When it comes to thickening up your favorite fruit pie, the type of starch you use matters. Here's how to pick the best one.
No one wants their beautiful summer fruit pie to be described as pasty, gluey, or lumpy. You worked hard to make that pie, and it should show.
Choosing which starch to use in your pie filling and using it properly will result in a luscious, delicate gel-like filling that will provide structure and hold together your lovely summer berries -- and not turn them into something that resembles hospital food gelatin or elementary school paste.
Eating healthy should still be delicious.
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Choosing a starch can be confusing, however. Should you use flour, cornstarch, or tapioca? Which starch is the right one to show off your perfectly-ripe berries without overpowering their juicy goodness? And, just what the heck is the difference anyway?
Grain starches include wheat flour, cornstarch, and rice flour. A grain starch needs to be cooked very well (boiled for a few minutes) and works well in cream pies where a pastry cream is the base for the pie. Cornstarch and rice flour are more translucent than flour, so the color of your berries will shine through better.
Root starches include tapioca (both whole and in flour form), arrowroot, and potato flour. A root starch needs gentle cooking and will thicken the juices as they are released from fresh or frozen fruit. Root starch is also more translucent than wheat flour.
A word of caution, though: if you intend to make a lattice-top pie, stay away from tapioca granules for your starch. As the tapioca granules absorb liquid, they swell, and the oven heat will make them hard and unpleasant in your pie.
So, Which Starch Should You Use?
First, think about your fruit. Is it very ripe? A pie with ripe berries will need less time in the oven to cook and become tender. For this pie, try a root starch.
Are you using the first-picked crop of apples that may be less tender and juicy than they would be in a month or two and so the pie will need to be baked longer? If that’s your situation, go with a grain starch for the longer baking time.
Finally, here is the best tip I can give you for your fruit pie: enjoy the bounty of summer’s star fruit, and don’t despair if your pie didn’t thicken like you wanted. Use the leftover filling in the pan as topping for vanilla ice cream. Delish!
Orchard Pie (Mixed Fruit Pie)
Orchard pie, autumn pie, fall pie or mixed fruit pie, you name it! The name doesn&rsquot matter, this pie is delicious no matter how you call it.
Easy to make and using ingredients you probably always have in your pantry.
Summer Fruit Pie
September is officially here, Labor Day has arrived, and I can’t wear white pants anymore. Not that I really wore white pants that often (I’m gay but not THAT gay) but I always like to keep my fashion options open. I’ve been home for nearly a month from my cross-country road trip but you probably would never know that from my Instagram Stories. I think I’m still in Mid-July with my daily uploads on IG Stories, slowly working my way up from D.C. to Maine then eventually back home. At this rate, I’ll be back in San Francisco sometime for Christmas. But despite the proliferation of pumpkin popping up EVERYWHERE on my social feed (thank you everyone for at least waiting until September, because I just can’t with pumpkin in August), technically summer isn’t over yet. According to Google summer doesn’t end until September 22! So I’m holding onto the season with this Summer Fruit Pie.
Recently I taught a class at the San Francisco Cooking School on Summer pies. Normally the class is done a little earlier in the season. But I wasn’t available earlier (are you tired of hearing me talk about my road trip? Sorry/Not Sorry about that) so we pushed the class to the end of August. And though there was a nectarine raspberry pie that I taught in the class, when I went to make a demo example pie ahead of time (which I like to do for all my classes) I realized that I had limited nectarines in my house but plenty of other summer stone fruit like plums, peaches, pluots (a plum/apricot hybrid) and late season cherries. So the summer fruit pie was born.
Despite how much everyone loves the way woven crusts and Instagram worthy double crust pies look, one of my absolutely favorite toppings for pie (and really for any baked good) is a crumb topping. I shower crumbs on everything, from to coffee cake and muffins to my babka in my cookbook Marbled, Swirled, and Layered to even cookies. Bakery streusel crumbs, with their slightly crunch and subtle spice may not look as sexy as the highly decorated cut out crust that garner 1000s of likes but the taste just makes me happy.
