apple pie decorated as a wreath
Pies and Pastries

Apple Pie with Flaky All-Butter Crust

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What makes a homemade flaky apple pie so great? Is it the buttery, flaky all-butter crust? Or maybe the slightly spiced fragrant filling? Or is the possibility to decorate the crust however you like? I think it’s all the above!

This pie was birthed during my journey to create the best flaky all-butter pie crust. I have always loved the addition of apple cider vinegar, giving the dough a perfect amount of tang. Some claim that it helps to prevent overworking the dough by inhibiting gluten production, resulting in a flakier crust. But the amount added is so small that it does not actually make a significant difference. Vinegar allegedly does help to reduce the risk of your dough oxidizing as it rests, helping the crust brown properly in the oven. Despite all the controversy in the world of pie crusts, I love the extra depth of flavour that vinegar lends to the dough, offsetting the richness in the all-butter crust.

The real key to having such a flaky crust in this apple pie recipe is using very cold butter, handling the dough as little as possible so as not to melt the butter, and folding the dough a few times before letting it chill and rolling it out. This helps to create all of those delicious layers in that flaky all-butter crust.

Because an apple pie already takes so long to make, I discovered a few simple steps that will help you achieve a crispy bottom without needing to pre-bake the crust or pre-cook the filling. A perfect flaky all-butter pie crust with less effort? Sign me up!

The key is to mix the apple slices with the sugar and to let the mixture sit for 30 minutes. This allows the apple slices to weep out any excess moisture before baking. Another trick I use is to bake the pie in a clear glass pie pan, and to place the pan on a dark coloured cookie pan. The dark colour helps to attract more heat to the bottom of the pie, allowing it to brown better. The glass pie dish helps the pie to cook evenly because glass cookware distributes heat more evenly. Alternatively, you could just use a ceramic or aluminum pie dish, it will turn out really good as well! For extra insurance to get a crispy bottom, bake the pie in the bottom third of your oven.

slice of apple pie with very flaky crust

Making the Flaky All-butter Crust

  1. Combine the flour and salt in the food processor and pulse to incorporate. Add the cubed cold butter and pulse until the mixture resembles very coarse bread crumbs with pea sized pieces of butter. This takes about 5-8 pulses.
  1. Turn the crumb mixture out into a large bowl. Mix together the ice water and apple cider vinegar. Add the liquid tablespoon by tablespoon into the bowl of crumbs, mixing quickly with a wooden spoon. Once the dough just starts to come together in large clumps, stop adding the liquid. You should still have some liquid left.
  1. Press the dough into a ball in the bowl. Working quickly so that the butter doesn’t melt, flatten out the ball into a disk with your hands and fold that disk in half. Repeat this flattening and folding another 2 times. This folding method helps to ensure that there are lots of buttery flaky layers in your all-butter pie crust.
  1. Shape the dough back into a disk and cut in half. Shape each half into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and let rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  1. While the dough is resting, prepare the pie filling.

The Pie Filling

  1. Peel, core, and slice the apples. I like to cut them into thicker slices (~0.5cm thick) for a chunkier filling. Place the slices into a large non-metal bowl.
  1. Add the sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice and stir the mixture well so that all apple slices are covered in the sugar and cinnamon.
  1. Let the filling rest on the counter for 30 minutes so that the apples weep out any excess moisture.
  1. After 30 minutes, add your starch of choice (I use arrowroot) to the filling and mix well.

Assembling the Pie

  1. Grease a clear glass 9″ pie dish with cooking spray or by rubbing a stick of cold butter all over the inside.
  1. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the dough disks to be about 2 inches larger than the pie dish all the way around, around 1/8″ thick. Measure by flipping the pie dish over your rolled dough and looking to see that there is about 2 inches of excess dough all the way around.
  1. Placing the rolling pin on top of one of the edges of the rolled dough, gently roll the dough onto the rolling pin and over onto the greased pie dish. Gently help the dough fall into the pie dish without stretching the dough.
  1. Trim any edges with a knife or scissors, leaving a ½ inch border around the edge of the pie crust. Fold excess dough underneath itself so that the crust has a thicker edge. Crimp the dough into a wavy crust by using your fingers.
  1. Fill the pie by spooning the pie filling into the pie crust, leaving the excess liquid from the apples out of the pie. You want a good mound of apple slices on top because the filling will compress as it bakes. Optionally, arrange the red fleshed apple slices on top of the pie filling, so that the slices are overlapping each other.

Decorate!

