Two Girls, Two Guys, Four Pies - The Finale

Today we're wrapping up our Two Girls, Two Guys, Four Pies series with some apple pie superlatives and finally getting the guys' points of views on this little experiment of ours where we turned these gorgeous, juicy apples...

Into a full blown table of autumnal awesomeness...

Along with my friend Lindsey (this whole 1950's style playdate was here idea in fact), we baked up four pies, each of which using different ingredients and techniques. Our mission? To finally put to bed what makes a great apple pie.

 

And since our own opinions just weren't enough, we also roped our significant others into this experiment and charged them with participating in a blind taste test of all four pies. Somehow, I don't think they minded.

Shaun is no stranger to the taste test. He is and has always been my ultimate recipe tester and diligently gives me feedback whenever I request it. Coming home from work to a plate full of pie and an apartment smelling of apples wasn't too shabby either. And since he's typically not a dessert lover, I pracitically jumped for joy when I saw him breaking out a pen and paper to take notes on each pie. I call him the 'Alton Brown' of the family.

So let's get down to what you've been waiting for, shall we?

Best Crust
Rachel: Grandma Mary (#3) with special shoutout to Grandma Ople (#4) I made it myself after all!
Lindsey: Grandma Mary (#3) with special shoutout to Grandma Ople (#4)
Shaun: Grandma Mary (#3) with special shoutout to Grandma Ople (#4) I love the carmelization!
Eric: Grandma Mary (#3)

 

Best Filling
Rachel: Tie between Grandma Mary (#3) and The Joy of Cooking (#2)
Lindsey: The Joy of Cooking (#2) Maceration was the unexpected trick to performance balanced apples!
Shaun: The Joy of Cooking (#2)
Eric: Grandma Mary (#3)

Best on Day After
Rachel: Grandma Mary (#3) It was just as perfect as Day 1!
Lindsey: I didn’t have any more pie after that first day!
Shaun: Grandma Mary (#3)
Eric: Grandma Mary (#3) The apples weren't too syrupy and the crust held!

Best Overall
Rachel: Grandma Mary (#3) It's really hard to not be biased, but it was darn good!
Lindsey: Do I have to choose? I just love pie! But I love the way #4 cooked...especially the crispy top!
Shaun: Grandma Mary (#3) But maybe with #2’s filling
Eric: Grandma Mary (#3)

So while we all had varying takes on different aspects of the pies, there are a few things that Lindsey and I took away from this:

  • Most importantly, baking pies all day would be the best, most fun job in the entire world, especially if we could do it together! That and making jams and soaps.
  • Macerating apples seems to be a very important step in creating the perfect pie filling. Though Pie #3 was the most appley of the bunch, Pie #2 (the macerated version) had the perfect amount of sweetness, tartness, and texture of all the pies.
  • In addition to the right technique, the right apples are key! You don't want a pile of sweet mush (not in this case, anyway). Tart apples are best for baking! We used a random mixture of Cortland, Macintosh and Spencer and we thought they were tops!
  • Though we debated on the value of the homemade crust up until that very morning - is it really necessary? We've heard good things about Pillsbury premade crust! Do people really want to spend the time to make their own crust? Will it make that much of a difference? - we came to the conclusion that for proper research we must be able to taste both. And we were psyched that we did. Our final stance on the to-crust or not-to-crust issue? Making your own is completely worth the time. However, if you cannot make it, be it a time or pure intimidation issue, the refrigerated, premade kind is completely fine and was still extremely delicious. Just not as delicious as the real deal. And my tip on making your own crust? Just follow the instructions and do it slowly and carefully! Like many things on this blog, if I can do it, so can you!

To sum it up, we all had varying opinions on different parts of the pie, and the bottom line is that I think a few things could be combined to make one super pie! I can't wait to try my grandmother's homemade crust with macerated apple filling and a lattice top that's carmelized with a buttery sugar mixture. It could be like a super pie! And of course, I'll document the entire thing if you want to follow along.

So there you have it. Our lengthy roundup of 4 amazingly delicious pies. And the truth of the matter? You can't really go wrong with any of them, since as we tasted each one, one was just a bit more delicious than the next. As Shaun said, The barbershop couldn't split hairs this thin!

