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Prize Winning Apple Pie and Best Crust Ever

by on October 1, 2009 · 61 comments

Every once in awhile, and for me almost never, a recipe comes along that’s so good you can close the book, put it some place safe, and never worry about finding a better version. It happened yesterday with this prize winning apple pie.

apple pie slice

I got the recipe from AJ at The Disney Food Blog, where she had the opportunity to interview the 2009 Crisco National Pie champ, Dawn Viola. If you’re a pie maker, you’ll love this. If you’re not, this pie might change that. The crust will make you a star.

At first glance, Dawn’s recipe appears rather complicated for an apple pie. It’s not. It’s just packed with helpful details. As for ingredients, Dawn was going for the gold with her use of vanilla bean, vanilla powder and organic dry ingredients, but being that I’ve been home with a sick kid and unable to go anywhere, I used “normal” stuff (vanilla extract, non-organic dry ingredients) and still ended up with a great pie. One thing I didn’t change was the European style butter. According to Dawn, that plus the vinegar (acid) were key ingredients in the crust which is definitely the best I’ve ever made in my life.

As for the filling, broiling the apples for 5 minutes (not cooking them through– just caramelizing the edges) gave the filling a nice depth of flavor. I loved this pie, and I tend to prefer lighter apple fillings with less-cooked apples and lemony. This one wasn’t light in any sense, but it was delicious.

I’m not going to re-post the recipe because Dawn’s steps are so carefully written, but I do have a few notes based on my experience making the pie.

– Substituting a teaspoon of vanilla for the vanilla powder in the crust worked fine
– Substituting a teaspoon of vanilla for the vanilla bean seeds in the filling worked fine
– Substituting apple juice for the apple cider worked fine, I used a juice box! Seriously, ack. But worked.
– 12 apples turned out to be a 3 pound bag
– If you have one, an apple peeler comes in handy.
– there’s a step missing the original recipe. AJ is probably going to correct it soon, but the recipe doesn’t say what to do with the 4 tablespoons of butter in the fililng. What you do is slice the butter and arrange it over the top of the filling.

apple peeler

– Broiling the cut apples wasn’t as big a pain as it seems. You just throw them in a roasting pan. No need to worry about a broiler pan. Mine took about 6 minutes. I mixed the dry ingredients in a bowl while the apples were broiling
– Makes sure you set the pie on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with foil. Mine leaked like crazy. You might not have that problem, but it’s good to be safe. Plus, you won’t have to use my super dangerous method of cleaning hot, smoking molten caramel out of the bottom of the oven.

apple pie whole

If you try the pie, let me know! In the meantime, I’m going to try the crust with some different fillings.

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Published on October 1, 2009

{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan October 1, 2009 at 7:09 am

Wow!! Wish I’d had this recipe for our Apple Pie Contest at the Farmers Market last Sunday!! Looks Great!!

Todd October 1, 2009 at 7:52 am

I had this pie last night and it was fantastic, especially the crust.

Sue October 1, 2009 at 8:05 am

My husband and daughter love apple pie so I’ll keep this one in mind the next time I make it. The pie looks wonderful!
I love Danish butter, but it’s soooo expensive. We splurged and got some when our daughter came home from Denmark and we wanted to make Danish pastries. The butter was worth every penny. It’s good to know that it’s worth it for this recipe too.

Meghan October 1, 2009 at 8:36 am

That pie looks incredible, and I don’t even really enjoy apple pie all that much! I’d be curious what other recipes you think you can “close the book” on!

Krystle October 1, 2009 at 8:41 am

oh wow! that crust looks fantastic! I will have to give this a try over the holidays!

Anna October 1, 2009 at 8:46 am

Sue, I’m not sure where I’d find Danish butter. I used my store brand’s “European style” and it was fine. Plugra would be good too.

Meghan, the other recipe I’ve closed the book on is almond toffee/almond roca.

Ashley October 1, 2009 at 9:13 am

Ooo wow that crust looks awesome! I’m not a big fruit pie person but will definitely have to try this out. I appreciate you sharing your substitutions and knowing that they worked. I usually use apple juice to replace apple cider and sometimes it’s from a juice box too.. it’s just the easiest!

Louise October 1, 2009 at 9:27 am

The Cookie Jar 
by Edgar A. Guest

Like the love of the mother it shines through our years,
It has soothed all our hurts and has dried away tears;
It has paid us for toiling; in sorrow or joy,
It has always shown kindness to each girl and boy;
And I’m sorry for people, whoever they are,
who live in a house where there’s no cookie jar.

