My Favorite (British) Apple Pie

Since moving to the US as a little girl, I’ve always wondered about the phrase, “As American as Apple Pie.”

The reason I didn’t understand why Apple Pie was claimed by Americans is because I had eaten lots of apple pie in Scotland. According to a Time Magazine article, historians have traced pie crusts back to the Greeks…and Romans used to fill them with meat and seafood, and also made sweet pies for dessert. “Pyes”, as they were called in Medieval England, were also mostly savory, but even pumpkin pie wasn’t popular in the US until the 1800s and was based on a British spiced squash recipe.

I remember tasting my first American apple pie, and being really surprised when I realized it tasted nothing like what I was expecting: the flavor wasn’t of apple, but cinnamon. I must explain that I love cinnamon, especially in Cinnamon Rolls, but I truly like to taste the flavor of the apples, so I don’t add any cinnamon to my apple pies. Unfortunately, we don’t get the variety of cooking apples in the US that are available in the UK (like Bramley), so the best apple to use is Granny Smith. If you use a different type of apple, the flavor and texture of the filling will not be up to par with one made with Granny Smith apples (yes, it is worth usng the right variety)!

I also prefer my apple pie with fresh cream or custard, and not vanilla ice cream. Some of you in the US may think that not using cinnamon is bad, but serving apple pie without ice-cream is criminal; however, it all depends on what you’ve grown up with and become accustomed to. This particular pie (in the photos) was given to a lovely friend as a “thank you”, and I was unsure how my British apple pie would be received. I also handed gave her some heavy organic whipping cream to serve with the pie, and a few days later I was so happy to hear that she and her family absolutely loved the pie and serving it with the cream!

If you have never tasted a British apple pie, then I strongly encourage you to keep the cinnamon in the spice rack, just once, so that you can taste the wonderful flavor of this gorgeous crust together with the slightly sweetened Granny Smith apples without an overpowering flavor of spice to mask it.

Here’s how I make my apple pie. I don’t use a recipe for the filling as I always “eye” the ingredients, but I’ve measured them just for you…

My Favorite (British) Apple Pie

makes one pie

Ingredients for Crust

  • 4 cups (1 lb) flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 oz (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • a little ice water

Ingredients for Filling

  • 4 or 5 large, organic Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced into about 16 pieces ea
  • juice of half a fresh lemon
  • 3 to 4 tbsp sugar (more or less to taste)
  • 1 egg white, slightly beaten with a tsp of water, to brush the pie crust
  • organic, heavy whipping cream or custard, to serve

Preheat oven to 400º F (200º C)

Place all the ingredients for the filling in a pot over medium-low heat. Cook gently, turning the apples by tossing them in the pot every few minutes. Cook until the apples are just starting to become softened, but are still firm and hold their shape.

 Remove from heat and set aside.

Here are my directions for making pie crust, however, if you do not have a food processor, you can cut the butter into the flour with two knives, then use your hands to rub it in at the end, and stir in the water with a wooden spoon.

 Pie Pastry in Under 1 Minute

Once you have the pie pastry, cut out a third and set it aside.

Now roll out the remaining pastry on a floured work surface until it is large enough to accomodate the pie dish. (I hold the dish over the pastry and make sure it extends about 2″ all around.)

Gently roll the pastry onto the rolling pin until you can lift it, then place it onto the pie dish.

Don’t worry if there are some cracks; just wet your finger and rub some water into the crack and join the pieces together.

 With a knife, trim the pastry all along the pie dish, using the edge as a guide, then fill it with the apples.

Roll out the remaining piece of pastry; wet the edge with your finger dipped in a bowl of water, until the entire perimeter is wet, then place the pastry on top of the pie.

Once again, trim the pastry, using the dish as a guide.

Crimp the edges any way you like (I did this method with my thumb and index finger) and then cut a hole in the center of the pie, about 1″ long.

I also used some leftover pastry to cut out two leaf shapes and drew lines on them with a thin, sharp knife, then wet the underneath so they stuck to the pie.

Brush the entire crust with the beaten egg white, which will ensure a lovely golden color.

