Homemade Apple Pie with Lemon Butter Crust

A piece of homemade pie is such a simple thing when you break it down; a few ingredients that come together in perfect agreement. Butter, flour, sugar, water, apples… as if pie were what they were made to be, happily ever after.

Yes, it’s easy as pie to think about and eat, but I admit to having an avoidance with making pie crust.  If I think too long about the actual labor involved in pie making I tend to move on to something else a bit less scary – chocolate cake, maybe. At least the outcome of chocolate cake isn’t so contingent on a list of fussy factors that can affect pastry, like the temperature of the air, butter, water and even your hands.

Warm hands might work while mixing up a cake batter or rubbing a pork loin with olive oil, but with pastry – not so much.

So, to challenge myself I’ve put pie-making on my list of skills to master. And with the promise of a piece of pie as a reward, it’s not really so hard to do. I remind myself that pie is just a list of ingredients that need a confident hand with a rolling pin to guide them along.

It helps to have a lesson in pie-crust making from an excellent teacher. This video of pastry chef Cindy Salvato demonstrating her method was very instructive for me. Notice how comfortable she is getting her hands in the dough, rolling and smacking it. You can see who’s in charge, and it’s not the pie dough.

I liked Cindy’s style, and it encouraged me to get in there and make some pie.

I used Honeycrisps since they are just now arriving in markets, and they worked perfectly, their taste is nicely sweet-tart, and they keep their shape and texture after baking – I cannot stand mushy apples. I also left the peel on out of sheer laziness and that turned out just fine in the finished pie.

Here a few keys to making a perfect pie I picked up from Cindy:

    • Use cool, not cold or softened butter. Cindy recommends butter not be “stone cold”, but at 55 degrees. I took the temperature of my butter with an instant thermometer directly out of the fridge and  it was right there.
    • Don’t be afraid to add more water if the dough seems dry. Add a little at time and use your hands.
    • Use a glass pie dish for even heat distribution.
    • Add lemon zest. Lemon makes everything better.
    • Big chunks of butter in the dough are desirable. They create those flaky air pockets as the pie bakes.
    • Don’t be intimidated by pie dough. Remember you are the master of the kitchen!
Homemade Apple Pie with Lemon Butter Crust

Yield: 1 pie

For best results, let the pie cool completely - preferably overnight - to allow the natural pectin in the apples to work. Cutting directly into a freshly baked, warm pie is tempting, but it won't be set properly.

Adapted from Cindy Salvato


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter (12 tablespoons), cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup ice water plus more if needed
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • for the filling:
  • 3 pounds firm apples such as Granny Smith or Honeycrisp (about 6 or 7 apples)
  • 1 tablespoon rice flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, salt and zest. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or a fork until the butter is pieces about the size of large peas. Make a well in the center of the flour mix and add the water and lemon juice.
  2. Blend with a fork until the dough starts to come together. If there's flour on the bottom of the bowl, add more water a teaspoon at a time until you can gather the dough into a ball. Divide into two pieces, wrap in plastic wrap and flatten slightly to form a disc. Chill in the refrigerator for about an hour and up to 24 hours.
  3. When you're ready to assemble and bake the pie, heat the oven to 425 degrees. Take the pie dough out of the refrigerator to soften slightly while you prepare the apples. If it takes more than 15 minutes to deal with the apples, then put the dough back in the fridge until you're ready to fill the pie.
  4. Peel the apples if you want to: core and slice into 1/2-inch thick wedges. Put the slices in a bowl and toss with the flour.
  5. Mix together the sugar, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl.
  6. Smack one package of dough with a rolling pin to flatten. Unwrap and put the dough on a large floured piece of wax or parchment paper. Sprinkle the top of the dough with more flour and roll the dough firmly away from you, turning the paper after each roll to create a circle about 2 inches larger than your pie dish. Sprinkle lightly with more flour if you notice the dough starting to stick.
  7. Fold the dough in half gently and place in a pie dish, pressing into the bottom of the dish. Be sure you have an overhang of about an inch all around. Trim off any excess.
  8. Put a layer of apples on top of the dough in a concentric circle, starting at the outer edge. Sprinkle with sugar. Repeat the layering and sugaring 2 or 3 more times, until the apples are generously heaped to the top of the dish.
  9. Take the second piece of dough and repeat the rolling. Put the dough on top of the apples; pull the edge of the top dough over the bottom and pinch together all around the pie.
  10. Use a sharp knife to make 4 vents in the center of the pie.
  11. Put the pie in the oven and turn the oven down to 400 degrees. Bake the pie about 30 minutes, until the crust is deep golden and the juices are bubbling.
  12. Cool the pie before slicing to allow the juices to settle. Yum.


