By: Aubrie Jean & Amanda Frittz
Happy November! Here’s to apple cider, frosty mornings, cozy clothes, and best of all: pie.
A few months ago, after being tasked with bringing a dessert to a dinner with Amanda and her husband Adam, I lazily grabbed an apple pie off the shelf of Safeway. Little did I know that this would be one of the best pies I had ever tasted! It instantly became my favorite quick dessert to bring and share with friends.
Considering the season and birth of new traditions, Amanda and I decided to recreate the infamous Safeway apple pie. What’s a better way to practice holiday baking than to buy one, bake our own, and compare them both?
I must admit, I myself am not the most practiced cook, let alone a baker. However, this challenge was something Amanda and I have been excited to try!
For our pie, we decided it would be fun to do something risky; we used a very basic apple pie recipe (click for similar recipe) and modified it as we went, creating our own recipe.
We were semi-limited on time so we ended up using boxed pie crust mix instead of setting aside extra time to make a homemade crust. Some other ingredients we used were Honeycrisp apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, sugar, etc.
I had never rolled out a pastry crust before and found that it was very difficult to roll out the dough to a large enough size without having the edges crack. I believe this was partly because I used too much flour and did not have enough dough. We did get to experiment with some festive pie-décor, using cookie cutters and a knife to cut and style some pastry leaves!
After the pie was cooked and sampled, we realized that the crust was too thin compared to the store-bought pie. This crust-to-pie ratio is very important because without the balance we lost a lot of pastry flavor to the sweetness of the apples and sugar. We also realized later (when our pie was missing the warm brown glow) that we had forgotten to gloss the tops of the pastry with egg.
I (Amanda) was in charge of doing the apple pie filling. I remembered hearing that boiling your apples before making the pie filling was essential to get a perfect consistency. So I tried boiling them before cooking them in a pan with sugar and butter, but out of fear for them getting too mushy I took them out to0 fast. This was my first mistake.
After boiling the apples I put them in a pot with butter, flour, spices, and sugar. Admittedly, I was too generous with the amount of butter I added and I should have increased the flour ratio. After mixing all the ingredients and letting it simmer for a few minutes I poured the mixture into the pie crust. The filling while cooking on the stove was deceivingly thick, and after baking would thin. So, in the future, I would add more flour to the mixture despite deceiving appearances.
The filling did taste more fragrant and fresh than the store bought pie. However, the apples weren’t completely cooked through and the filling was runnier than the store-bought alternative. Our pie was messier to plate than the store-bought pie as a result of the thin filling.
As for the overall aesthetic of the pie, ours would’ve been the best if it had only had the baked golden-brown color. Compared to the store-bought pie, ours needed to have a thicker crust, thinner apple slices, and more viscous filling consistency (that way the pie wouldn’t fall apart when trying to cut). Next time we will try layering the apple slices and letting it cool for longer before cutting, which will hopefully help with holding the form of the pie. As a final critique, we do want to acknowledge that the overall flavor of our homemade pie really did beat the store bought. We weren’t expecting the flavor of the fresh apples to stand out as much as it did, but the freshness of the pie was deliciously apparent.
This experiment goes to show that first attempts are rarely perfect, so we do plan to try this recipe again. Now we have an entire list of ideas to improve in our next attempt! However, if you are looking for something quick and delicious, store-bought really is the safest way to go.