Okay, perhaps, not all that secret but here is my way to up the grade on homemade apple pie or apple crisp.
When I first started baking, my mother’s ‘secret’ suggestion was to add lemon juice to the apple dessert prep. Fresh lemon juice does up the apple/cinnamon taste and people often wondered how my mother’s apple desserts were just a wee bit better.
I was an abstract artist in college and this inclination has seeped down into my baking and sewing over the years. In other words, I never leave well enough alone if I get inspired to add something more. So, this is how my latest apple dessert preparations has evolved.
1. Wash, peel, and slice the amount of green apples you will need for your planned dessert. When they are on hand, I will often throw in a couple of sweeter apples, too. They break down a bit more in baking and sort of form an applesauce texture to the more firm green variety.
2. First, I zest the lemons and limes and set it aside. Then toss the prepared apples with the juice and let them sit a minute while I gather the spices and sugar.
3. I usually use up to 3 teaspoons of ground cinnamon. Use a good quality one as the ones on the grocery shelves can be a bit bitter. My go-to for the best cinnamon is The Spice House which is on-line. To the cinnamon, I add half a teaspoon of ground cloves, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg and a smidge of salt.
4. Depending on your recipe, mix the spices into one to two cups of granulated sugar. Add the zest of the lemons and limes.
5. Combine the sugar/spice/zest mixture with the apples. If you really want to deepen the final result, a quarter cup of brandy works very well.
6. Add a quarter cup of cornstarch, mixing in well. This is what will hold the apples together a bit after baking.
7. This is my final secret. Put the prepared apples into a bowl or container, cover and refrigerate at least one day before using them in your recipe. My batch for this Thanksgiving got a two-day soak.
8. When you get to making your pie crust, substitute a quarter cup or so of the water called with vodka. It makes for a more tender crust.
Time is wasting so one guess what I’m about to put into the oven!