  1. This crust looks absolutely incredibly! I’m sure the lemon zest added terrific flavor too.

  2. I love the sound of this apple pie and having a lemon butter crust. Perfect for the fall season 🙂

  3. Amanda Ryan says:

    On the ice water measurement … 1/2 of what? Cup? Tablespoon? I am going to try this, but don’t want to mess it up. Thanks!

  4. Hi! My name is Ryan and I’m the editor of howtocookfantasticfood.com. I think you have an awesome food site so I posted a link to it in our blog directory. I wasn’t able to find your email address on your site but I’d like to invite you to be a part of our Featured Website program. I would love to send you more details about the program, so if you are interested, please email me at ryan [at] howtocookfantasticfood [dot] com.

  5. Hi,

    I’m looking for a good apple pie recipe and I am honestly intrigued by yours, but I do have a question. When you talk about rolling out the dough, you say to do it in a fashion that it forms a circle. Then you say to fold it in half, forming a semi-circle? Is that correct?


    • Ashlee, I don’t know if you’ve made the pie already. But to answer your question – yes fold the dough into a semicircle then unfold onto the pie plate.

  6. Love the idea of a lemon butter crust. Your photos are beautiful too

  7. Just found your site! It’s lovely. We must have similar taste. I’m not a big apple pie fan but this looks divine!


    Just finished making double batch of this!! Pies are on racks, cooling off. Seems to be good receipe… smells good with the lemon zest and juice… can’t wait to taste it! For those of us just learning, receipe needs to be clearer!! For the crust you say 1/2 ice water… 1/2 what?? a teaspoon, 1/2 cup…. what??? You need to be more Precise!! If not for my mom, I wouldn’t have known what to do and added too much water, then too much flour… it would have been a mess!! I’d appreciate it!! Thanks!

    • Maria – thanks for your comment. I’m happy to hear you’re about to enjoy the pie! Apologies for the typo on the ice water. It should read 1/2 CUP…will correct that.


  9. Caroline T says:

    I made this pie last night, It was my first pie ever that did not come in a box! The crust was fantastic BUT, it was all liquid inside! What did I do wrong? I followed the directions but not sure what happened?? Would love to fix whatever I messed up so I can make this again! Thanks.

    • Hi Caroline – so glad to hear you made your first pie! Sorry to hear about the watery filling, though. I can think of a few reasons: First, what kind of apples did you use? Some varieties have a higher moisture content and will release a ton of juice when they bake. Second, did you let the pie cool completely before slicing? The natural pectin in the apples should thicken up the juices after it’s cool. But sometimes even Granny Smiths can make a juicy pie. Best way to deal with that is to check them out (and taste) the apples as you’re slicing and add a tablespoon or two extra flour before layering them in the shell..hope that’s helpful.

    • Same thing happened to me. I used extra flour too. I think this recipe may need some corn starch. 🙁

  10. Brittany says:

    I finished making this pie about…2 hours ago. I am patiently waiting for my husband to get home from work. I didn’t want to enjoy it without him! The only problem I ran into was the crust. I seemed to have a hard time transferring it; it kept wanting to stick to the parchment paper. Also, it seemed like I was rolling it super thin to get it to the right size. Thoughts? Thank for sharing this awesome recipe!

  11. Hi! I’m waiting on this pie to bake right now!!! I did notice that the directions say to set the oven at 425 degrees, but then when I put the pie in the oven I’m to bake it at 400 degrees. Huh? Which one is it?? Thanks!!
    This is the very first pie that I have ever attempted if it’s not obvious!!

    • Hi Jamie! I just saw your comment. Congrats on your first pie. And sorry about any confusion. The oven is preheated to 425 to get the oven hot and ready for baking the pie, but turned down as soon as you start to bake; so it’s all good. Let me know how your pie turned out. Cheers!

  12. The crust is wonderful but my apple insides turned out watery as well even after adding extra flour to the apples and cooling. I just poured out the extra liquid lol. Still tastes yummy. I’m going to try and make another one with Honeycrisp apples instead.

  13. Hi Karen….thank you for using my recipe in your blog. I’m honored and glad to see so many successful pies have been made.


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