Grandma's Apple Pie: A Guide To The Traditional Apple Pie Recipe

Traditional apple pie is a beloved dessert that evokes feelings of warmth, nostalgia, and comfort. With its flaky crust, tender apple filling, and aromatic spices, this classic treat has been passed down through generations, making its way from our grandmothers' kitchens to ours. The mere mention of apple pie can transport us back to cherished moments shared with loved ones gathered around the table. It's a dessert that brings comfort and a sense of home, reminding us of the simple pleasures found in a slice of homemade goodness.

The origins of apple pie trace back centuries, with evidence of apple-based pastries found in ancient Roman and Mediaeval European cuisines. However, it was in the United Kingdom and later in America that apple pie gained its cultural significance. In the UK, apple pie became a symbol of national pride and was mentioned in various English literature and nursery rhymes. As British settlers arrived in America, they brought their apple pie traditions, which blended with the abundance of apples in the New World. Apple pie quickly became an iconic American dessert, associated with home, family, and wholesome values. Its presence during holidays, family gatherings, and patriotic celebrations solidified its place as a symbol of American heritage. Today, apple pie remains a timeless classic, cherished for its comforting flavours and the nostalgic memories it evokes.

Choosing the Right Apples

Choosing the right apples is crucial when it comes to baking a delicious apple pie. Different apple varieties have distinct characteristics that can greatly impact the taste and texture of the pie. For a classic apple pie, it's best to use a combination of sweet and tart apples. Sweet varieties like Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious, or Fuji bring natural sweetness and juiciness to the filling. Tart apples such as Granny Smith, Braeburn, or Jonathan provide balancing acidity and hold their shape well during baking. Sweet apples create a rich, mellow flavour, while tart apples add a refreshing tang.

The texture of the apples also varies, with some varieties remaining firm and crisp after baking while others become tender and soft. When selecting apples, look for firmness, as overly soft apples can turn mushy in the pie. The ideal baking apples should hold their shape, retain some texture, and release flavorful juices. By combining different apple varieties, you can achieve a well-rounded flavour profile with a balance of sweetness, tartness, and texture, resulting in a delightful and satisfying apple pie.

The Perfect Pie Crust

Keep Ingredients Cold: Use chilled butter and ice water when making your pie crust. Keeping the ingredients cold helps create steam during baking, resulting in a flaky texture.

Don't Overmix The Dough: Mix the dough just until it comes together. Overmixing can develop gluten, making the crust tough. It's okay if there are small visible pieces of butter in the dough; they contribute to flakiness.

Roll With Care: Roll the dough gently and evenly, using light pressure. Avoid stretching the dough, as it can cause shrinkage during baking. Roll from the centre outward in all directions to maintain an even thickness.

Use A Butter-Flour combination: Incorporating both butter and a small amount of vegetable shortening or lard in the crust recipe adds flavour to the butter and helps create flakiness from the shortening or lard.

Chill The Dough: After rolling out the crust, chill it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before baking. This helps solidify the fats in the dough, resulting in a more tender and flaky crust when baked.

Fillings And Seasonings

To prepare the apple filling for your comforting apple pie, start by peeling, coring, and thinly slicing the apples. Aim for about 6–8 cups of sliced apples, depending on the size of your pie dish. In a large bowl, combine the apple slices with the right balance of spices and sweeteners.

Traditional seasoning choices for apple pie include cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon zest. Cinnamon is a staple and provides warm, aromatic notes. Start with 1-2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon and adjust to your preference. Nutmeg adds a subtle, earthy flavour, so about 1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg can complement the cinnamon.

For sweeteners, granulated sugar is commonly used. Begin with 3/4 to 1 cup of sugar, depending on the sweetness of the apples and personal taste. Some recipes also include a small amount of brown sugar for added depth of flavour.

To balance the sweetness, add a pinch of salt to enhance the flavours. Additionally, a teaspoon of lemon zest can brighten the filling, adding a touch of citrusy freshness.

Toss the apple slices with the spices, sweeteners, salt, and lemon zest until they are evenly coated. Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes to let the flavours meld before adding it to the pie crust.

Baking and Serving Tips

When it comes to baking your apple pie, preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Place the pie on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminium foil to catch any drips. Bake the pie for about 45–55 minutes, or until the crust turns golden brown and the filling is bubbly.

To achieve a golden-brown crust, you can brush the top crust with an egg wash made by whisking together one beaten egg and a tablespoon of milk or cream. This will give the crust a glossy finish. You can also sprinkle a bit of granulated sugar on top for added sweetness and crunch.

To ensure the filling is cooked perfectly, insert a small, sharp knife into the centre of the pie. The apples should be tender but not mushy. If the crust starts to brown too quickly, cover it loosely with aluminium foil to prevent over-browning.

When serving the apple pie, allow it to cool for at least 20–30 minutes to allow the filling to set. Serve it warm or at room temperature. Apple pie pairs beautifully with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of freshly whipped cream. The cool creaminess complements the warm, spiced flavours of the pie, creating a delightful contrast.

Recipe For Grandma's Apple Pie


For the crust:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon of salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes

¼ to ½ cup ice water

For the filling: 

6–8 cups apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (a mix of sweet and tart varieties)

¾ to 1 cup granulated sugar

1-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon lemon zest

For the topping (optional):

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon milk or cream

Granulated sugar, for sprinkling


Prepare The Crust:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt.

Add the cold, cubed butter to the flour mixture, and use a pastry cutter or your fingertips to cut the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs.

Gradually add the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix with a fork until the dough starts to come together.

Divide the dough in half, shape each half into a disc, and wrap them in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Prepare The Filling:

In a large bowl, combine the sliced apples, granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and lemon zest. Toss until the apples are evenly coated. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes to allow the flavours to meld.

Preheat The Oven To 375°F (190°C).

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one disc of dough to fit a 9-inch pie dish. Transfer the rolled-out crust to the dish and gently press it into the bottom and sides.

Add The Apple Filling:

Pour the apple filling into the prepared crust, making sure to distribute the apples evenly. Press down gently to compact the filling slightly.

Add The Top Crust And Finish The Pie:

Roll out the second disc of dough to create the top crust. You can either place it as a whole piece over the filling, or create a lattice design by cutting strips of dough and weaving them together.

If using a whole top crust, cut slits or create decorative vents to allow steam to escape during baking.

Optional: In a small bowl, whisk together the beaten egg and milk or cream to create an egg wash. Brush the top crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar for a glossy, sweet finish.

Bake The Pie:

Place the pie on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminium foil to catch any drips.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45–55 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. If the crust starts to brown too quickly, cover it loosely with aluminium foil.

Cool And Serve:

Once baked, remove the pie from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours to allow the filling to set.

Serve the apple pie warm or at room temperature. It pairs wonderfully with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of freshly whipped cream.

Enjoy Grandma's comforting and delicious apple pie!