apple Pie Ever
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  1. One double-crust batch of pie crust
For fruit filling
  1. About 3 pounds of apples, peeled, cored and sliced. (I like firm, tangy-sweet varieties like Gold Rush, Nittany, Winesap and Cortland)
  2. 1/2 cup white sugar
  3. 1/3 cup flour
  4. 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  5. 1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  6. 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  7. 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  8. A couple of dashes of salt
  9. A couple generous squeezes fresh lemon juice
  10. 1/4 c. cider syrup (see below)
For cider syrup
  1. 1 gallon good-quality apple cider, preferably freshly pressed from a local farm
To make the cider syrup
  1. Pour the cider into a heavy soup pot. Bring it to a boil, uncovered. Reduce heat to allow the cider to simmer. Let it simmer 4-5 hours, stirring occasionally.
  2. In the last half-hour, stir more frequently to keep it from burning. When it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon--a little thinner than maple syrup--turn off the heat and let the syrup cool a bit.
  3. When it's cool or barely warm, pour it into a glass jar that can be sealed. Keep refrigerated.
To make the pie
  1. Roll out bottom pie crust. Line 9-inch pie pan with it.
  2. In a big bowl, combine apples and all the dry ingredients. Mix til coated. Add the cider syrup. Mix until it's evenly distributed through the fruit.
  3. Spoon the fruit mixture into the bottom crust. Roll out the top crust and cover the fruit with it. Trim the edges, roll under and crimp the pie crust. Cut a few vents in the top crust. Put the pie in the freezer.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425, for about 15 minutes, or until you're sure it's reached 425. By this time, your pie has chilled nicely.
  5. Take the pie out of the freezer. Brush it lightly with egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes or so. Reduce oven temperature to 375 and bake another 45 minutes or so.
  6. Take the pie out and check for doneness by listening for sizzling and "whumping" sounds from the inside. If you aren't sure you hear these, bake for another 10 minutes.
  7. Let the pie cool on a rack. If you can wait 12-24 hours to cut into it, that would help ensure it setting nicely. But if you can't, no one's going to tell.
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  1. Alicia
    Oh wow, I've been thinking of using cider too in my apple pie, though I hadn't thought to reduce it to a syrup. Brilliant! I am going to try this. Any idea how long the syrup keeps?
  2. CurvyMama Pies
    Hi, Alicia!! I am pretty sure it's safe in your fridge for at least a few weeks. Not sure if the Post recipe addressed that or not. I know mine won't last that long! Write back with pictures and thoughts when you try yours!
  3. eve kornhauser
    that is just beayoootiful!!!! Date: Fri, 5 Oct 2012 00:09:15 +0000 To: evekornhauser@hotmail.com
  4. lisa weiss
    Sounds delicious! My problem is always the bottom crust. It never seems to brown and is usually soggy and not flakey. I've tried baking it on a preheated cookie sheet but that didn't make much of a difference. Any words of wisdom for me?!
  5. CurvyMama Pies
    Hi, Lisa! Are you talking about two-crust fruit pies? If so, do you start your pies in a hot oven (425)? This is important for quickly setting the crust. Two-crust fruit pies like to be baked hot for about 15 minutes, then at 375 for another 40-55 minutes. Another trick some bakers use is to bake them on a lower rack of the oven, and sometimes on a preheated pizza stone, though I rarely do that. Also, I try to make sure that the bottom pie crust i put in the pie pan is still nice and cold when I add the fruit filling and cover it with the top crust. Don't let it get warm! Good luck, and let us know how it goes!
  6. Michelle Davis
    I made this for Thanksgiving and it was incredible. I followed all the directions here and used the basic all-butter crust. It came out perfectly and looked like a real professional made it. It was declared the best apple pie ever. A recipe I will use many times over. Thank you!
  7. CurvyMama Pies
    Wonderful!! I'm delighted!