So I’m going to have a big slice of this pie for breakfast now and enjoy the last weeks of summer. As everyone else dives into their pumpkin spice lattes, I’m going to grab one more bag of pluots and peaches at the store. Fall may have started for everyone else, but summer is still here for me.
The secret to prizewinning apple pie
The holidays had an accent at our house. My mother, an inspired cook, filtered American tradition through her French sensibility. It’s there in the photos of our first few years in the States — a crisp-skinned goose on the Thanksgiving table, and at Christmas, a bubbling cassoulet. As the seasons passed, American idiom crept into our kitchen. My mother experimented, learned to roast a turkey, to make cranberry sauce, to melt marshmallows on the yams.
It was to this more assimilated holiday table that I first brought that most American of icons — a homemade apple pie. Sliced and served with the other desserts, a pumpkin tart and a tart Tatin (assimilation, it seems, only goes so far), it vanished from everyone’s plates.
That recipe was on my mind when some friends and I decided to compete in the Malibu Pie Festival a few years ago. I’d made it many times over the years, always with varying results. At its best it turned out great, firm and fruity with a flakey crust. At its worst, you’d cut the first slice to find a soggy, soupy mess. With the pie contest looming, it was time for a new approach. Time, it turned out, to break a few rules.
First up was a look at the ingredients themselves. Never a fan of supermarket Granny Smiths, freakishly large and largely soulless, I sampled my way through the Santa Monica farmers market to the See Canyon fruit stand. This seller is the Holy Grail of great apples.
With flavor bombs like Baldwin, Spy Gold, Stayman Winesap, Enterprise, Pippin and Spitzenberg, you just need a few pounds of a few varieties and you’ve got the underpinnings of a fantastic pie.
But what to do with the fruit? Recipes invariably tell you to slice your apples thinly, then toss them in a bowl with sugar and spices. That’s the fun part, really, all that stirring as the sugar and the fruit create a kind of slurry, as the nutmeg and cinnamon spread in flecks through the mixture, filling the kitchen with their sweet scent. But it always bothered me that the instant the sugar goes in, the juice starts to leave the apples. By the time you’re spooning the filling into the crust, you’re awash in liquid. And while most recipes compensate with the addition of corn starch or even flour, I’ve always disliked the way thickeners blunted the apples’ bright flavor.
It was food writer John Thorne who offered another way. His apple pie recipe flouts the slice-it-thin rule and urges you to cut your fruit into nice, big chunks. I didn’t even bother to core the apples — just sliced off each side, then made eight sort-of-equal slabs. This sharply reduced the surface area of the apples that could come into contact with the sugar, thus reducing the amount of liquid that would leak into the pie.
The final moment of mutiny came, oddly enough, via a technique I saw Martha Stewart demonstrate on TV. Instead of doing the mixing bowl thing with the apples and sugar, she piled her sliced fruit directly into the crust. Only then did she sprinkle the sugar on top, assuring her viewers that the sweeteners and spices would disperse during the baking process.
I know there are people who have perfectly good luck making pie crust in a food processor. I am not one of them. It’s too easy to blend the butter and flour too long, which means the fat globules get too small. They coat the flour and give you a waterproof mixture, which yields a tough and ugly crust. It’s just as easy — and a lot more fun — to use a pastry cutter to get the right proportions, to achieve those small pebbles of butter that give a flakey crust.
What put my pie crust over the top, though, was a technique borrowed from Rose Levy Berenbaum, author of “The Pie and Pastry Bible.” You cut the fat into tiny cubes (she suggests three-quarters inch, but I go a bit smaller), then add it to a plastic bag with the flour mixture. Toss to distribute, squeeze out the excess air and — here’s the genius part — you go over the whole thing with a rolling pin.
The butter (or leaf lard, if that flavor appeals to you) flattens out into golden flakes. Chill the flattened mixture in the fridge for half an hour, then bring it out and quickly add the water, stirring it until it forms a dough. Form a disk, chill again to make sure the butter is good and firm, and your crust is ready for the rolling pin.
The new approach in place, I went to work. Made a crust, mounded apple chunks into the pan, stirred the spices into the white sugar and sprinkled the mixture over the apples, added an equal amount of brown sugar, rolled and crimped the top crust, then prayed to the pastry gods as everything baked.