Bake in 400º F (200º C) oven for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the crust is a golden brown color. Ovens vary significantly, but I place my pies on the lower rack for about 20 minutes, then move it to the center rack so that the bottom crust cooks well, however adjust your placement and baking time according to your own oven.

When ready, remove from the oven and immediately dust with Baker’s (extrafine) sugar (caster sugar in the UK) and let cool slightly before serving.

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 11.02.33 AM

Our cream in the US is very runny, so to mimic double cream in the UK, I slightly beat the cream until it starts to thicken, then pour it over a slice of pie in a bowl.

Alternately, a homemade custard or Bird’s custard is lovely when served over this delicious apple pie: quintessentially British!

Remember, I LOVE to hear from you, so leave me a comment below…thanks!!

My Favorite (British) Apple Pie
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 pie
 
Ingredients
  • CRUST
  • 4 cups (1 lb) flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 8 oz (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • a little ice water
  • FILLING
  • 5 or 6 large, organic Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced into about 12 pieces ea
  • juice of half a fresh lemon
  • 3 to 4 tbsp sugar (more or less to taste)
  • 1 egg white, slightly beaten with a tsp of water, to brush the pie crust
  • cream or custard, to serve
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400º F (200º C)
  2. Place all the ingredients for the filling in a pot over medium-low heat. Cook gently, turning the apples by tossing them in the pot every few minutes. Cook until the apples are just starting to become softened, but are still firm and hold their shape. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Put the flour, salt and butter in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add a little ice water and pulse again until the mixture starts to come together. The pastry is ready; roll out and place into pie dish.
  4. With a knife, trim the pastry all along the pie dish, using the edge as a guide, then fill it with the apples.
  5. Roll out the remaining piece of pastry; wet the edge with your finger dipped in a bowl of water, until the entire perimeter is wet, then place the pastry on top of the pie. Trim the pastry, using the dish as a guide.
  6. Crimp the edges any way you like and then cut a hole in the center of the pie, about 1″ long.
  7. Brush the entire crust with the beaten egg white, which will ensure a lovely golden color.
  8. Bake in 400º F (200º C) oven for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the crust is a golden brown color. Ovens vary significantly, but I place my pies on the lower rack for about 20 minutes, then move it to the center rack so that the bottom crust cooks well, however adjust your placement and baking time according to your own oven.
  9. When ready, remove from the oven and immediately dust with Baker’s (extrafine) sugar (caster sugar in the UK) and let cool slightly before serving.
  10. Our cream in the US is very runny, so to mimic double cream in the UK, I slightly beat the cream until it starts to thicken, then pour it over a slice of pie in a bowl.
  11. Alternately, a homemade custard or Bird’s custard is lovely when served over this delicious apple pie: quintessentially British!

Yum

26 Responses

  1. wrote on

    Gorgeous crust, my dear! You’re an artiste!

    • wrote on

      Awww…thank you so much, Susan! That’s so sweet of you to say! ;)

  2. wrote on

    WOW I haven’t heard of British Apple Pie before. I have no problem leaving the cinnamon on the shelf to try this intriguing recipe. I love the idea of pie pastry in under 1 minute!

  3. wrote on

    I have tried so many different apple pies and I wouldn’t actually be able to choose one favorite. Such kind of pie I would definitely have warm with some ice cream:)

  4. wrote on

    Hi Christina,

    This is indeed a perfect apple pie! Wish that I can try a slice of this beauty :D

    Zoe

    • wrote on

      Me too! I didn’t get to try it either! Ha ha! Thanks, Zoe! ;) CC

  5. wrote on

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  7. wrote on

    This looks divine Christina. This is pretty much how my English mum made her apple pie. Only real difference is she used half butter – half lard in her pastry. Oh and we always, always ate it with fresh cream or custard, never ice cream.

