Apples, not spices or sugar, are the star in this pie!
My grandma lived with my family as I grew up. She taught me to bake apple pies and other lovely desserts. I still cherish those times working in the garden and kitchen with her, taking walks through the woods and wandering down long country lanes.
We found surprise bounties like hidden wild blackberry and raspberry brambles, or a grove of forgotten, overgrown trees with apples still clinging to the branches. The apples we collected were both tart and juicy, and freshly harvested apples made the best pie filling.
My love of sourdough inspired me to create a pie crust that uses the discard that’s often thrown out. It adds depth to this simple dessert especially sized for two to four people.
If you don’t have a sourdough starter, start one here.
Materials that simplify the process.
10” deep cast iron skillet or 3-quart Dutch oven
6-inch mini pie plate or tin
9 x 13 inch rimmed baking sheet
Apple Pie Filling
This recipe will make enough filling for one 6-inch mini pie with a bit left over. To make a 9-inch deep dish pie, triple the apples up to three-pounds of each variety and use the full lemon. Double the cinnamon and salt, and increase the brown sugar to 3 Tbsp., and the granulated sugar to 2 Tbsp.
2 Honeycrisp apples (or any firm, sweet variety)
2 Granny Smith apples (or any firm, tart variety)
¼ large lemon
¼ tsp. Cinnamon
⅛ tsp. Kosher salt
1 Tbsp. (14 g.) brown sugar
½ Tbsp. (6 g.) granulated sugar
Peel and core your apples. Cut each one into slices that are ¼-inch thick. Place the apples in a cast iron Dutch oven or deep skillet. Add salt, cinnamon, sugars and the zest from the lemon. Using sweet apples means you can use minimal sugar, so the natural sweetness in the apples bursts in your mouth.
Lemon zest adds a deep tartness to this pie filling. When zesting a lemon, be careful that you only grate the very top of the rind, the yellow part. The white part below will add bitterness to your apples. The best way to get the zest is to use a microplane zester/grater (like this one or this one — not affiliate links). Save the rest of the lemon for later.
Place the skillet or Dutch oven on your stove and turn on to a medium low heat. Cook the apples, stirring frequently, until they soften. This will take about 15 to 20 minutes. Pre-cooking the apples removes some juices and ensures your crust remains filled from top to bottom.
Once the apples are cooked, pour them into a rimmed baking sheet and allow them to cool completely. After they cool, pour off the collected juice, but reserve it to use later. If you don’t pour off the juice, your bottom crust will not get crisp when cooked.
Position a fine-mesh strainer over a measuring cup to catch the juices. Place the apples in the strainer and stir to allow the juices to drain through. Do this in small batches to prevent smashing the apples.
Make the apple pie crust while the apples cool.
This pie crust recipe will make both a top and bottom crust for a 6-inch pie plate. To make a full-sized, double-crust, deep dish 9-inch pie, double the ingredients.
½ c. (113 g.) sourdough discard
1 c. (142 g.) all-purpose flour
½ tsp. Kosher salt
2 Tbsp. buttermilk
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter (very cold, cut into ¼-inch cubes)
Place the flour and Kosher salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the cubed butter. Use a fork to mash the butter into the flour until it resembles chunky wet sand.
In a measuring cup, combine the sourdough discard and buttermilk. Stir until well mixed. Fold this wet mixture into the flour mixture. Continue to fold it together until it just forms a ball. Use your hand to shape it into a dough brick. Wrap it in plastic wrap or seal it in a storage bag and place in your refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Bake the Apple Pie.
Position one oven rack 12-inches from the top of the oven and another rack 6-inches from the bottom. Preheat your oven to 425°F.
Take the pie crust dough from your refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Lightly spread flour on your countertop and rub it over the surface of your rolling pin to prevent sticking.
Divide your block of dough into two halves. Shape each half into a disk. Begin rolling one disk into a flat circle that is about 9-inches in diameter. As the disk is flattened, you will need to lift it from the surface of your counter and rotate it or flip it as you roll it to the appropriate diameter.
Gently lift the crust and center it in your pie plate. If it helps, drape it over your rolling pin as you lift it. Mold the crust to the bottom of the mini-pie plate, making sure you have about ½-inch extending above the dish. Fill it with 16-ounces of the prepared apple filling.
Cut the ¼ lemon that you zested earlier into halves. Squeeze one piece into ½ Tbsp. of the reserved apple juice and sprinkle over the filling to add a bit more tartness. Roll the remaining pie crust dough into an 8-inch diameter. Lay it over the top of the pie.
Pinch the edges of the dough together and trim off excess, leaving a ½-inch overhang around the pie. Crimp the edges to ensure a tight seal between the two crusts.
Take a knife and cut six slits in the top crust to vent the steam. Brush with melted butter, milk, or a beaten egg. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. granulated sugar. If you have coarse sugar, use it for a decorative touch.
Create a crust shield by cutting three 2-inch strips of aluminum foil and connecting them end-to-end. Wrap the shield around the pie pan, folding it over the edge of the crust to protect it from burning. Place the pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet and put it on the bottom rack.
Bake for 30 minutes. Then, remove the aluminum foil shield, rotate the pie pan 180-degrees, and move it to the top oven rack. Continue to bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.
Remove the pie from the oven and place on a wire cooling rack. Allow the pie to cool completely before cutting it.
This apple pie is a crowd pleaser!
My grandma’s pies were always good, but her recipe used much more sugar and spices. When I make this pie I can use significantly less which is great for my diabetic husband. He always wants to eat two slices. Since it’s just us, a mini-pie is the perfect size.
The apple filling can be prepared ahead of time. Package it in 1-quart freezer bags and place them in your freezer. Put 16 ounces in each bag (the perfect amount for one mini-pie) and flatten it to remove all air. Doing this lets you stack several bags on top of each other.
When you want a pie, all you need to do is make the crust and thaw the apples for a quick evening dessert.
Don’t forget to claim your printable copy of this recipe. I’ve included a few ideas for using the reserved juices and other ways to use the filling.
If you liked this recipe, you might like my Quick and Easy Lemon Jell-O® Sourdough Cake.
Pat Davis, a retired teacher and editor of Simply Living and Living Simply, lives with her husband and neurotic cat, Neko. She loves to read, write, travel, bake, garden, sew, and craft.