An apple pie is a pastry dessert which features apples as the star ingredient. There are a number of different styles of apple pie, ranging from traditional closed pies to lattice pies, and this dessert is a ubiquitous offering on the menus of many American diners and casual restaurants. Making apple pies is not limited to Americans, despite the saying “as American as apple pie,” and this dessert is popular in many regions of the world.
Like other desserts in the pie family, an apple pie consists of a pastry crust and a filling. The crust is traditionally made with flour, shortening, and a small amount of water for lubrication. When well-made, the crust should be light and flaky, with a rich golden color which emerges after baking. Some bakers use more elaborate crusts, including egg crusts, which tend to be more rich. The filling is made by chopping apples and mixing them with seasonings such as sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.
All apple pies have a bottom crust, which lines the pie plate. Some cooks pre-bake the bottom crust to prevent it from getting soggy, while others skip this step. The filling is poured into the crust, and then the pie is topped with a solid crust or lattice. The crust may be decorated with various patterns and designs, and it is traditionally pierced to vent the pie so that it does not burst in the heat of the oven. Some cooks leave their apple pies open, arranging the apples in a decorative design so that the pie is aesthetically interesting.
The apples used in pies are typically firm and tart, although softer apples can be used. Cooks may also add other fruits, such as apricots, blackberries, or strawberries, to give the pie more texture and flavor. Apple pie can also be prepared with a custard base, in which case a slice of pie reveals a cross-section of rich custard and apple slices. The seasoning can also vary widely; some cooks make very sweet apple pies, while others prefer heavily spiced versions with cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and just a hint of sugar.
Although people associate apple pie with American culture, the apple pie was invented in Europe. Various apple pastries have been made since at least the Middle Ages, including pies, and the tradition of making apple pie was brought to the Americas by European colonists. North America is an excellent environment for growing apples, which may explain why the apple pie became so popular in the United States.