What if I told you not to worry about baking a pie from scratch on Thanksgiving day? What if I told you that you could pull it from the freezer and bake it right when you started to feel like dessert? What if I told you that it wouldn’t come in a box, that it would lack preservatives, and that it would be homemade? What if I told you that you could make this pie today? You’d want to keep reading, wouldn’t you?
Years ago I read about the option of making pie dough, rolling it out, and then freezing it to form in a pie plate lined with plastic wrap. Once frozen, the frozen pie crust could be gently removed from the pie plate, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and covered with foil, to yield a homemade version of this.
This sounded pretty good to me and in preparation for hosting Thanksgiving this year, I recently started to fill my freezer with homemade frozen pie crusts for pumpkin and pecan pie. These would be lifesavers on the big day when instead of vigorously cutting in fat and taking up valuable counter space in rolling out the dough, I could simply prepare the filling, pour it in the pie shell, and bake.
There was just one problem. Pumpkin and pecan pie does not a Thanksgiving pie trifecta make. And personally, I don’t want anything to do with a Thanksgiving that doesn’t include a slice of homemade apple pie. Yet, as anyone who has ever baked a classic apple pie knows it requires a top and bottom crust. Sure I could freeze the bottom crust and then make the top crust on the big day, but I wanted to cross this homemade pastry dough thing off my list today. What’s a cook to do?
I had heard that fruit pies freeze well and consulted one of my favorite baking tomes, The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum for confirmation that this was the case. Once I got confirmation from Beranbaum, it was simply a matter of performing a test run on my favorite recipe for homemade apple pie with a cheddar cheese crust (recipe found below) which I did this week.
And the result? It failed. The crust was perfect and the filling was spot on in terms of taste, but it was way too watery. It needed a little tweaking and so I promptly made two more pies and tested each in a different way to make sure that you and yours have a perfect homemade frozen apple pie for the big day.
My first pie was watery, because I never managed to get the filling hot enough to boil and thicken because I was concerned above burning the crust. To solve this problem, the second time around I cut the apples into thinner slices (1/4-inch thick instead of 1/2-inch thick wedges) and threw all of the ingredients for the filling in a medium saucepan. I stirred constantly over medium heat until liquid started to accumulate at the bottom of the pan. I then covered the saucepan and cooked over medium heat, stirring every so often, for about 10 minutes until a thick syrupy liquid covered the apples. I let the filling cool and then proceeded to assemble and freeze the pie as directed. When it came time to bake, I extended the baking time at each temperature (adjustment detailed in the freezing section of the recipe below) and the result was this:
Great flavor, ideal consistency, and the ability to be made today for Thanksgiving perfection on November 28th.
So friends, get baking. Today is the day to make your apple pie. Make the homemade pastry dough, peel the apples, cook them briefly, assemble the pie, crimp the edges, and then freeze it. Two weeks from now take the pie from freezer to oven to table, where I promise all those gathered round your table will be impressed by its homemade goodness and the cook who made it.
In recent years, I have begun to add a 1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese into the top crust of my pie. While for this test run, I used your standard grocery-store sharp New York cheddar, I’ll buy a nice aged cheddar for a bit more complexity and that wow factor for my Thanksgiving pie. For those that live in Charlotte, the Cabot Clothbound Cheddar (Greensboro, VT) which can be purchased at Orrman’s Cheese Shop is one of my favorites for this recipe.
Several years ago I wrote a post on making homemade apple pie which has some good tips on making the pie itself. I use the same pastry dough for both sweet and savory dishes as it’s delicious and you can’t beat the simplicity of the ingredients: flour, butter, salt, and water. I think you’ll agree that it’s a keeper and once mastered, a good one to have in your back pocket. I demonstrate how to make it in these segments from the Charlotte Today show using a food processor and by hand
Homemade Apple Pie – Printer Friendly Recipe
Makes 1 (9-inch) double crust pie
This recipe makes a delicious traditional apple pie. If planning to make and freeze the pie in advance, see the instructions on freezing that follow the recipe.
To kick things up a notch, check out the variations that call for adding cheddar cheese into the top crust or drizzling a slice of pie with goat milk caramel. Thanksgiving will never be the same!
2 recipes of pastry dough (see recipe)
2 1/2 pounds baking apples (e.g. Gala, Granny Smith, Rome Beauty), preferably of different varieties
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling the crust
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with a little water or milk)
Special equipment: pastry brush, 9-inch pie plate
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and place a rack in the center of the oven. Peel and core the apples and cut them into 1-inch thick slices. Place the apple slices in a large bowl and toss with the flour, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. Set the bowl aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry dough for the bottom crust. Using your rolling pin, transfer the dough from the counter to the 9-inch pie plate. Trim around edges as needed and patch up any holes. Pour the apples and any juices on top of the pastry dough in the pie plate. Trim the excess dough and brush the edge with the egg wash.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry dough for the top crust. Using the rolling pin, transfer the dough from the counter and lay it over the apples. Gently seal the edges together by pressing down. Trim any excess dough and decorate the edge if desired.
Brush the top crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Cut three vent holes in the center of the top crust. Place the pie on the center rack and place a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any drippings. Bake for twenty minutes then reduce the heat to 375 degrees. Bake for 40 minutes more or until the top crust is golden brown. Allow the pie to cool before serving.
To freeze the pie:
If planning to freeze the pie, line the 9-inch pie plate with plastic wrap before you begin. Cut the apples into thin, 1/4-inch thick slices and place in a medium saucepan with the rest of the filling ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until liquid begins to accumulate on the bottom of the pan. Cover and cook, stirring every couple of minutes, for 10 minutes or until the apples are covered with a thick syrupy coating. Don’t overcook the apples or the resulting liquid at this point. The liquid should be thick, but still be able to drop off a spoon. Allow to cool.
Roll out the bottom crust of the pie and place it in the plastic wrap-lined pie plate. Assemble the pie using the cooled filling. Brush the assembled pie with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Place it in the freezer, uncovered, for at least 4 hours or until frozen. Remove the pie and gently lift it out of the pie plate using the plastic wrap. Tightly wrap the pie in plastic wrap then wrap in foil. Return the pie to the freezer until ready to bake. Prior to baking, remove the foil and plastic wrap and place the frozen pie in the pie plate. Bake for 30 minutes at 425 degrees F and 50 minutes at 375 degrees F. Cover the edges of the pie with foil if browning too quickly.
Makes one 9” pie crust (double for pies with a top and bottom crust)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
5 tablespoons ice cold water
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Use two forks or a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour mixture until the fat is in small lumps. Sprinkle the ice-cold water over the flour mixture and use a fork to pull the mixture together. Add up to 1 more tablespoon of water, in teaspoonfuls, if the dough is not coming together.
Turn the dough out on the counter and, working quickly, mold it into a large ball. Press the ball into a 5-inch disc. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least thirty minutes and up to one day. Use according to the recipe.
Add ½ cup grated cheddar cheese to the dough for the top crust. Add the cheese after you cut in the butter, but before you add the water. Stir to combine then continue as instructed. My favorite cheese to add to this is Cabot Clothbound Cheddar (Greensboro, VT) from Orrman’s Cheese Shop.
For some added decadence, drizzle caramel sauce over slices of apple pie. The Carmelita Goat’s Milk Caramel from Looking Glass Creamery (Fairview, NC) is particularly delicious served this way. It can be purchased at Orrman’s Cheese Shop.