My Honest Review of Smitten Kitchen’s “Even More Perfect” Apple Pie
Smitten Kitchen recipes are easy to love: They’re accompanied by a personal (and often humorous) backstory, they’re packed with helpful step-by-step photos, and, at the end of the day, they’re reliable.
Deb Perelman, the site’s author, often starts with recipes from cookbooks or other websites, cooks through them multiple times, then shares her version. By the time they reach our kitchens, they’re often easier, tastier, and (mostly) foolproof.
Recently, Deb has been digging back into her archive to improve upon some of her own recipes. That was the case with her apple pie and her pie crust. In 2018 and 2019, respectively, she shared new versions of both. I had high hopes for Deb’s apple pie, which had clearly been through several rounds of testing. But did it live up to my expectations? Here’s what happened when I took to the kitchen.
Get the recipe: Smitten Kitchen’s Even More Perfect Apple Pie with Extra-Flaky Pie Crust
How to Make Smitten Kitchen’s Apple Pie
Out of the four pies I tested, Smitten Kitchen’s was the only one with instructions to toss the sliced apples with a mix of sugars, salt, and spices (specifically brown sugar, granulated sugar, sea salt, ground cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, ground ginger, and ground cloves). It’s a technique we use in our own apple pie. After tossing, you set the apples aside to macerate (Deb says for as little as one hour and up to four). This lets the apples soften and removes some of the water, allowing you to pack more into the filling. Deb calls for “baking apples:” I used a mix of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious.
To make the crust, you whisk together flour, sugar, and salt; add small cubes of butter; and then squash them into flat pieces with your fingers. I had never used this technique before, and it was super fun! Then, pour cold water over the mixture, bring it together with a spatula, divide the dough in half, wrap them both, and chill until firm.
To assemble the pie, you start by stirring either tapioca starch or tapioca flour into the apples, which thickens the filling as it bakes. You roll out the bottom crust, place it in a pie pan, and pile in the apples. You’ll really need to pack them tightly, because there are a lot — expect a giant mound. Pour any accumulated juices over top, then lay the lattice crust over the apples.
Bake the pie on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 75 minutes at 400°F, covering it with foil if it starts to brown too fast.
My Honest Review of Smitten Kitchen’s Apple Pie
I went into this test knowing I was baking a triple-tested pie called Even More Perfect Apple Pie with Extra-Flaky Pie Crust, and I’ve always had success with Deb’s baked goods. (Her blueberry muffin will forever be my go-to.) So, I’m not going to lie — I really expected this pie to be the winner of our showdown.
But here’s the thing: I haven’t been able to get consistent results. The first time I made it, the apples collapsed as they cooled, leaving me with a huge gap between my crust and filling. The apples also didn’t soften as much as I would have liked — I’m okay with a little bit of texture, but I don’t really any type of crunch. It was also impossible to cut a clean slice without apples sliding all over the place. I thought it might be the apples I used.
When our food stylist baked the pie for our photo shoot, it came out beautifully. No gap, no crunch. It was many of the team’s favorite pie! So I baked it again at home. This time, I used all mutsu apples (Deb’s apple of choice), sliced them more thinly, let them macerate for twice as long, and made a wider lattice. The resulting pie no longer had a gap, but my apples were still not as tender as I expected.
That being said, the flavor of this pie is spot-on. It filled my kitchen with the most wonderful aroma as it baked, and every bite was perfectly spiced. The crust is easy to make (it’s all done by hand) and it baked up flaky and deeply golden-brown. The bottom crust was crisp and achieved the best color of any of the pies I tested. If you like firmer apples in your apple pie, this is absolutely the pie for you.
If You’re Making Smitten Kitchen’s Apple Pie, a Few Tips
1. Plan ahead. Because the apples need to macerate for at least an hour (and up to four), you’ll need to set aside a full afternoon for this recipe.
2. Slice the apples very thinly. You’ll need to pack a lot of apples into your crust, and thin slices are able to nestle in more tightly. It will also help them soften more in the oven. Next time, I’d try starting with softer apples, too — such as Cortland or Northern Spy.
3. Enlist the help of a friend. I used nine apples in this pie — which meant I spent a long time peeling and slicing. I highly recommend enlisting a friend or family member to help.
4. Consider making a double-crust pie instead of a lattice. I appreciate that Deb tells you what to do with the accumulated juices from the apple bowl (many recipes don’t specify). But as my pie baked, a lot of those juices leaked out. I worry that this is why my apples didn’t bake up as soft and tender. The gaps in a lattice crust also cause the apples to lose moisture. For those reasons, if I bake this pie again, I’ll simply roll out the second crust and place it over the top, and seal it super tightly. If I can keep those flavor-packed juices in, I think I’d have a winning pie!
5. Don’t forget the baking sheet. You will, inevitably, get some drips, so don’t forget to bake the pie on a baking sheet to catch them.
Have you ever made Smitten Kitchen’s Apple Pie? Tell us what you thought!