Happy National Cookie Month, Anna. That pie looks gorgeous!!!

AJ October 1, 2009 at 10:36 am

I’m glad the pie turned out so wonderfully, Anna! Thank you for publishing the substitutions and how they worked — very good to know.

Karen October 1, 2009 at 11:28 am

Wow! Gorgeous! I will definitely be making this one soon, now that summer fruit is coming to an end and it’s time to start baking with apples again.

CindyD October 1, 2009 at 11:30 am

Very interesting recipe, but I’m sticking with my version of my mother’s recipe, which has to be made with Macintosh or Jonathan apples (hard to find in Phoenix!) and a crumb crust. Wonder how this recipe would taste with Jonathan apples?

Lisa Ernst October 1, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Looks fabulous. Generally I don’t bake pie, but this could change my mind, as you said. I did take a look at the ingredients and is must say — this is Paula Deen rich with all that butter. :-) But I’m sure that made a big difference. My husband loves apple pie and would be thrilled if I made this, especially considering we’re getting into apple season.

Sue October 1, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Hi Anna!
Oddly enough our “upscale” grocery store carries Danish butter. It’s fascinating to me the things that we can and can’t get here. I suppose it’s like that everywhere. You can get ancho and chipotle chili powders where you live, I have to get mine in another city or mail order. When I can get Dutch process cocoa it’s obscenely expensive and cheaper to just get it mail order. How silly is that!? No doubt there are other things.

Juli October 1, 2009 at 12:32 pm

I’m wondering if the 1 teaspoon vanilla substitution for the vanilla powder also covers the vanilla bean in the crust, or would you have to use 2 teaspoons? I don’t have vanilla beans!

gloria October 1, 2009 at 12:54 pm

That is the tastiest looking apple pie I’ve ever seen!!! My husband will wash and peel apples all day if the result is apple pie!!!!

Anna October 1, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Juli, I just used 1 teaspoon vanilla in the crust and that was fine. What we really tasted was the butter. It was a like a croissant in pie crust form.

hulagirl247 October 1, 2009 at 2:44 pm

hi anna!

you are really making me wonder what your super dangerous method of cleaning hot smoking molten caramel out of the bottom of the oven is…….

the pie looks gorgeous! i’ve always thought my mother’s apple pie was the best ever
(and it’s the one recipe where no matter how i try it just never comes ot quite the same
as hers) – i’ll have to give this one a test drive to see how it compares!

thanks as always for sharing with us!

best regards (& plase tell fuzz i hope she feels better VERY soon!) _

~hula~

Lisa October 1, 2009 at 3:01 pm

That looks fabulous, and I’ve got a teenage boy who LOVES apple pie, so I know what I’ll be doing this weekend. BUT–non-pie question: how/on what is your apple peeler mounted? Mine has a useless suction cup on the bottom, & I’ve always thought there must be a better version out there

Anna October 1, 2009 at 3:05 pm

Lisa, I never mount mine. I just set it on the counter and hold it down while I’m spinning.

Hula, thanks for the well wishes for Fuzz. We thought she was better last night, but today she’s running a fever and has been lying around crying because she’s so sick at her stomach. I feel bad for her, but am glad it’s not H1N1. She finally cried herself to sleep. Poor little thing.

I’ll email you my super dangerous method. I don’t condone it. LOL.

dawn October 1, 2009 at 3:38 pm

that is a good crust, no doubt.

Christina @ Boyish Charm October 1, 2009 at 3:45 pm

I’m a sucker for a good Apple Pie! My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Michelle October 1, 2009 at 3:52 pm

I’ve got apple pie on my “to-be-baked-with-all-the-apples-we-picked” list. Wish I had had that handy apple peeler!

Kerstin October 1, 2009 at 5:10 pm

It really does look like the perfect apple pie with that lovely crust! I’m definitely saving this recipe and will give it a try.

beth October 1, 2009 at 6:28 pm

We just went apple picking and I can’t wait for Saturday morning to make this pie. Anna, I always make your toffee and I love when people taste it for the first time. They always look at it and then give words of praise! I feel like you have given me an old family
secret.I too will never try another toffee recipe again.
IDoes anyone know if the Food Network is going to air that Crisco Pie contest?
Beth

Diane October 1, 2009 at 10:12 pm

I, too, am going to try this pie. I read Dawn’s interview on the Disney blog, and she said she makes her own butter, but that the Danish is the closest commercially available. Cook’s Illustrated did a taste test on high-end butters and liked the Danish butter, Lurpak, the best. I wrote to Lurpak USA to find out where it’s sold, and if I remember correctly, Whole Foods carries it. I’d be very interested to know how Dawn makes her own. I have a local dairy that sells non-ultrapasturized 40% cream to the public, so I’d love to give it a try.

