Whiskey-Ginger Apple Pie
I’ve admitted that sometimes my recipe ideas begin with an aesthetic vision. I now will admit that they also sometimes begin with a snappy recipe title. The original name for this whiskey-ginger apple pie was “double rye apple pie.” And, yes, I thought of the name before I came up with a recipe.
About a year ago, I came across Zoë François’s peach pie recipe, which introduced me to a brilliant technique: The sliced peaches macerate with bourbon, turbinado sugar, and a dash of salt until they release their juices. The liquid is then combined with cornstarch and thickened on the stove, then mixed back into the raw peaches before the filling is scooped into the crust and popped in the oven. As I read this recipe in the early days of autumn, I wondered if I could try the technique with apple pie. And then, of course, I had my brilliant thought: If I used rye whiskey in the filling and added some rye flour to the pastry, I could call the recipe “double rye apple pie.” The rhyme was just too irresistible. And so a recipe was born.
It did take me a few tries to get the recipe right. Apples release less juice than peaches, so the 4-5 tablespoons of cornstarch that Zoë calls for in her recipe wouldn’t work unless I added a bit more liquid. I suspected that increasing the whiskey would throw the balance of flavors off, so I instead added a splash of apple cider. Success!
So what made me decide to flavor the pie with just crystallized ginger, and no traditional cinnamon or such? Again, I have to admit, it was the lure of a snappy alternative recipe title–the “Whiskey-Ginger” moniker I went with above. And you know what? It worked.
A few notes:
1. If you don’t like whiskey, feel free to just increase the apple cider. The pie will still be delicious.
2. For the most complex flavor, try to use a mixture of apples. I like using local and heirloom varieties, but any crisp and flavorful apples will work – Stayman Winesap, Ida Red, Granny Smith, Braeburn, and Fuji are all fine.
3. The crust recipe below — which is based on a trusty all-butter pie crust recipe from Smitten Kitchen — makes enough for a standard double crust pie, or one with a very simple lattice top. If you want to try a more intricate lattice and/or additional decorative flourishes like those shown in the photos above, you’ll need to make a larger amount of dough. For the pie above, I made a 1.5 recipe, and I did still have a bunch of dough leftover.
4. I baked my pie in a pyrex pie pan. If you use a metal or ceramic pan, you can leave the oven at 425 F rather than reducing the temperature to 400 F as soon as you pop the pie in the oven.
Whiskey-Ginger Apple Pie
A.k.a. "Double Rye Apple Pie." The filling for this apple pie is simply flavored with rye whiskey and crystallized ginger; there's rye (flour) in the crust, too. The all-butter crust recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen. The filling was inspired by this peach pie from Zoë François.
For the crust:
- 275 g all-purpose flour
- 40 g rye flour
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp table salt or fine sea salt
- 1 cup (225 g) unsalted butter (very cold)
- 1/2 cup ice water (divided)
For the filling:
- 2 1/4 lbs. flavorful baking apples (about 6 medium to large apples)
- 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
- dash salt
- 1/4 cup rye whiskey
- 1/3 cup apple cider (approximate – see notes below)
- 2 oz. (56 g) crystallized ginger, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
- 5 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 egg beaten
- additional turbinado sugar (optional)
Make the crust:
Combine the flours, sugar, and salt in a large, wide mixing bowl. Place the bowl in the freezer while you prepare the butter.
Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes. Remove the mixing bowl from the freezer and add the butter, tossing lightly to distribute it.
Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the largest pieces are about the size of peas. Place the mixing bowl back in the freezer while you get the ice water ready.
Measure out 1/4 cup of ice water. Remove the mixing bowl from the freezer and sprinkle the 1/4 cup of ice water over the flour-butter mixture. Use a rubber or silicone spatula to toss the mixture to moisten. Gradually add enough of the remaining ice water, tablespoon by tablespoon, to form a dough that just barely holds together. You'll want to continue tossing the mixture with the spatula as you add each tablespoon of water, eventually switching to your hands to gather the dough together. (Try to use your fingers rather than your palms–you're aiming to keep the butter in the dough as cool as possible.)
