"Apple Pie Perfect," by Ken Haedrich

Pros: Apple pie! Yummy recipes; lots of helpful information; some decidedly different ideas
Cons: A few confusing directions; inability to find all the cool apple varieties
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

First published 4/14/2003

When we saw Ken Haedrich’s “Apple Pie Perfect” we just had to pick up a copy. I love apples, and I love baking, but I often find apple pie to be a little bit lacking. The texture isn’t quite right, or the balance of sweetness and acidity is off. So how better to fix the problem and find the perfect dessert, than to buy a cookbook filled with 100 creative variations on the apple pie theme? And even better, the cookbook is written by the author of our favorite breakfast cookbook!

Information overload!

Ever wanted to know why you have to punch steam vents in your crust? Not sure how to tell when your pie is done? Does your bottom crust always come out soggy, not golden and firm?

This book can solve your problems!

First you’ll find “A Pie Maker’s Guide to Apple Varieties.” I’d be more fond of this section if I could actually find more than four or five apple varieties at our store, of course. But at least it tells me the characteristics of the various apple varieties (juicy? Crisp? Flavorful? Aromatic?), so that I can substitute an appropriate mundane variety for the exotic ones called for in some of these recipes. (Of course, it also helps that recipes often include notes such as this one from the grated apple pie recipe: “The original Pennsylvania Dutch recipe calls for Winesap apples, but any firm, juicy, tart apple, including Granny Smith, will do.”) If you have access to heirloom apple varieties and never had recipes suited to them before, now’s your chance to use them! There are 19 varieties described here, from Baldwin to Winesap.

There are also bits and pieces of helpful information interspersed throughout the recipes. “Pie Crust ‘Cookies'” gives you suggestions for what to do with leftover scraps of crust dough. “Is It Done?” tells you how to tell if your pie is done, by time, sound, sight, and smell. There’s a sidebar on the differences between types of flour, a note on freezing pie dough, tips for peeling apples, notes on apple slicers and rolling pins, bits of folklore, tips on storing apples, and much more!

By the time you’re done you’ll be able to make whatever kind of apple pie you like best, whether that’s mushy or firm, juicy or dry, sweet or tart.

Recipe overload!

First, you won’t just find apple pie variants in here. There are also plenty of little helper recipes, like Vanilla Custard Sauce, Mulled Cider, Cinnamon Cider Applesauce, and so on.

There are plenty of crust & pastry recipes: the wonderful All-American Double Crust (there’s also a Rosemary Semolina variation), a Shortening Double Crust, Whole Wheat Double Crust, the fantastic Best Butter Pie Pastry, Three-Grain Butter Pastry, Yeasted Butter Pastry, Flaky Cream Cheese Pastry, Cheddar Cheese Pastry, Wheaten Oil Pastry, and a Graham Cracker Crust. I’m pretty picky about my pie crusts, but some of the best ones I’ve made have come from this cookbook.

The rest of the book is divided into:

Apple pies of fall and winter: Such gems as grated apple pie (delicious!), a traditional lattice-top apple pie, apple pear crumb pie, baked apple dumpling pie (which we had for dessert last night and breakfast this morning–YUM!), all-Granny pecan crumb crust pie (another favorite!), smushy Paula Red pie, and more.

Distinctly summer apple pies: Nancy’s apple and elderberry pie, farm stand apple and peach pie, apple cherry pie with coconut almond crumb topping (we’re hoping to make this one soon!), apple plum pie with coconut streusel (wow!), and so on. There are some fantastic fruit combinations in this chapter, making use of everything from strawberries to rhubarb.

Very apple apple pies: The title doesn’t lie. Shaker boiled apple cider pie, apple applesauce cherry pie, oatmeal-raisin apple-apple butter pie, and a few more double-apple confections!

Special occasion apple pies: Here you’ll find a raft of impressive creations to serve to guests, including Valentine’s apple pie for two; Teresa’s apple and jalapeno tailgate pie (one of the first glaring signs of Haedrich’s penchant for unusual turns of creativity); vanilla bean apple cherry pie; and tipsy apple and dried cranberry pie with Grand Marnier.

The cream of the crop: As the name implies, this chapter covers dairy-oriented pies, such as the farm-style buttermilk pie with fried apple rings, almond custard pie, and sour cream apple crumb pie.

Apple pie pure and wholesome: We get back to healthy basics in this chapter, with apple oatmeal pie with checkerboard lattice, skins-on apple pie in a whole wheat crust, honey whole wheat apple pie, and more.

When apple pie meets pantry: In this chapter a few new flavoring agents find their way into the pies. For instance, you could make rum raisin apple pie, cardamom apple pie with dried tart cherries, and Susan Jasse’s five-spice powder peekaboo pie.

Apple pie on the fringes: Remember I mentioned that weird creativity streak of Haedrich’s? Here it comes back in spades! Want to try apple cheesecake burritos? Apple and brie hand pies (wow!)? Apple “calzone” pie? Apple pizza pie? This chapter is not for the traditionalist!

A few for the kids: Who needs kids in order to make these? Apple, marshmallow, and chocolate chip hand pies! Sam and Jim’s butterscotch apple pie for kids! Caramel-apple nut pie!

Apple pie in a jiffy: And finally, if you need things fast you can make “the easiest apple pie of all,” which involves a store-bought crust, store-bought filling, a few extra filling ingredients, and a home-made oatmeal crumb topping. Or perhaps a Crispin apple lemonade pie, or a Cortland apple pie with granola crumb crust.

Layout and details

The layout is clean and clear. Ingredients are delineated by crust, filling, topping, and so on. Direction steps are numbered and broken down into short steps. We’re told how many servings each recipe makes.

There’s one short spread of color photo pages in the middle of the book, so you can stare at the frozen apple and peanut butter cloud pie and die of sugar shock.

We have stumbled across one instance of confused directions so far, with respect to the filling for the apple dumpling pie. We’re told to put the apple halves cut (and cored) side down in the melted butter, brown sugar, and jam in the pan. And then we’re told to spoon the filling into them. Of course, you can’t spoon the filling into them after you’ve put them into the pan, so do it first.

There’s a good index in the back of the book (you can look up recipes by type of apple), and the table of contents lists out each individual pie with page number.

Every single recipe we’ve made from this book has come out completely and utterly delicious. I’m usually disappointed by apple pie, but not by the pies from this cookbook! They’re just the right texture, just the right balance of tart and sweet. (Even when they aren’t my favorite texture or taste, they’re still so good that I don’t mind!) And they’re creative and unusual, guaranteed to keep us from ever becoming bored with apple pie again. So if you enjoy apple pie and don’t mind straying a little from the beaten path, this cookbook truly is Apple Pie Perfect.

Posted in Cooking, Reviews

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