Nothing beats the sweet, tart and spiced flavors of a freshly baked apple pie! This Pennsylvania Dutch Apple Pie recipe uses homemade pie crust, perfectly spiced Autumn apples and a brown butter crumble for a melt in your mouth pie with superb flavor!
Apple pie is a classic dessert that has become a staple of holiday meals and childhood memories. Dutch style apple pie uses a buttery crumble topping in lieu of a top pie crust. The result is layers of flaky shortcrust pastry, sweet and tart spiced apples and a delectable crumbly topping! Pair it with a scoop of our Old Fashioned Vanilla Bean Ice Cream for a moment of pure bliss!
Why This Is The Best Apple Pie You'll Ever Make
Okay, truth be told, it was my Gram who actually made the best apple pie ever. BUT, I'm confident this is the second best! Here's why I love it, and you will too!
- Brown Butter - I mean... Need I say more? Brown butter brings out all the rich and nutty flavors that pair perfectly with golden pastry and spiced apples. If you've never baked with brown butter before, it's super easy to make! Check out the full brown butter recipe post and use it for all your favorite buttery recipes!
- Perfectly tender apple filling. - The key to perfect apple pie is to cook the spiced apple filling before adding it to the blind baked pie crust. TRUST ME. It takes a little extra time but it is SO worth it.
- Buttery crumbles in every bite. - Listen, I love a good ole double crust apple pie...but this Dutch pie? My goodness it's good. Crispy, toasty, brown buttery crumbles just make apple pie better. I don't make the rules.
- Make it ahead of time. - Big holiday meals that call for homemade Dutch apple pie turn oven space into precious real estate. Lucky for you, this pie can be made in stages, weeks and days before Thanksgiving or Christmas. Make the pie crust up to a month before and freeze it. (Or use a store bought, we won't tell!) Cook the apples down a day or two before. When you're ready, assemble and bake the pie. Once baked, keep it for a day before serving. Warm it in the oven when you're ready to go!
- Our Favorite Buttery Pie Crust - Use our easy pie crust recipe or your favorite store bought crust.
- Brown Butter - Brown butter is super easy to make and adds incredible flavor to this pie. It only takes a few minutes to make. Instructions are in the recipe card but check out our full How To Make Brown Butter Post for step by step photos and more baking ideas!
- Spices - We use cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, ginger and allspice to season our apple pie filling.
The Best Apples for Pie
Thanks to the spirit of Johnny Appleseed, there are hundreds of varietals of apples to choose from! While they are all delicious, they're not all great for baking pies. For the tastiest apple pie around, I recommend using a variety of firm apples ranging from sweet to tart.
For this Dutch Apple Pie, I found my perfect balance to be 7 Honeycrisp apples and 3 Granny Smith apples. Both varietals are widely available year round.
Other varietals I recommend include Cortland, McIntosh, Braeburn, Golden Delicious and Northern Spy.
How To Make Dutch Apple Pie
Dutch apple pie is an easy to make crowd pleaser that requires no special equipment, except a pie plate! It does, however, require some time. If you don't have enough time to make this pie, try our quick and easy Plum and Apple Crumble recipe.
I recommend making this pie in stages, starting with the pie crust, then by making the brown butter. Next, cook the spiced apple filling. As the apples cook, you can whisk up the brown butter crumble.
1. Our Favorite Buttery Pie Crust
Y'all this pie crust recipe is THE ONE. I've made it hundreds of times and it's a no-fail, sure-fire way to bake the best pie in town. The keys to making this ultra flaky pastry is keeping the dough cold, minimal mixing by hand only, and using our secret ingredient: VODKA.
I know, it might sound a little crazy. And if you don't have vodka, or you don't want to use it - you don't have to. However, vodka is perfect in pie dough because it helps hydrate the flour but it prohibits gluten formation. It's a nearly foolproof way to create tender, flaky pie crust that doesn't shrink. The recipe is included in the recipe card at the bottom of this post but check out our full easy pie crust recipe post for more details, insights and step by step instructions.
No matter what pie crust recipe (or pre-made crust) you use, it will need to be properly blind baked. Blind baking is essential to avoiding soggy bottoms.
1. Roll, shape and flute your pie crust into your pie pan. Then, dock the dough by using a fork to poke a few holes in the bottom. Chill the shaped crust in the fridge or freezer, until firm.
2. Line your pie crust with parchment or a crumpled coffee filter. (I use a large Chemex coffee filter.) Then, fill the pie with pie weights. You can use ceramic pie weights but I just use dried beans and rice.
