Make All-American Apple Pie All Your Own

Once you've mastered a basic apple pie, how do you make it more delicious than anyone else's?

Cooking the apples before making the pie "is my 'secret,'" says amyzan, "though I tell everyone. It's amazing to me how many people think that's sacrilege, or weird, or somehow wrong. I try to get a piece of pie to as many of these people as possible, because it makes all the difference once they taste the results." biondanonima microwaves apple slices for several minutes before spicing them. "It gets their juices flowing and seems to set their texture—they don't fall apart in the pie or cook to mush, but they don't stay hard either," she says.

Many use more flavorful brown sugar instead of white, and cut back on the amount of sugar in the pie, so the flavor of the apples shines through. "I like to lightly toast the the whole spices before grinding and adding to the pie," says Novelli. Spicing—which spices to use and how much to add—is a personal preference, and some prefer pies heavily spiced with strong Vietnamese cinnamon, while others go light on spice. Hounds' spicing secrets include using a dusting of ground cardamom or star anise.

Finally, sometimes it's what you serve with apple pie that makes all the difference: "The best addition is David Lebovitz's fennel ice cream on top," says katecm.

Discuss: *Your* secret to great apple pie?

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