If I had to recommend the best for ease of use? I'd say go with Pie #2. To get a little more fancy but still use the premade crust, I recommend #4.

Now I want to know, what's your favorite apple pie recipe? Have you ever made a recipe over and over in different ways to try and get it right?

And our bonus question is...what should be next in the Two Girls, Two Guys series?

Psst...want to see the Two Girls, Two Guys, Four Pies series from the beginning? Check out Part I, Part II and Part III!

Two Girls, Two Guys, Four Pies - Part III

For the fourth and final pie in our Two Girls, Two Guys, Four Pies series, we decided to go in a completely different direction in terms of ingredients and technique. After Lindsey came across a recipe for Grandma Ople’s Apple Pie on allrecipes.com which was consistently given 5 stars and touted as the best ever, we knew it had to be added to our arsenal of apple pies. In fact, the reviews even stated that this pie is a winner!, and that people should look no further for the perfect apple pie recipe!. Using a lattice top and a liquid mixture poured over top, this pie was certainly a change from the first three. But did it match up to Pies #1, #2, and #3?

As with Pies #1 and #2, we used the Pillsbury ready to cook, refrigerated pie crust. Like I mentioned in yesterday's wrap up, I was a bit wary of committing to more than one pie with a homemade crust, and well, I figured that if I was going to make it myself, it should be for my own Grandmother's recipe. For this little beauty, we rolled out the bottom crust (after bringing it to room temperature) and filled it with the peeled, cored and sliced apples. As with the first 3, we used a mixture of Macintosh, Cortland, and Spencer apples.

We then covered the pie with a lattice top, which Lindsey made by simply rolling out the second crust and creating a grid over the top of the pie. We then secured the edges of the lattice with the bottom crust by pushing it altogether using just our fingers.

Notice that we were yet to add anything extra to the apples. Th biggest difference with this pie is that a mixture is created on the stovetop and poured over the entire pie, top crust and all. I know, I looked at Lindsey like she had two heads too...kind of like how you are rereading that last line. But it's true.

Grandma Ople’s Apple Pie with Pillsbury Crust
*Adapted from AllRecipes.com
1 pkg Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts (2 crusts included, one for top and bottom)
½ C unsalted butter
3 tbsp all purpose flour
½ C white sugar
½ C brown sugar (I made my own, stay tuned for that how-to)
¼ C water
½ tsp cinnamon
5-6 C tart apples, we used a mix of Cortland, Macintosh and Spencer

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out the bottom crust (after bringing it to room temperature) into your pie plate and fill it with the peeled, cored and sliced apples. As with the first 3, we used a mixture of Macintosh, Cortland, and Spencer apples. Cover the pie with a lattice top, which Lindsey made by simply rolling out the second crust, cutting it into slices with a pizza cutter and creating a grid over the top of the pie. We then secured the edges of the lattice with the bottom crust by pushing it altogether using just our fingers. Set aside and in a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and then whisk in the flour. Whisk in the white sugar, brown sugar and water  and bring to a boil.

Let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes. It will be thick. Now it's time to pour over the pie. We moved the mixture into a small measuring cup first for a more controlled pour over your pie.

We (very carefully and slowly) poured the mixture over the entire top of the crust, making sure to fill in the holes with the mixture so that it would flow into the inside of the pie. Sprinkle with cinnamon. We knew that if this was any indication of the taste, we were in for a real treat.

Cover the edges with foil, as with the first 3 pies, to prevent burning. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 35-40 minutes. This is what we ended up with:

Yum! As soon as it was cool enough to handle, we sliced that baby up and dove right in with our taste test. Unfortunately, the crust held up the worst of the four, completely crumbling once cut into.

First impressions: This pie was buttery and delicious, just as the reviews promised it would be. The crust had a crisp and sweet carmelization from the butter-sugar mixture. Although it fell apart, it seemed less runny than pies #1 and #2, which was a very good thing in our book. It was amazing how much flavor was imparted by the sauce, which I was very wary about since we weren't sure that it had covered all of the apple filling. Instead, it created a sweet and appley pile of apples. Though they weren't quite as tender as Pie #3, it did have a deeper richness than Pies #1 and #2.

And what did the guys think? Stay tuned for tomorrow's post to find out! We'll be wrapping up our apple pie baking adventure and giving you our picks for best crust, best filling, best overall pie, and best pie on T+1.