3. Bake the crust on the bottom rack of an oven preheated to 400° Fahrenheit. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the edges are lightly golden. Then, remove the weights and egg wash the entire interior of the crust. The egg wash on the base of the pie helps to seal the dough and keep it crispy. On the edges, egg wash makes for a pretty, glossy appearance.
4. Return the pie crust to the oven to bake for an additional 8 - 12 minutes or until the pie crust bottom is lightly golden and cooked through. Set aside to cool on a wire rack.
2. Brown Butter
Brown butter is what gives this classic pie its' rich and nutty oomph! It's easy to make by simply cooking butter in a pan until the milk solids are golden, toasty and aromatic, about 8 - 12 minutes.
As pictured in the ingredient photo, I had made my brown butter ahead of time and allowed it to solidify in the fridge. (I like to make big batches and have it on hand all holiday baking season!) Chilling brown butter isn't necessary for this recipe. You can just make fresh brown butter and use it in its' melted state.
Baker's Journal: Measuring Brown Butter - If you bake with brown butter often, you may be aware that the cooking process/evaporation causes the butter to reduce to a lesser volume and weight. For this Dutch apple pie recipe, you can brown exactly one stick (8 Tablespoons) of butter. Reserve 5 Tablespoons of brown butter for the crumble topping and use the rest (more or less 2 - 3 Tablespoons) in the spiced apple filling.
3. Spiced Apple Filling
The key to perfect apple pie is to cook the apple pie filling before baking. This is because apples have a high water content. Water makes pies soggy and, well, watery. (It's also what causes gapping in traditional two crust recipes). By cooking the apples first, we can cook off the water content and create a deeply flavored, never runny, perfectly cooked apple pie filling.
1. To make the filling, start by coring, peeling and slicing 4 pounds of apples. (That's right! We need a lot of apples to make this recipe! They are the star, after all.) I like to slice the apples about ¼ inch thick. Too thin and they turn to mush, too thick and they stay too crunchy.
2. Add all of the sliced apples, baking spices, brown sugar, flour, salt, vanilla, lemon juice and 2 - 3 Tablespoons brown butter (Note: b.) to a heavy bottomed pot. Cook the apples over medium heat, stirring often for 30 - 40 minutes or until they are soft and cooked through - but not mushy. The apples will not cook more during the baking process, so make sure they are cooked to a desirable pie consistency.
3. Once cooked, the apples need to be chilled before baking. To chill quickly, transfer the spiced apple filling to a quarter sheet tray. Make sure to scrape up all that delicious pan goo! Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.
4. When ready to bake, transfer the chilled apple filling into the cooled, blind baked pie crust. Add a little at a time and smooth with a rubber spatula to avoid any air gaps. The apples will fully fill the pie crust and might need to be slightly mounded - that's perfect!
4. Brown Butter Crumble
The crumble is super easy to make. You can prepare it while the apples are cooking and chill until ready to use.
1. Simply combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Drizzle in 5 Tablespoons of melted brown butter and mix with a fork until it is thick and clumpy.
2. Chill the crumble in the refrigerator until firm. When ready to bake the Dutch apple pie, remove the crumble from the refrigerator. Use a fork or your hands to break the mixture into crumbles and sprinkle over the whole pie.
3. Bake the pie for an additional 35 - 45 minutes or until the crumble is golden brown and the apples are hot and bubbly. Cool completely on a wire rack to set before slicing and serving.
Warming, Serving & Storing
- Reheating: We all know apple pie is best served warm! To reheat this pie, preheat the oven to 325° Fahrenheit. I recommend baking the pie on a foil lined baking sheet, to avoid any drippings landing on the bottom of your oven. Warm the pie for 15 minutes. If still too cool, continue baking in 5 - 10 minutes increments until warmed to your liking.
Pro Tip: Use Foil To Avoid Burning - If the pie crust is becoming too dark around the edges, use pie shields or tent the pie with foil to prevent burning.
- Serving: Serve big slices of Dutch apple pie warmed (or at room temperature). For the best experience, serve this pie a la mode with scoops of vanilla ice cream. For an extra drizzle of decadence, add a little homemade caramel sauce, too!
- Storing: Leftover pie can be stored covered at room temperature on the counter for up to two days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Pennsylvania Dutch Apple Pie
- 1 9 Inch Glass Pie Plate
- 1 ¼ Cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon fine kosher salt*
- ½ Tablespoon granulated sugar
- ½ Cup unsalted butter (1 stick) cubed, cold
- 2 Tablespoons 80 Proof Vodka optional
- Ice Water as needed
- 1 egg whisked to use as an egg wash
- ½ Cup unsalted butter (1 stick) cut into 1 Tablespoon pieces
Spiced Apple Filling
- 4 pounds apples (See Note: a.) (about 10 medium apples) cored, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
- ¾ Cup light brown sugar lightly packed
- 2 - 3 Tablespoons brown butter (See Note: b.)