Divide the dough in half, and wrap each half in a sheet of cling film/Saran wrap, flattening it into a disk.
Place the plastic-wrapped dough disks in the fridge and chill for at least two hours.
Roll out the crust:
Remove one disk of chilled dough from the fridge, and turn it out onto a well-floured surface. Roll the disk into a round of about 11-12 inches. Carefully transfer the dough to a 9-inch standard pie pan. You should have about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of overhang. If you have more, use kitchen shears to trim the edges. Place the pie pan in the refrigerator.
Line a large baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper. Remove the second dough disk from the refrigerator, and turn it out onto a well-floured surface. For a simple double-crust pie, roll the dough out into another 11-12 inch circle. If you want to make a lattice crust, roll the dough out into a rectangle of approximately 9.5 by 12 inches. Either way, transfer the rolled out dough to the parchment lined baking sheet, and place the sheet in the freezer or refrigerator.
Make the filling:
Peel and core the apples, and cut them into thin slices. (Aim for no thicker than 1/4 inch.)
Place the apples in a large bowl. Add the 1/2 cup of turbinado sugar, 1/4 cup of rye whiskey, and a generous dash of salt, and set aside for at least 30 minutes and preferably an hour, to allow the apples to release some liquid.
Then, remove the apples to another bowl, straining the accumulated liquid into a large measuring cup. You should have close to 2/3 cup of liquid. Add enough apple cider to make a cup of liquid and transfer the mixture to a small saucepan.
Add half the chopped crystallized ginger to the bowl of apples, and the other half to the saucepan.
Add the cornstarch to the saucepan, whisking to combine. You'll have a cloudy mixture. Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and becomes translucent. (It will be very thick and gloopy.)
Add the gloopy mixture in the saucepan to the apples, gently mixing everything together with a rubber or silicone spatula. Allow to sit for a few minutes until the mixture is no warmer than room temperature. (If you have room in the freezer, just pop the bowl in there for a minute or two.)
Assemble the pie:
Remove the chilled bottom crust from the fridge and spoon in the filling. Remove the rolled out top crust, and either top the pie with the circle of dough, or cut strips for a lattice and top the filling with the lattice. Place the pie in the freezer.
Bake the pie:
Place a rack in the bottom third of the oven, and place a pizza stone or metal baking sheet on the rack. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
Remove the pie from the freezer and brush the crust with a lightly beaten egg. If desired, sprinkle on some turbinado sugar.
Place the pie in the oven on the preheated stone or baking sheet. If using a glass or pyrex pie pan, reduce the oven temperature to 400 F.
Bake the pie for 55-70 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the crust is bronzed.
Allow the pie to cool fully before slicing.
- If you don’t like whiskey, feel free to leave it out, and increase the apple cider. The pie will still be delicious.
- For the most complex flavor, try to use a mixture of apples. I like using local and heirloom varieties, but any crisp and flavorful apples will work – Stayman Winesap, Ida Red, Granny Smith, Braeburn, and Fuji, for instance, are all fine.
- The crust recipe above makes enough for a standard double crust pie, or one with a very simple lattice top. If you want to try a more intricate lattice and/or additional decorative flourishes, or if you’re using a deep dish pie pan, you’ll need to increase the amounts in the recipe proportionately. (A 1.5 recipe will yield enough dough for an intricate lattice and lots of decoration, with more than a little leftover.)
- I baked my pie in a pyrex pie pan. If you use a metal or ceramic pan, you can leave the oven at 425 F rather than reducing the temperature to 400 F as soon as you pop the pie in the oven.
- The filling is admittedly a bit gloopy – I like it that way, but if you prefer a less gloopy texture, decrease the cornstarch and/or reduce both the cornstarch and apple cider amounts.
- The ginger comes through pretty strongly, so if you want a more subtle ginger flavor, just use a bit less.