Four hours later, I was in shock, holding the blue ribbon for the best apple pie at the Malibu Pie Festival. And after second- and third-place finishes the next two years (pie crust issues, since resolved), my rebel apple pie once again won the grand prize at this year’s pie contest.
This is the apple pie I bake every time now, and it never fails. Cut it open, and it’s all about the fruit, generous hunks of gently baked apple, its pure, clean flavor enhanced by a sweet, spicy glaze. It’s the pie that will make an appearance at my holiday table, along with the cheese plate, some roasted figs and my mother’s walnut tart.
Note, the Instructions are the same for the Basic and the caramel filling.
1. Peel, slice and chop the fruit into small cubes. Then add a squeeze of lemon juice and toss in a bowl.
The lemon juice will stop the fruit going brown.
2. Add all the ingredients to the pan, EXCEPT the spices and vanilla if using.
3. Bring to the boil and when it starts bubbling, remove from the heat, add your spices & vanilla and allow to cool.
Once cooled, you can freeze, refrigerate or add to the pie.
- 1/2 recipe Whole Wheat Pie Crust, blind-baked according to recipe directions
- For the Filling:
- 9 ounces sugar (shy 1 1/3 cups 255g)
- 1 1/2 ounces cornstarch (about 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon 42g)
- 1/4 teaspoon (1g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
- 4 large eggs (about 7 ounces 195g)
- 1/4 ounce lime zest (about 2 tablespoons 7g), from about 4 limes (see note)
- 8 ounces fresh lime juice (about 1 cup 225g), from about 8 limes (see note)
- 16 ounces milk, any percentage will do (about 2 cups 455g)
- 1/4 teaspoon rosewater (optional)
- For the Topping:
- Swiss Meringue, full or half batch as desired
Getting Ready: In a 9-inch glass pie dish, prepare and blind-bake the whole wheat pie crust according to the directions in the recipe. This can be done up to a week in advance crust can be held at room temperature if wrapped tightly in plastic.
For the Filling: In a 3-quart stainless steel saucier, combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt and mix until smooth, then whisk in eggs, lime zest, and lime juice, followed by milk. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly but gently, until hot to the touch, about 5 minutes.
Increase heat to medium and continue whisking until thick, about 3 minutes longer. When custard begins to bubble, set a timer and continue whisking for exactly 2 minutes. (This is important to neutralize a starch-dissolving protein found in egg yolks.) Remove from heat and stir in rosewater, if using. Pour into prepared pie crust. For a silkier texture, first strain through a stainless steel sieve, pushing the thick custard through with a flexible spatula.
For the Topping: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 375°F (190°C). Prepare Swiss Meringue as directed, making a half or full batch depending on your own personal preference for meringue. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. Starting at the very edge of the pie, pipe meringue kisses over surface of custard until completely covered. Alternatively, spread meringue over custard with the back of a spoon. Place on a wire rack set inside a half sheet pan (this setup minimizes heat transfer to the custard) and bake pie until meringue is well browned, about 15 minutes.
To Serve: Cool pie to room temperature, then cover loosely in plastic and refrigerate until no warmer than 60°F (16°C), about 3 1/2 hours. Cut with a wet chef's knife, rinsing the blade clean with cold water between slices. Wrapped in plastic, leftovers can be refrigerated up to 1 week.
Homemade Apple Pie Recipe Recipe – Mini Fruit Pockets
Mini Homemade Apple Pie Ingredients
- 2 Cups Flour
- ¼ Cup Sugar
- ½ teas. Ground Cinnamon
- ¼ teas. Salt
- 4 Tbsp. Butter, cold and cubed
- 6 oz. Cream Cheese, cold and cubed
- 2 Tbsp. Milk, cold
- 2 Tbsp. Butter
- ¼ Cup Sugar
- ½ teas. Cinnamon
- 3 Tbsp. Water
- 2 Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored, ½ inch cubes
- 1 Tbsp. Corn Starch
Mini Homemade Apple Pie Instructions
Preheat oven to 375˚. Put the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in to a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and cream cheese and pulse one again until the cubes are incorporated.
