I Finally Tried “Grandma Ople’s” 5-Star Apple Pie (It Has More than 10,000 Reviews)
Twice a month on Kitchn, we battle off four versions of a popular dish to determine the very best recipe. (This week, it’s all about apple pie.) We’ve come to refer to these as celebrity recipe battles, since our contenders are often celebrity chefs: Ina Garten, Alton Brown, and Martha Stewart have all made frequent appearances.
Occasionally, though, the most popular recipes don’t come from celebs, as is the case with this apple pie. This recipe doesn’t come from someone we watch on television, or follow on Instagram. It’s from someone’s grandmother.
As we began the search for our apple pie contenders, it immediately became clear that “Apple Pie by Grandma Ople,” posted on AllRecipes.com, is the most popular apple pie recipe on the internet. Twenty-three thousand people report having made it, more than 10,000 of them have posted reviews, and more than 3,000 have posted photos. It averages a five-star review.
At first, I couldn’t understand what the hype was about. The ingredient list is simple and unassuming, and the directions are just as short. But when I read through the steps more carefully, I quickly realized it uses an absolutely wild technique I’ve never seen (or even heard of) before. Here’s how it went when I tried it out in my kitchen.
Get the recipe: Apple Pie by Grandma Ople
How to Make Grandma Ople’s Apple Pie
If anyone had stepped into my kitchen as I was baking this pie, they would have thought I was totally bonkers. That’s because, instead of flavoring the apples themselves, all the flavor comes from a caramel-like syrup that you pour over the top of the fully assembled unbaked pie — lattice crust and all.
But let me back up. Grandma Ople doesn’t include a recipe for crust, so you start by making your favorite double-crust pie dough recipe (I used Kitchn’s Easy Flaky Pie Crust). You place the bottom crust in the pan, pile in eight peeled and sliced Granny Smith apples, make a lattice out of the second disk of dough, and then lay it over the apples.
Then, you start the syrup. Melt one stick of butter in a saucepan, stir in three tablespoons all-purpose flour to form a paste (essentially you’re making a roux), then add 1/4 cup water and 1/2 cup each white and brown sugar. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat, and let it simmer. When it’s thickened but still pourable, very carefully pour it over the crust, doing your best to keep it from spilling off the sides.
You then bake the pie for 15 minutes at 425°F before reducing the oven temperature to 350°F and continue to bake until the apples are soft, 35 to 45 minutes.
My Honest Review of Grandma Ople’s Apple Pie
As I was reading through the comments on AllRecipes.com, it quickly became clear that many of the 5-star reviews came from people who have altered the recipe dramatically. Some people add cinnamon or vanilla, others use fewer apples, and still others toss the syrup with the apples and forego the lattice crust altogether! To make this a fair battle, I made the recipe exactly as written, with the exception of swapping the order of a few steps (more on that below).
My biggest takeaway from this pie was that it was fun to make! Not only was it exciting to try a new technique, but it was also actually super easy. Out of all the pies I tested, this was in and out of the oven the fastest.
Because the syrup gets poured over the lattice and isn’t tossed directly with the apples, I was nervous the apple filling would taste bland. But I found the pie to be pretty flavorful (it boasts some delicious caramel-like notes), especially considering the lack of traditional spices (like cinnamon or nutmeg) in the recipe. As the pie baked, the syrup also caramelizes on the crust, creating extra-crisp and sugary bits.
After letting it cool completely, I was able to slice the pie cleanly, although the bottom crust was very pale (which surprised me, given the high oven temperature it starts baking at). Perhaps the biggest letdown is how mushy the apples became. If you like a pie with any sort of bite to the apples at all, this one’s not for you.
Lastly, I had some issues with the lack of detail in the recipe, which I’ll get into below.
A Few Tips for Making Grandma Ople’s Apple Pie
Grandma Ople was likely not a professional recipe developer (and certainly never intended for her pie to go viral), so it’s not surprising that her recipe lacks a lot of detail. That being said, it probably would have been a complete failure had I not read through some of the comments first. To save you from having to sift through the thousands upon thousands of reviews, I’ve summed up my most helpful advice.
1. Start by watching the video. This pie boasts an unusual technique, so instead of going in blind, watch the video tutorial on AllRecipes.com. Pay particular attention to the consistency of the syrup, since the instructions aren’t clear on how long it should cook for. You want to simmer it until it’s thickened but pourable — like a caramel sauce.
2. Assemble the entire pie before you make the syrup. The recipe has you make the syrup first, and let it simmer while you assemble the pie. The trouble is, by the time you’ve rolled out your pie crusts and cut out a lattice, the syrup will likely have solidified, making it impossible to pour. At the advice of many commenters, I assembled my pie first and then made the syrup, so that I could immediately pour it.
3. Pack in the apples. As you’re piling the apples into the crust, you’re going to begin to wonder how they’re all going to fit. Keep piling and packing them in — they shrink down in the oven, so you want to start with a generous, heaping pile.
4. Keep your lattice loose. You’ll need space between the weaves of the lattice for the syrup to seep into the pie. If you create too tight of a lattice, the syrup will stay primarily on top of the crust, and won’t flavor the apples.
5. Bake the pie on a foil-lined baking sheet. Having read about the syrup dripping and burning in the oven, I also baked the pie on a foil-lined baking sheet. Boy, am I glad I did, because it caught a lot of the sticky syrup.
6. Prepare for a gooey filling. Although the syrup is thickened with flour, there’s no thickener tossed directly with the apples, so if you don’t like a gooey filling, I’d choose a different recipe. That being said, slicing the apples into thicker wedges might help them from turning into complete mush.
If trying something new and different excites you, you’ll have fun with this pie. If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy reading through some of the comments on the original recipe, and maybe you’ll want to try one of the recommended variations. But if you’re looking for a tried-and-true classic apple pie — a foolproof recipe to bring to Thanksgiving — this simply isn’t it.
Have you ever made Grandma Ople’s Apple Pie? Tell us what you thought!