Apples and brandy are a surprisingly delicious combination. It’s sort of ‘hearth and home’ mix of sweet and tart from the apples, with ‘warming’ notes from the brandy, combined with a crust that both flaky and buttery. The end result is, in my opinion, an Autumn classic.
For added fall flare, consider pairing this with a Pumpkin Spice Caramel Latte, or a Pumpkin Spice Buttered Rum. For a super simple Homemade Pumpkin Spice, so that you can add the beloved flavor of fall to ‘everything,’ It couldn’t be easier!
Below, we’ll cover all of the ingredients you’ll need for today’s apple brandy pie, along with notes and tips, and some key substitutions. I’ll also try to answer some of the most common pie-baking questions I’ve encountered.
Now, without further delay, let’s get to it.
Ingredient Checklist and Notes
- Apples. It’s said that best apples for baking are Granny Smith, and this is simply because they are so firm. So firm, in fact, that they will retain their shape and texture under almost any amount of baking. And that’s good thing, since no one wants a mushy pie. That said, this ideal baking texture comes at a price, and that price is sweetness, as Granny Smith apples are fairly tart. And that’s why Honey Crisp are generally considered the ‘next best’ apples for baking. Though not quite as firm as Granny Smith, they are markedly sweeter and are generally ‘firm enough’ for baking. So, which to use? The choice is truly a matter of preference. However, due note that sweetness can be altered with added sugar, but once a pie is ‘mushy,’ there’s no fixing it.
- Flour. All-purpose flour is probably best for today’s crust. Bread flour would result in a ‘hard’ and ‘dense’ crust, while baking flour would result in a crumbly crust that fails to keep its form through cooking.
- Butter. As usual, I highly recommend using unsalted butter for the purposes of today’s recipe.
- Sugar. Simple granulated sugar is what you’re looking for.
- Brown Sugar. I’m using dark brown sugar because it has more of that ‘molasses flavor’ that we’re looking for.
- Cinnamon. Ubiquitous and beloved, if ever one spice ‘tastes like Autumn,’ this is the one. Cinnamon gives the pie a nice warming and earthy flavor, and just a hint of background sweetness.
- Lemon Juice. As in all cases, fresher is better, so opt for fresh lemon juice if you happen to have some lemons on hand. Bottled will work fine, but I do suggest fresh.
- Lemon Zest. For an extra ‘hint’ of lemon flavor, just be sure to rinse the lemon before zesting.
- The Crust Itself. In all honesty, you can make a perfectly delicious homemade pit with a store-bought crust. As such, don’t feel pressured to go through the fuss of making the crust from scratch if you truly don’t want to.
- Butter. For crusts, there are several substitutes. First up is shortening, and this is probably the best. This substitutes at a one-to-one ratio. Next is Lard. Yes, lard. This is a tricky one, as flavor, texture, and moisture varies wildly from brand to brand depending on how the lard was sourced. Again, this substitutes at a one-to-one ratio. I would suggest adding in a few pinches of sugar, otherwise you’ll end up with a slightly savory crust. Finally, coconut oil, though I would strongly suggest using this in its ‘solid’ form, perhaps even chilling it in the fridge if necessary. In its solid form, coconut oil substitutes at a roughly one-to-one ratio.
- The Brandy. Rum, or your favorite whiskey, would work deliciously in this recipe in place of the brandy.
- Brown Sugar Substitutes. There are a couple of ‘okay’ substitutes. The best substitute is molasses. Simply mix a teaspoon of molasses with a quarter of a cup of white sugar, and use that in place of the brown sugar. The next best substitute is maple syrup. Mix a teaspoon of maple syrup mixed with a quarter of a cup of white sugar. In both cases, stir until combined, and then use that in place of the brown sugar. Coconut sugar is also a decent substitute for brown sugar. Use that at a one to one ratio.
Top Six Tips For Baking a Pie
- What apple to use, really? Rather than stressing over which apple is best, my advice is to use a combination of apples. Ideally a mix of firmer, though tarter, apples, along with some sweeter, yet softer, apples. Consider mixing Granny Smith and Honey Crisp, or Golden Delicious with Winesap, or McIntosh and Northern Spy.
- How long can I leave it out? Apple pie can be made eight hours ahead, and kept out, uncovered, at room temperature. Any longer than that, and it should be put in the fridge.
- Can I eat it right away? Yes and no. While you certainly ‘can’ slice into a freshly made apple pie right away, the pie should be allowed to ‘set’ for about an hour before cutting into it. This allows the ‘filling’ to congeal, and for excess moisture to soak into the apples.
- Top tip for making a good crust? Handle the dough as little as possible. Excess handling means excess air. Excess air means a firmer, dryer crust.
- Should I flour ‘everything?’ When rolling out the dough, it can be very tempting to go nuts flouring absolutely everything from the counter to your pin to your hands to the dough itself. Stop this. Yes, flouring the workspace a little helps the dough to keep from sticking and peeling, but use as little as possible to prevent adding excess flour to the dough.
- Vent, vent, vent. If you are getting fancy and placing a crust over the top of the pie, you must vent it. This means cutting slits into the top of the crust, usually with a decorative cutter, or sometimes simply with cut-outs. This allows steam from the filling to escape into the oven. If the steam can’t escape, it remains trapped in the pie, resulting in excess moisture.
Apple Brandy Pie
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 1 1x
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Bake
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon icing sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 4 tablespoons shortening
- 4–5 tablespoons cold butter
- 1/2 cup ice cold water
For Apple Brandy Pie Filling:
- 4–5 baking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons Brandy or Calvados
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1 egg, beaten (for brushing the crust)
- Brown sugar (for sprinkling over the pie)
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt and icing sugar for crust. Add the shortening and butter.
- Using a pastry blender, combine the flour and fat until a fine crumbly mixture forms. Add the ice water, 1/4 cup at a time, until a soft dough forms. Wrap with cling film and let the dough chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
- In the meantime, prepare your apple brandy pie filling.
- In a large bowl, toss your apple slices with the rest of the ingredients (excluding the egg). A slightly thick mixture should form. Cover the bowl and let your apples sit until the dough is ready to be shaped.
- Once the dough has chilled, turn it over to a well-floured surface. Roll the dough out until about 1/4-inch thick. Fit into a pie plate and trim the excess dough. I pressed the edges with a fork and then pricked the bottom in several places. Return the dough to the refrigerator for an additional 30 minutes.
- While the dough chills, prepare the dough strips for your lattice topping.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Blind bake your pie crust for 10- 12 minutes. Let cool slightly before filling.
- Fill the pie crust with the apples and proceed with your lattice design. **NOTE: I have included a lattice tutorial at the end of this post.
- Once finished, brush the lattice with a beaten egg and then sprinkle with some brown sugar.
- Place the pie on a baking sheet in case it bubbles over and in the oven. Bake until the edges and the top have a nice golden color to them, about 40-45 minutes.
Food52 has a great tutorial for a perfect lattice top.
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