Welcome to the New Favorite Apple Pie. My recipe for apple pie changes just about every year. I learn new things, try new flavors, and work out new ways to solve old problems.
In this recipe, we pre-cook the apple filling before adding it to the crust. This has several benefits. First, it’s a great way to break up the, sometimes daunting, task of making a double-crust apple pie. Now, you can make the apple filling days, weeks, or even months in advance and save it in the freezer until you’re ready to use it. (You can also make and freeze the crusts in advance, so all that’s required on holidays is a bit of thawing, assembling, and baking.)
Second, pre-cooking the apples solves the problem of under-cooked apples. I have vivid memories of my mom telling me on Thanksgiving morning to “put the pie back in the oven” when the apples weren’t soft enough yet. Inevitably, when the apples were finally done, the crust would be burned. As I’ve since learned, by pre-cooking the apples, the apples and crust can finish at the same time.
Third, pre-cooking the apples solves the problem of sinking apples. Apples release juice and steam as they cook, and can shrink down to almost half their original height. The crust will either sink down along with the apples (leaving you with a sad, sunken pie), or the apples will sink and the crust will stay in place (leaving you with a large gap when you cut the pie). By allowing the steam and juice to release from the apples before enveloping them in crust, both the apples and crust will stay in place as they bake.