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I have what you could call “pie anxiety” or perhaps it’s more appropriate to call it “pie-making anxiety.” See, I never feel like my pies are good enough, and I always tend to wonder if my pie crust recipe could use a little extra tweaking. I worry about such things as pie dough cracking, ease of rolling, pie crust flakiness, shrinkage, butter oozing, reproducibility, etc. Important stuff! Yes, pie can be that stressful. I experience an awkward combination of awe and Instagram-induced jealousy when I look at the super intricate decorative pie crust details that some people do. How can my pies ever measure up to that?
Recently, given my pie-related insecurities, I have gone on a quest to make flakier doughs, following certain recipes I’ve found on the internet, figuring that they MUST be better than my little old food processor recipe. But with most every recipe I tried, I ended up a sweaty emotional wreck by the end of it.
Pie crusts oozed butter onto the floor of my oven, just about setting the oven on fire. There were greasy pie crusts that looked so wrong. So, so wrong. There was a pie that literally seemed to refuse to bake, so after over an hour and a half, I set the oven to broil. In case you are wondering, that pie almost caught fire and was scorched beyond repair.
After a few horribly disappointing pie-making sessions that led to smoke inhalation, tears, and a pathetic amount of self-doubt and pity party, I woke up one morning and I said screw it. I should not be experiencing pie-making paralysis. I have an all-butter pie dough recipe I like.
The recipe is straightforward. Dare I say easy? Case in point, I made the dough for this pie in the food processor, like I lazily like to do. It takes minutes, literally. And when I was done pulsing in the water, I broke all the rules. I hit the “ON” button on the food processor and I let that sucker run until the dough clumped into a ball. You would think I’d ruined it. Nope. It was fine. See, my recipe can survive “over” mixing in the food processor. It’s fine. It’s crisp, flaky enough.
Hey, this isn’t puff pastry dough and let’s not aim for that! This is pie dough. The dough I made rolled out beautifully, didn’t crack, didn’t stick much. The dough holds its shape when baked. It doesn’t ooze butter and become greasy. It doesn’t budge as it bakes.
I used my “over-processed” dough to make this apple butter pie. It’s a pie I’ve been dreaming of for years. I wanted to see if one could use apple butter in place of pumpkin purée to make the apple version of pumpkin pie. And the verdict is a huge YES! This recipe yields a creamy, apple-flavoured filling with a texture much like that of pumpkin pie. It’s soft, creamy, with a really buttery flavour.
If you are looking for a pumpkin pie alternative for Thanksgiving dinner, this is it. And you know what? I am happy with this dough again. It’s the same dough I used to make. The one I used for this gorgeous maple apple pie that won the hearts of many, a pie I made before I began to experience pie anxiety. This recipe works for me and it makes a great pie. I guess I needed a reminder and this apple butter pie was exactly what I needed.
Remember to read the label of your apple butter and to choose wisely. I didn’t use an apple butter that is apple sauce mixed with butter. The apple butter for this recipe is 100% apples cooked down to a mahogany, buttery, molasses-flavoured apple spread. Sometimes there may be a little apple juice on the ingredient label and that’s fine.
Apple butter pie
Easy all butter pie dough
- 258 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp (1/4 tsp) fine kosher salt
- 2 tsp (2 tsp) granulated sugar
- 173 grams (¾ cup) unsalted butter cut into cubes, cold
- 83 mL (⅓ cup) cold water
- 1 (1 ) large egg beaten with 1 tbsp water to brush on edge of pie to glue decorative braid to crust edges
Apple butter pie filling
- 480 g (2 cups) apple butter
- 250 mL (1 cup) whipping cream (35 % fat)
- 3 (3 ) large eggs
- 50 grams (¼ cup) light brown sugar
- 60 mL (¼ cup) pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp (1 tsp) ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp (1/4 tsp) ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp (1/2 tsp) ground ginger
- 2 pinches (2 pinches) ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp (1/4 tsp) fine kosher salt
- whole milk (3.25 % fat) to brush surface edges of crust
To make the all-butter pie dough and pie crust
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour with the salt and sugar. Add the butter and pulse to form a coarse crumble with butter lumps.
- Add the water, and pulse to combine. You can continue to run the processor to form a ball of dough or do this on your work surface by hand.
- Divide the dough into two disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for 1 hour.
- Roll out the first disk of dough to about a 12 inch diameter disk or so on a floured surface with a rolling pin. Transfer to a metal pie plate and make sure to work the dough into the corner edges of the pie plate. Trim the edges and place the pie in the fridge.
- Roll out the second disk of dough to a very long rectangle that is quite thin. Cut thin strips of dough, then braid the strips together, three at a time.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg with 1 tbsp water. Brush the edges of the chilled pie shell with the egg wash, then press the braids to the brushed edges to stick them onto the edge. You can weave the ends of the braids together for a seamless look OR just cut out some leaf shapes with the dough scraps and hide the seams with them, glueing down the shapes with a little more egg wash.
- Place the pie shell in the fridge and chill for 20 minutes.
Make the filling and bake the pie
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- In a large bowl, whisk together all the apple butter pie filling ingredients EXCEPT the milk. When the pie shell has chilled, carefully pour the pie filling into the shell. Brush the braid with a little whole milk.
- Place the pie on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 1 hour 20 minutes. The surface will crack, the centre will still jiggle, but the crust will be nice and golden and the pie filling will finish setting as it cools.
- Place the baked pie on a wire rack to cool completely before serving (I set the rack on my balcony outside, which is 0ºC to cool/chill the pie at the same time).
- I like to bake my pies in a metal pie dish, something like this dark metal pie plate available on Amazon.
- I used Eden organic apple butter, which you can find on Amazon. Many Americans might have an easier time finding Musselman's apple butter on Amazon, but note that Musselman's apple butter may be sweeter.
- To achieve the look you see in the photos, I stencilled a lace pattern onto the surface of the pie by gently pressing a piece of lace on the surface of the pie and dusting generously with powdered sugar.
- In case you are wondering, I currently use a Cuisinart 11-cup food processor. So far, I quite like it. You can also find it on Amazon.
Janice Lawandi is chemist-turned-baker, working as a recipe developer in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She studied pastry at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa and cooking at l’Académie Culinaire. She has a BSc in Biochemistry from Concordia University and a PhD in Chemistry from McGill University. Visit janicelawandi.com to see my portfolio.