    • wrote on

      And Jennifer, I would also make it with lard if it was easy to come by (good stuff) but it’s not in my local shops, so I just use butter. I agree, I don’t believe I have ever eaten apple pie with ice cream, always cream or custard. It’s just how it has to be done! Although, all of the US is going to disagree with that last statement! They LOVE ice cream with their pie! ;)

  8. Liam O Brien

    wrote on

    Christina .
    Your recipe for Apple Pie is the best I found.
    It reminded of my Mum’s apple pie I ate as a child in Ireland.
    Its near impossible to find apple pies in California without cinnamon. I hate the bloody stuff.
    You cannot taste the apples with cinnamon.
    Thanks a again

    Liam

    • wrote on

      Thank you so much for letting me know, Liam! I actually think it is impossible to find apple pies without cinnamon in the US, unless it’s a homemade pie (probably made by a Brit or Irish ex-pat) ;) Thanks again! CC

  9. wrote on

    […] omitting cinnamon in a recipe, perhaps you will understand it better if you read the post from my Apple Pie recipe. However, feel free to add some spices if you […]

  10. Agnes Devine

    wrote on

    do you not put the pastry in the frige to rest, I loved the pastry in Scotland it seemed more like a more rich pastry than the American pastry there does not seem to be much difference between the two pasteries

  11. Agmes Devine

    wrote on

    Do you not have to rest the pastry like they do in Canada and the States? I come from Glasgow I loved the Apple Pies there, but the pastry seemed a lot richer than the American pastry, there does not seem to be much difference in both pastries recipies . American pastry they always want you to keep it really cold, do you have to do that with your pastry? tomorrow I will try your pastry and see if there is a difference.
    Agnes

    • wrote on

      Hi Agnes! Yes, you absolutely can (and truly should) rest the pastry, but it’s not crucial to the recipe. Chilling it won’t really affect a difference in the flavor of the pastry, but if you’re from Scotland, I think you’ll really like this crust. :) Let me know how it turns out for you! :)

  12. laura

    wrote on

    I noticed the same difference in apple pies between the States and the UK.
    Also that the apple pie filling in the UK seemed a lot denser than ours over here, like the apple slices are stacked closer together and a bit more al dente.
    I like both, and to me they are just different pies.
    I eat mine with icecream even over there :) , but my guy, he loves a good apple crumble with custard.
    I noticed that in general in the places I’ve been lucky enough to visit in Europe, cinnamon in pastries and desserts is hard to find! But its always fun finding new treats to try!!
    Thanks for the recipe, I’ll be making it for my Geordie guy next time I am back in the UK :)

    Oh! and those apples over there..divine! I don’t know if I tried the Bramley because I bought apples off a cart, but they were big and green and wonderfully bumpy and lopsided and delicious.

  13. Stephen

    wrote on

    I am happy to find this recipe since I have always wanted to know how to make a British apple pie. I will give this a try in the near future.
    Interesting comments about cinnamon. I guess it’s just a matter of custom and taste…De gustibus non disputandum est. I use a small amount (1/4 tsp) when I make pie and people have commented that they like it that way better than what they were used to. I agree that it can totally mask the flavor of the apples. I never had a Bramley… wish I could find them here. Let me recommend Northern Spy apples…I think they are better than Granny Smith. They are fairly easy to find around here (southwest Michigan) but not so easy in other areas of the country. I never eat apple pie with ice cream but I do want to try the British way with double cream. Thanks for your recipe.

    • wrote on

      Absolutely Stephen, the way one is raised definitely affects tastes and likes, I’m sure. My mother would love your pie, as she does like a touch of cinnamon. I just can’t take the overwhelming cinnamon flavor over apples in a pie. Unfortunately, I don’t believe I can find Northern Spy apples here in LA, although I’ve heard there is an orchard nearby that grows Bramley apples! Enjoy the pie, I think you’ll really like it!

  14. Taylor

    wrote on

    I made this the other day when I was thinking about the apple pie I had my first day of my first trip to England as a child. I loved it! It was exactly like the apple pie I missed and I served it with homemade custard. I love your blog and am looking forward to making a lot more of your recipes!

    • wrote on

      Thank you so much for telling me this, Taylor! I love this kind of comment, and am so happy you were able to re-create something that is attached to wonderful memories for you! Thank you for following along and let me know what else you try! CC

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