Master the art of making homemade apple pie with this no-nonsense, foolproof recipe with a flaky, all-butter lemon crust.
A slice of homemade apple pie is such a simple thing, really.
It’s right next to blueberry pie on the master list of homey, old-fashioned desserts.
When you break it down, making pie crust comes down to just a few ingredients that come together in perfect agreement:
Butter, flour, sugar, water, fruit. That’s it! It’s almost as if pie were what they were only ever made to be, happily ever after.
Yes, it’s easy as pie to think about and then to eat, but I admit to having an avoidance with making pie, and it’s because of the 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 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 apple 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 dough from an excellent teacher. Watching a master pastry maker demonstrating their method is very instructive.
I notice how comfortable they are getting their hands in the dough, rolling and smacking it. You can easily see who’s in charge, and it’s not the pie dough.
Best apples for apple pie
I used Honeycrisps in this apple pie since they are readily available and they worked perfectly. Their taste is nicely sweet-tart, and they keep their shape and texture after baking, which is ideal because mushy apples make us sad.
I also left the peel on out of sheer laziness.
If you shop at farmer’s markets in the fall, seek out small heirloom apples. They have wonderful flavor and depending on the variety, will hold up well for baking.
Look out for these widely available varieties to use for apple pie:
- Granny Smith
- Golden Delicious
- Pink Lady
Key tips to making a perfect apple pie:
- Use cool, not cold or softened butter. Experts recommend that butter not be “stone cold”, but rather at 55 degrees. Take the temperature of your butter with an instant thermometer directly out of the fridge and it should be right about 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 🙂
- Chunks of butter in the dough are desirable. They create those flaky air pockets as the pie bakes.
- You don’t need to stress about getting a perfect crimped edge — just pinch the edges of the dough to seal and trim off any extra.
- Let the pie cool completely before cutting it, at least 4 hours, so that the juices can thicken naturally.
- Don’t be intimidated by pie dough. Remember you are the master of the kitchen!
Homemade Classic Apple Pie with Lemon Butter Crust
- 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) sugar
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- 2 tablespoons (15 g) grated fresh lemon zest
- 1 1/2 (180 g) sticks butter, 12 tablespoons, cut into chunks
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) ice water plus more if needed
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice
for the filling:
- 3 pounds (1.40 kg) firm apples such as Granny Smith or Honeycrisp, about 6 or 7 apples
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (110 g) light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 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.
- 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.
- When you're ready to assemble and bake the pie, heat the oven to 425 (220) 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.
- 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.
- Mix together the sugar, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl.
- 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.
- Fold the dough in half gently and place in a 9-inch 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Use a sharp knife to make 4 vents in the center of the pie.
- Put the pie in the oven and turn the oven down to 400 degrees. Bake the pie 50 - 55 minutes, until the crust is deep golden and the juices are bubbling.
- Cool the pie before slicing to allow the juices to settle. Yum.
- For best results, let the pie cool completely before slicing — at least 4 hours and preferably overnight — to allow the natural apple pectin to thicken and gel. Cutting directly into a freshly baked, warm pie is tempting, but it won't be set properly.