So what do you think? Have you ever tried the lattice top? Have you ever heard of a pie where the syrup is drizzled over the entire thing? And for a bonus question, what is your favorite kind of apple, whether for baking or munching?

 

Psst...missed parts 1 and 2 of our Two Girls, Two Guys, Four Pies series? Check them out here and here!

Two Girls, Two Guys, Four Pies - Part II

When Lindsey had the absolutely brilliant idea to have a 1950’s-style playdate in which we’d spend the day testing out various apple pie recipes, I couldn’t help but think of the apple pie. The one that my mom has made for as long as I can remember. It’s my grandmother’s recipe, which my mom swears is the best ever. EVER I tell you! It always was the best one I’d ever had. But then again, almost everything that my mom makes from scratch is the best I’ve ever had. Her sauce is divine. Her meatballs melt in the mouth. Her ziti is the most moist and delicious of all time. Her chili is full of flavor without relying on spicy ingredients. Don’t even get me started on her potato salad, barbecue sauce, coffee cake or pound cake. Oh and did I mention her stuffed cabbage, cookies or cakes? Somebody stop me before I start salivating.


Anyhow, when we decided to go on this pie-making adventure, I really wanted to try my mother’s recipe for the best ever apple pie, which was handed down to her from her mother, my Grandma Mary, a fantastic woman who I never had a chance to meet. I remember serving as mom’s sous chef so many times while making this pie (among many other things over the years), all the while listening to mom telling me how my mother always made the best pies. We would peel what seemed like a hundred apples for just one pie, stacking them higher and higher and higher, and then I’d watch as my mom made the flakiest, most delicious crust in the whole world. This seemed to me like one of the hardest things to get just right, especially once it came time to roll it out to the perfect size and then move it to the pie dish without breaking the entire thing. And don’t even get me started on devouring the flaky crust that was anything but sugary with a filling that was oh-so-appley with just the right amount of sweetness. I was always in awe at how this came together to make such a wonderful, delicious pie.

So when it came time to make my first apple pie without mom’s guidance (save for a few panicked phone calls), I kind of viewed this as a right of passage, since I learned it from her and she learned it from her mother. It was only fitting to include one homemade crust in the bunch and so for Grandma Mary’s pie it would go.



Using nothing but a knife and my own two hands to get ‘er done, I mixed all of the ingredients together, cut the mass in half and very carefully rolled out the dough onto my (clean) floured countertop.

Heavily flouring the rolling pin, I rolled each dough mass out to be just a bit bigger than my pie dish. Just as the instructions go, I folded the bottom crust into quarters and laid it over my plate.

Success! We then piled the goods inside the bottom crust.


After piling it all into the dish, we successfully covered the pie with the second crust and I once again pranced around like a school girl yelping with glee.


There may have even been jumping, yelling and high fiving involved. This was one of my most proud cooking moments ever! In fact, I literally did my own version of the happy dance in celebration.

And into the oven it went, thanks to Lindsey's awesome forking and top crust design skills!

The finale:


First impressions (and I’ll try not to be biased): This was the only pie that didn’t crumble into a mess when we cut into it, a telltale sign that this crust was anything but store-bought. In fact the top didn't even fall. The crust was just as flaky as a good crust should be. The overall unsweetness of the crust was off-set by the apple center, which was not overly sweet but not quite tart either. It was the most appley of the bunch thus far. Even the apples held up a bit better than Pies #1 and #2, as they were tender but a bit more firm so it was less like apple filling and more like straight up soft apples. And of course we found it necessary to add a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt, though it was completely unnecessary.



How did the overall pie stand up to Pies #1 and #2? What did the guys have to say on their weigh in? You’ll have to stay tuned to find out!ο»Ώ And in case you missed the round up of our Pillsbury pie and Joy of Cooking pie, check out yesterday's Two Girls, Two Guys, Four Pies - Part I!

So what do you think? Have you ever made your own crust? Are you just intimidated by the mere thought of it (as I was until last week)? Do you have a family recipe that just screams this is the best ever? And bonus question: What is your favorite food moment, whether cooking at home or eating a fabulous meal at a great or hole-in-the-wall restaurant?