Skillet Apple Pie

Apple pie is an essential dish for Thanksgiving, yet it's perhaps the hardest dessert to master: making two layers of pie crust; getting flavor into the apples; making the filling sliceable but tasty; making the bottom crust crispy instead of soggy. Here's our quick and easy answer to the Apple Pie Problem. This recipe takes less than an hour to make, is foolproof and actually tastes better than the real thing (at least we think so).

Ingredients

    Crust
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (5 ounces), plus more for dusting work surface
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 3/4 tablespoons ice water
  • Filling
  • 1/2 cup apple cider (see note)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 pounds sweet apples and tart apples (about 5 medium), peeled, cored, halved and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges (see note)
  • Pie
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Makes 6 to 8 servings

Instructions

  1. For the crust: Pulse flour, sugar and salt in food processor until combined. Add shortening and process until mixture has texture of coarse sand, about ten 1-second pulses. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture and process until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs, with butter bits no larger than small peas, about ten 1-second pulses. Transfer mixture to medium bowl.
  2. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons ice water over mixture. With blade of rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix. Press down on dough with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 1 tablespoon more ice water if dough does not come together. Turn dough out onto sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into 4-inch disk. Wrap dough and refrigerate 30 minutes, or up to 2 days, before rolling out. (If dough is refrigerated longer than 1 hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable.)
  3. For the filling: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (between 7 and 9 inches from heating element) and heat oven to 500 degrees. Whisk cider, syrup, lemon juice, cornstarch, and cinnamon (if using) together in medium bowl until smooth. Heat butter in 12-inch heatproof skillet over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add apples and cook, stirring 2 or 3 times until apples begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes. (Do not fully cook apples.) Remove pan from heat, add cider mixture and gently stir until apples are well coated. Set aside to cool slightly.
  4. To assemble and bake: Roll out dough on lightly floured work surface, or between 2 large sheets of plastic wrap, to 11-inch circle. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over apple filling in pan. Brush dough with egg white and sprinkle with sugar. With sharp knife, gently cut dough into 6 pieces by making 1 vertical cut followed by 2 evenly spaced horizontal cuts (perpendicular to first cut). Bake until apples are tender and crust is a deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes; serve.
  5. Notes: If your skillet is not heatproof, precook the apples and stir in the cider mixture as instructed, then transfer the apples to a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Roll out the dough to a 13-by-9-inch rectangle, place on top of the apples, and bake as instructed. If you do not have apple cider, reduced apple juice may be used as a substitute: Simmer 1 cup apple juice in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 10 minutes).
  6. Serve the pie warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Use a combination of sweet, crisp apples such as Golden Delicious and firm, tart apples such as Cortland or Empire.
  7. Keys to a flaky, flavorful pie: 1. Caramelize Apples: Precook apples in butter to deepen their flavor. 2. Add Cider: Coat apples with 1/2 cup apple cider to create juicy, flavorful filling. 3. Cut Dough: Score before baking to allow juices to bubble up and caramelize around edges. 4. Bake in Hot Oven: Precooked apples need less time in oven than traditional apple pie.

from Cook's Illustrated, Sept. 2008