Thanks, Anna, for trying this treat and letting the rest of us know about it!

Louise October 2, 2009 at 8:12 am

My apple peeler has a clamp to attach to a table or something. I rarely, how about never, use it as I have a couple of the Japanese peelers that work so well. It’s not worth the time to get out the apple peeler and clean it later.

Katrina October 2, 2009 at 8:59 am

Mmm! My go-to crust has vinegar (one of the keys) in it,too. But it also has an egg. The vanilla sounds interesting! Hey, if it won 1st place, it must be good!
Looks great! I always make an apple pie ’round Thanksgiving. I’ll have to give this one a try as I never stick to the same one! Close the book, huh!
Bummer about Fuzz! We just left our kids with my mom for a few days and she came back to be with them with a nasty cold! I have a feeling they’ll all take turns at it after she leaves!

Lorie October 2, 2009 at 12:18 pm

That is one beautiful pie. I made a similar crust a week or so ago with vinegar in it, too, and it was delish. When I go grocery shopping soon (out-of-our-small-town-to-the-big-city-grocery-shopping) I am going to look for some Danish butter and try this. Oh, yes, and it will give me an excuse to pull that old Pampered chef apple peeler/ corer out. :o)

Randi October 2, 2009 at 2:06 pm

I always make an all butter crust. I made a crust with I can’t believe its not butter sticks( that I got for free) and it sucked!! I’m a butter snob I guess.

I’m going to make this apple pie for Canadian Thanksgiving( Oct 12th). Btw, if any of your readers want some coupons for the I can’t believe its not butter baking sticks, let me know. I have tons of 1.50 coupons!!

Anna October 2, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Randi, I used the butter sticks in the Deen brothers chocolate chip cookie recipe and they were great. But I think chocolate chip cookies are one of those things where margarines and butter blends can work very well if the recipe is writte right. I don’t think I’d try it with pie crust. You are daring.

Alli October 2, 2009 at 6:57 pm

I just made this pie (my first ever! I’m usually more of a cookie girl) and it looks WONDERFUL! We haven’t tried it yet, but man, the filling was good even before it cooked. My Mom actually peaked at it after it came out of the oven, and thought it was store-bought. So excited!

beth October 2, 2009 at 7:14 pm

I just got the recipe from AJ’s blog, which I also LOVE, and saw that I missed the pie championship on Food Network. Oh well, thanks to AJ and Anna for sharing this recipe!

Terri October 3, 2009 at 1:30 pm

I just bought Danish butter and it’s one big 8oz piece of butter. Is the 2 1/2 sticks equivalent to 10 oz. of regular butter?

Carrie October 3, 2009 at 8:32 pm

I made this today. Very, very delish. I didn’t buy enough apples (3 short) and I forgot to compensate for that with the rest of the ingredients. The result was a super liquidy filling which I added a little cornstarch to (didn’t help). I left some of the liquid out when I poured it into the crust, but it still came out great. Also didn’t have european butter, but the crust was still yummy. Thanks for sharing.

leslie October 3, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Oh my , this crust does look amazing!!

Terri October 4, 2009 at 7:48 am

I made this yesterday and, while a little liquidy, it is a great pie! I did print the recipe from the blog and it calls for 4 Tbsp. butter in the filling, but I couldn’t find that in the directions, so I left it out (really, accidentally). Maybe that’s why my filling was kind of liquidy. I did like the big chunks of apples, though. Hope you’re feeling better, Anna!

Anna October 4, 2009 at 8:55 am

Terri, there’s a step missing in the original recipe. It doesn’t say what to do with the 4 T. butter. You cut it up and put it over the filling. So yes, that might be why yours was liquidy. Then again, mine was liquidy too and I DID use the butter.

Just make sure you set the pie on a rimmed cookie sheet to catch leakage.

Jennifer October 5, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Hey, Anna! I made this pie this weekend also and made lots of substitutions: I used Kerrygold butter with just plain ol’ butter for the crust, no vanilla bean or vanilla powder and like Terri, I forgot the butter in the pie. While the crust only came out okay (I also forgot to put the pie on something so I thought I was going to have an oven fire with all of the butter dripping onto the oven floor), the filling was AMAZING…I am going to make apple pie filling like this from now on!! Thanks for the link!!

beth October 7, 2009 at 7:08 pm

I made the pie. It was great. Everyone loved it and I’ve had a request to make it for Thanksgiving!

