Der Dutchman staff get into what it takes to make some great apple pie.
America is many things to many people — that’s a feature, not a bug — but there are touchstones in our cultural imagination. Baseball, Norman Rockwell paintings, etc.
And of course, apple pie.
It’s one thing to have it in your head, though, and another thing to make it real. Which begs the question — how does one make a great apple pie?
The staff and pastry creatives at Der Dutchman restaurant and bakery certainly have their ideas. And if the lines around the block during any major pie-eating holiday are any indication, the Amish family kitchen knows its pastries.
Although they have many pies with many flavors, apple pie still is one of the top sellers, according to manager Robin Wild.
“It goes back to the American (image) of homemade pie,” Wild said.
The restaurant's pies are typically made in the evening by an Amish couple, Treva and Elmer Otto.
They’re typically in high demand, and baking manager Devon Williamson has found himself helping when holiday season rolls around.
Wild and Williamson lend some insight into how you can make your own perfect apple pie at home.
1. Pick the right apples.
Everyone needs to start with a solid foundation, so of course, ingredients matter.
Most (if not all) restaurants used canned apples to keep up with demand, but if you’re the one doing the baking, you don't have that excuse — you had better start with fresh apples.
“I grew up making apple pie with my grandma; we always used green Granny Smith apples,” Wild said. “It’s a tart apple that holds its integrity.”
Although tart apples are best, crisp apples like pink ladies and gala apples will work as well. It’s just important to avoid soft apple varieties.
2. Find the right mix, temperature and approach.
After peeling and slicing your apples, it's time to create that delicious sugary filling that will showcase them properly. The guys at Der Dutchman recommend sprinkling the prepared apples with an equal ratio of sugar to cinnamon (though you can experiment with this to see what flavor you want to pop more).
Many modern recipes encourage using flour when making your pie filling, but Williamson has a fondness for using corn starch. He says it makes the whole pie thicker and more satisfying.
That's not to say you can't experiment and see what's best for you — Williamson says many use one or the other or an even mix of both.
Der Dutchman pies are meant to feed six people and have around three pounds of mix for each pie.
When the pie’s crust is placed on the pie tin, Williamson whips the edges of the crust with water-soaked brush to prevent the crust from drying too fast and crumbling when the dough for the lid is placed. If you're taking a pie to go and do this right, the lid should be successfully sticking to the crust.
He also cuts a few marks into the top crust that keeps the pie from exploding in the oven — always a faux pas.
Setting the right temperature on your oven depends on the type you have, but Wild says it's normal to have it at 325 to 350 degrees. It typically takes 30-45 minutes to be all ready.
3. Aim for a thickness.
Williamson always wants his pies to have a noticeable and enjoyable thickness to them, and he has a few ideas on how to ensure that.
He brushes egg on top before sprinkling it with brown sugar — it helps brown the top of the pie. It's best not to overdo it — he stresses to just beat one egg and spread a light layer over the crust — but the final product will look even more delicious because of it.
It also helps to add a little extra butter, too. Though its not something Der Dutchman bakers do with their pies, Williamson recommends people baking at home to put some cubes of butter on top of the filling before putting down the crust. It might shave a couple years off your life but you're not eating this for your health anyway, right? Live a little.
“When you put the apple (filling in), add some butter and then put the lid on top,” Williamson said. “It’ll melt in and make the whole thing thicker.”
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