I used to think the key to a good apple pie was a butter- or shortening-laden flaky crust and lots of sugar to balance out the tartness of the apples. That was until I tried our Test Kitchen manager Stacy’s version of deep-dish apple pie. Our resident baking maven turned my assumptions inside out. The pie she developed—minus tons of butter or shortening and loads of sugar—is the pie I’ll be making from now on. Here are a few tricks she uses to get a perfect, healthier apple pie without sacrificing flavor and texture.—Hilary Meyer, Associate Food Editor
Butter isn’t totally off limits, just use less of it. Using reduced-fat sour cream to replace some of the butter found in traditional recipes keeps the dough moist and tender, without adding tons of saturated fat.
And be sure to follow the basic rule of great pastry: dough likes to be cold. If the butter melts into the flour, the crust will be tough. So always use chilled butter and ice-cold water, work the dough with a light hand, and let the dough chill before rolling it out.
There's a fine balance between making your pie crust healthy and making your pie crust taste like cardboard. The results can be less than appetizing if you use all whole-wheat flour, but a mix of traditional all-purpose and whole-wheat pastry flour does the trick. The pastry flour adds fiber, but keeps the texture tender, and by blending it with all-purpose you get a less wheaty taste.
And speaking of apples, use plenty of them! Apple pie should taste good, but not feel like mush in your mouth. A mix of McIntosh and Granny Smith does the trick. The McIntosh add a nice tangy flavor while the Granny Smith also taste good, but break down less when they cook, giving the filling a more toothsome texture.
Why drown delicious apples in sugar? Cooking down a portion of the apples for the filling is a tip that does double-duty. Pre-cooking means that your crust won’t collapse and crack as much while it’s baking (the filling won’t shrink as much if some of it is already precooked). And it concentrates the natural flavors and sugar of the apples, so you don’t have to add as much sugar to your filling.
To do this, simply cook about half the filling mixture in a Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring, until the apples are tender and beginning to break down, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in the remaining uncooked apple mixture, and let cool before adding it to your crust.
What’s the best part of an apple pie? The apples, of course! Switching to deep dish allows much more room for filling: you can squeeze in about 1 1/2 more cups of fruit into a deep-dish pie pan vs. a regular pie pan. And more apples means an added bump of soluble fiber.