- ¼ Cup all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice (about ¼ lemon)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon fine kosher salt*
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
Brown Butter Crumble
- 1 Cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ Cup light brown sugar lightly-packed
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 pinch fine kosher salt*
- 5 Tablespoons brown butter
- Combine flour, salt and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk to combine.
- Add butter. With your fingers and thumbs, press and flatten butter into the flour mixture to create a sandy texture. If the butter begins to soften, return the dough to the refrigerator until chilled. Keep the dough cold throughout the entire process.
- Then, using a rubber spatula, stir in the vodka, if using. Add cold, ice water (just the liquid, no ice) into the dough a small splash at a time. Mix with a rubber spatula. Add just enough water until the dough will hold together when gently squeezed in your hand. The dough should be rather dry and slightly crumbly.
- Turn the dough out onto a clean, dry work surface lined with plastic wrap. (It should be very crumbly.) Use the plastic wrap to cinch the dough together into a disk. Tightly wrap the disk in plastic wrap and allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Pie dough can be made ahead of time, twice wrapped, and frozen for 2 -3 months or kept in the refrigerator for 3 - 5 days.
- When ready to blind bake the pie crust, preheat the oven to 425° Fahrenheit. Roll the dough to ¼ inch thick and fit to a standard 9 inch pie pan. Flute or crimp the edges, as desired. Use a fork to poke a few holes in the bottom. Chill the shaped pie crust in the fridge or freezer until firm.
- Fill the crust with pie weights. Line the shaped crust with crumpled parchment paper or a large coffee filter. Fill the liner with ceramic weights or dried beans and/or rice. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the edges are lightly golden. (You can prepare the brown butter and apples, in the meantime.) Remove the pie from the oven and remove the weights.
- Use a pastry brush to egg wash the entire interior and edges of the pie crust. Return the pie to the oven for about 10 - 15 minutes or until the bottom of the pie is lightly golden and cooked through. Allow the crust to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
- Melt butter in a light colored pan over medium heat. Stir or whisk often. The butter will seperate into milk solids and butter fat. At first the butter will be foamy, then boil or simmer and finally begin to caramelize as the foam subsides. (If the butter begins to boil rapidly, reduce heat to simmer).
- After 7, or so, minutes the milk solids (white specks) will begin to caramelize and become brown in color and nutty in aroma. Continue stirring until the butter is brown, nutty and very aromatic. Watch closely to avoid burning and remove from heat immediately.
- Transfer brown butter out of the hot pan and into a heat-safe dish to stop cooking. Be sure to scrape all of the browned milk solids from the pan and into the butter. Divide the brown butter using 5 Tablespoons (70 grams) for the crumble and the remaining for the spiced apple filling.
Spiced Apple Filling
- Combine all Spiced Apple Filling ingredients in a large pot or dutch oven. Cook the apples, stirring often, over medium - medium-high heat for 30 - 40 minutes or until the filling has reduced down, thickened and is a desired pie consistency.
- Once cooked, transfer the Spiced Apple Filling to a quarter sheet tray. Be sure to include all the sugary pan goo! Allow the filling to cool completely at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. Meanwhile, prepare the Brown Butter Crumble.
Brown Butter Crumble
- In a small mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Whisk to combine. Add melted brown butter and stir until the flour mixture is fully saturated. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to bake.
- When ready to bake the pie, arrange a rack in the center third of the oven and preheat to 375° Fahrenheit (135° celsius).
- Add the chilled Spiced Apple Filling to the blind baked pie crust. Use a rubber spatula to smooth the filling in, a little at a time, to avoid air pockets, The filling may be slightly mounded in the pie shell. Be sure to include all the sugary pan goo!
- Use a fork or your hands to break up the chilled Brown Butter Crumble. Top the apple filling with crumble. Place the pie pan on a sheet tray for easily handling in and out of the oven. Bake the pie for 35 - 45 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the topping is golden brown and the apples are hot and bubbly around the edges.
- Allow the pie to cool and set before slicing and serving. We recommend serving apple pie warmed and topped with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel! Enjoy!
* A Note About Salt
Unless otherwise noted, all recipes on The Sage Apron are developed using Diamond Crystal Kosher salt. It is a great all-purpose salt for cooking and baking. If using table salt, reduce quantities by about half.