Turn the processor on low speed and add the milk – 1 Tbsp. at a time – until a loose crumbly dough forms. Put the dough on a well-floured surface and form into a round. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 min.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat melt the butter with the sugar. Once the butter is melted add the cinnamon, apples and 2 tbsp. of water. Cover and let the apples cook 8 minutes stirring occasionally.
Mix the corn starch and 1 Tbsp. of water together and add to the apples. Stir constantly until the sauce is thickened. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Remove the Dough from the refrigerator and put on a floured surface. Using a floured rolling pin roll dough out into a square shape approximately 1/8 inch thick. Cut 5 inch squares out of the dough. You should get at least six 5 inch squares. Re-roll the scraps if you have to.
Place about 2 Tbsp. of apple filling on a square slightly off-center leaving some room at the top, bottom and side to seal the pie.
Fold the dough over to form a 2 ½ x 5-inch pocket. Pinch to seal the 3 edges using either your fingers or a fork. Place on a Cookie sheet. Cut 3 diagonal slits on the top for venting or your pies will burst at the seams. Bake at 375˚ until golden brown, 20-25 minutes.
** Optional before baking brush the pies with egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 teas. water) to give the pie a glossier browned look.
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 1 ⅓ cups finely crushed rusk (10 to 12 slices) or zwieback (about 17 slices)
- 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 cups plain fat-free Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ¾ cup low-calorie cranberry-raspberry drink
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 6 cups fresh raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and/or halved strawberries
- 1 ½ cups frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed
- ¾ teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
- 1 sprig Fresh mint sprigs
Prepare crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, combine finely crushed rusk and brown sugar. Add egg white and melted butter stir until well mixed. Press mixture evenly onto bottom and up side of prepared pie plate. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edge is browned. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Prepare filling: In a small bowl, combine yogurt, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Cover and chill until ready to use.
Meanwhile, prepare glaze: In a small saucepan, stir together cranberry-raspberry drink and cornstarch. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat. Transfer to a small bowl. Cover surface with plastic wrap let stand at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours or until cooled.
Spread yogurt mixture into crust-lined pie plate. In a large bowl, gently toss berries and cooled glaze. Spoon over yogurt mixture. Cover with foil chill for 3 to 6 hours before serving.
Prepare lemon topping: In a small bowl, combine whipped dessert topping and lemon peel.
Customizing your recipe for apple pie filling
What I love about this recipe is how much you can adjust it to serve your needs and how you want to use it.
To reduce the sugar: I suggest using Swerve Sweetener Brown instead of brown sugar to reduce the calories a bit.
I love the taste of Swerve Sweetener Brown. It's great to use and cooks up just like regular brown sugar.
Adjust the flavors: This apple pie filling recipe uses a unique blend of spices that you can adjust to your personal tastes.
If you like ginger, add more! Dislike cinnamon? Leave it out. It’s totally up to you!
Need to avoid corn products? You can use rice starch (which may be called rice powder on the package) to thicken the filling recipe.
You can buy rice starch online or at Asian markets. It works just as well as corn starch for as a gluten-free way to thicken stews and gravies.
Size of the apples: For my Gluten Free St. Patrick’s Day Pot of Gold Filled Cupcakes, I needed to have the apples cut into small pieces. But for a homemade apple pie, you may wish to have large pieces of apple.
Thick or thin? You’ll be surprised how quickly the corn (or rice) starch thickens the cooked filling. You can add more water if you desire a thinner consistency of apple pie filling.
You can also add more (or less) spices if you wish to this wholesome pie filling. I love cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom, so I tend to round up my measurements.
Finally, What Is Your Best Cornstarch Substitute?
Whether the reason is you want to find a healthier alternative, or sometimes your kitchen lacks cornstarch, I believe you will find the best choice through my sharing.
These diverse cornstarch substitutes will also help you limit your grocery shopping and replace them with ingredients available in your kitchen cabinets.
I believe you have found the best substitute for cornstarch and the most suitable substitute for your dish. Don’t forget to tell me what it is in the comments down below!