  1. Roll out the other half of the dough on a lightly floured surface to about ½ cm thick. Decorate the pie with a lattice or any other way you like, making sure there are holes in the top crust to allow steam to escape.
  1. To make a wreath, cut out leaves of different sizes using a cookie cutter or a knife. Make a braid by cutting three 1 cm thick strips and braiding them together. Make fir branches by cutting 3 cm strips of dough. Using scissors, cut halfway through the strip on a 45° angle. Keep cutting all the way down the strip so that it has a sort of feathery effect. Repeat on the other side of the strip, so that the next cuts are perpendicular to the other side. To make berries, roll little pieces of dough into spheres about 1 cm in diameter. Arrange the braid onto the pie filling and place the leaves and fir branches around to resemble a wreath. Place the berries in threes to resemble holly all over the wreath.
  1. Using a pastry brush, gently brush over the top with heavy cream.
  1. Put the pie in a freezer for 10 minutes before baking to let the pie dough chill one last time. Place a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).
  1. Place the pie dish onto a dark coloured cookie sheet and bake in the bottom third of the oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes. After 30 minutes of baking, tent the edges of the pie crust with aluminum foil to prevent them from burning. Check the pie after 1 hour of baking. The top of the pie and the bottom crust should be golden brown. The pie filling should be soft and bubbling.
  1. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing to serve.

Tips for Success

  1. Folding the pie dough a few times helps create those beautiful flaky layers. Be careful to do this as quickly as possible and not too many times so that you don’t have much gluten formation which will make your crust tough.
  2. Keep the pie dough in the fridge in between handling, and handle it as little as possible. You don’t want the butter to melt while you are working with it because it will destroy all of your flaky layers.
  3. Refrigerate the pie before baking. I like to stick mine in the freezer for about 10 minutes so that it is nice and cool.
  4. Gently brush the top of the pie with heavy cream or (alternatively) an egg-wash (1 large egg and 1 tbsp milk, whisked together). Brushing with cream helps the pie brown and develop a slight sheen during baking. Egg-wash helps the pie get a deeper brown colour and an even glossier sheen.
  5. Ideally, bake the pie in a clear glass pie dish on top of a dark coloured baking tray to help the bottom of the pie crisp up. The dark baking tray helps attract the heat, focusing it into the bottom of the pie while the glass pie dish helps distribute heat evenly. It is also easy to check through the clear glass if the bottom of the pie has browned. If you don’t have a clear glass pie dish, use a ceramic one – it turns out great too! Aluminum foil pie dishes can be used too, they are just not as sturdy and don’t distribute heat that well because they are so thin. Make sure you place it on a cookie or baking tray to help give it support and help the bottom brown.
  6. Bake the pie in the bottom third of the oven. That way the bottom of the crust gets a good amount of heat to crisp up.
  7. Tent the edges of the pie with aluminum foil about 30 minutes into baking so that they don’t burn.

After reading all of that, feeling like making a much simpler apple dessert? Check out my recipe for Apple Cake!


Happy baking! xx

Did you make this recipe? I would love for you to rate this recipe and leave a comment below!

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apple pie decorated as a wreath

Flaky Apple Pie

Mary
This recipe has everything you need to know to make a perfectly flaky all-butter apple pie with a crispy bottom. No pre-baking and no pre-cooking the filling needed! This recipe makes one 9 inch double crust pie. Follow along with the easy step by step photos.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 30 mins
Chill time 30 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 20 mins
Course Baking, Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 8 people

Equipment

  • Food Processor
  • Dark coloured baking sheet
  • 9" pie dish, preferably clear glass. Ceramic will do too.
  • Pastry Brush
  • Rolling Pin

Ingredients
  

Pie Crust

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose white flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup very cold unsalted butter cut in ½ inch cubes
  • 1 cup ice water with ice cubes
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Pie Filling

  • 5 large pie apples (northern spy, granny smith, or any crisp tart apple variety)
  • cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice freshly squeezed
  • 1 tbsp arrowroot starch or cornstarch
  • 2 red fleshed apples peeled and thinly sliced (optional)

Brushing over

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or eggwash

Instructions
 

Pie Crust

  • Combine the flour and salt in the food processor and pulse to incorporate
  • Add the cubed cold butter and pulse until the mixture resembles very coarse bread crumbs with pea sized pieces of butter. This takes about 5-8 pulses. Pour contents out into a large bowl.
  • Mix together the ice water and apple cider vinegar in a separate bowl.
  • Add the water mixture tablespoon by tablespoon into the crumb mixture, stirring with a large wooden spoon or spatula after each addition. Once the dough just starts to come together, stop adding the liquid. You should not need to use all of the liquid.
  • Fold the dough: In the same bowl, gather the dough into a ball, working quickly so that the butter doesn't melt. Flatten out the ball into a disk with your hands and fold that disk in half. Repeat this flattening and folding another 2 times.
  • Shape the dough back into a disk and cut in half. Shape each half back into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and let rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Making the Pie Filling