Patrice October 7, 2009 at 7:33 pm

I’m new to this site, but dying to try this pie. Where do I find the recipe? I can’t seem to zero in on it.
Thanks for all the comments and pix.

Anna October 7, 2009 at 7:51 pm

Beth, that’s great news!

Patrice, here’s the link. It’s kind of hard to see on some monitors, but the link was within the text.

http://www.disneyfoodblog.com/2009/09/28/interview-national-pie-champion-and-orlando-chef-dawn-viola/

gloria October 8, 2009 at 12:35 pm

I’ll bet if you reduce the apple cider, you won’t have so much liquid. I’ve made apple pies before and I don’t remember adding additional liquid to what the apples will make themselves. The pie crust will also hold up better with less liquid. Just my unsolicited two cents about this fabulous looking pie that I have not tried yet, but it’s on my list.

Wendy October 18, 2009 at 2:57 pm

I was curious what you thought about using the crust recipe for other pies… like dividing it and making 2 pecan pies, or buttermilk pies (or even this crust for any meringue pie). Would it be the right sort of crust for that?
(I’m not an apple pie fan … or any fruit pie, really…)

Also – i don’t think I’ll be able Danish or European butter… what’s the difference between that and regular unsalted sticks? I don’t think any of our grocery stores are upscale enough :(

Gina October 18, 2009 at 6:55 pm

Just took this pie out of the oven! It’s GORGEOUS! And I snuck a little of the crust and some of the “goo” that exploded out of one side, and it’s YUMMY! Here’s another idea to help make a less runny filling–I used two tablespoons frozen apple juice concentrate in place of the 1/2 cup of apple cider. Seems to have worked well. For a little extra flavor, I also roasted the apples with a couple of tablespoons of maple sugar instead of regular granulated. MMMM!

Lourdes November 9, 2009 at 8:05 am

I’ve never made applie pie before, but I think this turned out okay. I used Lurpak danish butter. They come in 8 oz sticks, so I’m assuming this is the portion size of the butter that she used. I have the cuisinart classic food processor (from 1997) and I realized too late that this was too small to mix the dough in. I did my best to salvage it, but I think all of the ingredients were not incorporated properly. The dough luckily turned out fine , but not great. I will try to make this pie again, but will either buy a bigger food processor or make the dough in smaller batches.
The recipe said to place all the ingredients in the freezer. I wasn’t sure if she also meant the butter , vanilla extract, and the vinegar. I placed them all in the freezer for about 20 minutes as instructed. What did you do ?
I used only 1/4 cup of apple cider instead of the 1/2 cup. The filling was not wet at all.

Anna November 9, 2009 at 3:54 pm

Lourdes, I froze all the ingredients except for the butter. I figured very cold butter would work, and it did. I think Dawn does freeze hers, though.

That’s interesting about the sticks, though. The European butter I use comes in 4 oz sticks just like regular butter. So I used 2 1/2 sticks which of course is 1 1/2 cups. If you used 2 1/2 8 oz sticks, you might have used double the butter. I’m going to email Dawn just to clarify.

I automatically associate a stick with 4 oz, so it didn’t even occur to me that Danish butter might come in a larger stick.

Anna November 9, 2009 at 6:43 pm

Lourdes, I think maybe you used too much butter. Dawn’s sticks were 4 oz! I’ll send you an email.

Rob November 25, 2009 at 6:56 pm

I think there’s another error in the recipe…it says to add the vanilla bean seeds before broiling, but then says to add the “vanilla extract” after broiling, and vanilla extract is not in the filling ingredients list. I’m assuming I should not add any vanilla extract if I’m using the vanilla bean seeds?

Anna November 25, 2009 at 7:01 pm

Hi Rob,

I omitted the vanilla bean seeds completely and just used the extract (added after broiling), but I’m thinking Dawn did use both. She probably added the extract at the end since it would burn off under the broiler. You can email her and ask. There’s a link to her personal blog on my right sidebar. It’s called Wicket Good Dinner.

Sue November 29, 2009 at 5:18 pm

I made a variation of this pie using what I had on hand and it was excellent! Thank you for sharing it. I think this is the be all end all of apple pie, and can only imagine how great it would be following Dawn’s instructions to a “T”.

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