Homemade apple pie may be one of the holiday season's simplest pleasures, but for most cooks, getting that perfect balance between sweet-tart filling and tender, flaky crust is anything but easy. Does making dough make you panic? Can't tell a Granny Smith from a Golden Russet? Fear no more. We asked some of our favorite pastry pros to share the tips and techniques that will help you find pie success every time.
Focus on Fruit
Most farmers markets offer an array of heirloom varieties to choose from, so nowadays there's no reason to pack your pies with bland supermarket apples. "Newton Pippins, Golden Russets, Bramley’s Seedlings—these are just a few of the heirlooms that work wonderfully," says Kate McDermott of ArtofthePie.com.
And don't limit yourself to just one variety, says Rowan Jacobsen, the James Beard Award-winning author of Apples of Uncommon Character. "I find it takes at least three varieties in a pie to strike the right balance between softness, firmness, and fragrance. If you think of firm apples—like Granny Smith or Belle de Boskoop, or one of my favorites, the Calville Blanc--as your bricks, you should also add some mortar—softer apples like McIntosh, Cortland, and Bramley Seedling—to keep them together."
Another surprise? McDermott and Jacobsen both say save yourself some trouble and skip the peeling: Apple skins soften in the baking process and add a beautiful aroma and blush to the filling when baked.