  • Prepare the apples: Peel, core, and slice the apples. I like to cut into thicker slices (~0.5cm thick) for a chunkier filling. Place the slices into a large non-metal bowl.
  • Add the sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice and stir the mixture well so that all apple slices are covered in the sugar and cinnamon.
  • Let the filling rest on the counter for 30 minutes so that the apples weep out any excess moisture.
  • Add the starch: After 30 minutes, add the arrowroot starch (or starch of choice) to the filling and mix well.

Assembly

  • Grease a clear glass 9" pie dish (or whatever pie dish you have) by spraying with cooking spray or by rubbing a stick of cold butter all over the inside.
  • Roll out the bottom crust: On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the dough disks to be about 2 inches larger than the pie dish all the way around. Measure by flipping the pie dish over your rolled dough and looking to see that there is about 2 inches of excess dough all the way around.
  • Position the bottom crust: Placing the rolling pin on top of one of the edges of the rolled dough, gently roll the dough onto the rolling pin and over onto the greased pie dish. Gently help the dough fall into the pie dish without stretching the dough.
  • Trim any edges with a knife or scissors, leaving a ½ inch border around the edge of the pie crust. Fold excess dough underneath itself so that the crust has a thicker edge. Crimp the dough into a wavy crust by using your fingers.
  • Fill the pie by spooning the pie filling into the pie crust, leaving the excess liquid from the apples out of the pie. You want a good mound of apple slices on top because the filling will compress as it bakes. Optionally, arrange the red fleshed apple slices on top of the pie filling, so that the slices are overlapping each other.
  • Top crust: Roll out the other half of the dough on a lightly floured surface to about ½ cm thick. Decorate the pie with a lattice or any other way you like, making sure there are holes in the top crust to allow steam to escape. I decorated it as a wreath – read through the instructions in the post to learn how.
  • Finishing touches: Using a pastry brush, gently brush over the top of the pie with heavy cream.
  • Chill: Place the pie in a freezer for 10 minutes before baking to let the pie dough chill one last time. Place a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).
  • Bake: Place the pie dish onto a dark coloured cookie sheet and bake in the bottom third of the oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes. After 30 minutes of baking, tent the edges of the pie crust with aluminum foil to prevent them from burning. Check the pie after 1 hour of baking. The top of the pie and the bottom crust should be golden brown. The pie filling should be soft and bubbling.
  • Remove from oven and let cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing to serve. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Folding the pie dough a few times helps create those beautiful flaky layers. Be careful to do this as quickly as possible and not too many times so that you don’t have much gluten formation which will make your crust tough.
  • Keep the pie dough in the fridge in between handling, and handle it as little as possible. You don’t want the butter to melt while you are working with it because it will destroy all of your flaky layers.
  • Refrigerate the pie before baking. I like to stick mine in the freezer for about 10 minutes so that it is nice and cool.
  • Gently brush the top of the pie with heavy cream or (alternatively) an egg-wash (1 large egg and 1 tbsp milk, whisked together). Brushing with cream helps the pie brown and develop a slight sheen during baking. Egg-wash helps the pie get a deeper brown colour and an even glossier sheen.
  • Ideally, bake the pie in a clear glass pie dish on top of a dark coloured baking tray to help the bottom of the pie crisp up. The dark baking tray helps attract the heat, focusing it into the bottom of the pie while the glass pie dish helps distribute heat evenly. It is also easy to check through the clear glass if the bottom of the pie has browned. If you don’t have a clear glass pie dish, use a ceramic one – it turns out great too! Aluminum foil pie dishes can be used too, they are just not as sturdy and don’t distribute heat that well because they are so thin. Make sure you place it on a cookie or baking tray to help give it support and help the bottom brown.
  • Bake the pie in the bottom third of the oven. That way the bottom of the crust gets a good amount of heat to crisp up.
  • Tent the edges of the pie with aluminum foil about 30 minutes into baking so that they don’t burn.
  • Let the pie rest for at least 20 minutes before digging in. I know, it’s so hard to wait!
Keyword all butter crust, apple, flaky crust, pie

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