I hope you’re a filling person. Crust people, you might want to keep on scrolling. Because in the great pie battle of crust vs filling, this Mile High Apple Pie is allllll about that bass filling.
Five pounds of filling, to be exact! It’s amazing that a giant basket of apples (five pounds! eighty ounces!) can be crammed into one 9-inch pie pan and turned in this big beautiful beast of a pie. Thanksgiving, we are so ready for you.
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A few weeks ago we drove about an hour and a half to go apple picking in the hills. Asher has had a lot of questions about food lately (where does it come from? how does it grow? etc) and we thought it would be fun to take our city mouse to the country and show him how his favorite grocery store apples actually grow!
We ended up at an orchard that grows Winesap apples, an heirloom variety that’s a nice balance of sweet and tart. They keep well and are a good cooking apple, so with visions of baking dancing in my head, we quickly filled a big bag with freshly picked apples. I’m not saying my kid’s an apple-picking prodigy, but I’m not saying he’s not…
Apple picking was fun, but all of the orchards and cafes in town were so busy when we were there. We ended up skipping a lot of the activities we had planned, just because we didn’t want to wait in long lines. One of the things I was most looking forward to was eating at a local café and enjoying their famous mile high apple pie, but when we saw the long line snaking out of the restaurant and across the parking lot, we just kept driving in search of a less crowded lunch.
As we whizzed by the café, I let out a little disappointed sigh, then turned to look at our bag of overflowing apples in the back seat. “Oh yes….” I whispered to them, steely determination in my voice. “You will be a mile high apple pie…”
I never got my slice of pie from the café, but in the end I got something much better: an entire pie, baked fresh in my kitchen, making my house smell amazing and my family and friends very happy. Turns out, anyone can be a filling person when the filling in question is a stack of perfectly spiced, perfectly juicy apples, fork-tender and super flavorful!
I don’t actually think the traditional apple pie needs much tweaking, so this recipe isn’t about a surprising new ingredient. There will be no deconstructing here, no re-imagining, and you can keep your trendy foods far away from my apple pie. We’re sticking with the basics, just amping them up a little.
The biggest trick to this pie, and the reason I’ve included a little photo tutorial, is that you want to assemble it a little differently than a regular apple pie. Rather than just piling the apple slices into the crust willy-nilly, you want to stack most of them in a bowl, neatly lining them around the sides and compacting them a bit, to make a perfect half-sphere of apple slices. Then all it takes is a little flip of the bowl onto the pie shell, and you’ve constructed a beautiful pie that’s also stable and easy to cover with pie crust. Hat tip to Paula Deen for turning me on to this method!
It’s natural for the apples to cook down a little bit while they bake, so after baking you’ll have a small air pocket between the top of the crust and the apples. Wait, did I say air pocket? I meant ice cream pocket. How awesome would it be to stuff that empty space with a few scoops of ice cream?! Be right back, making another pie just to test this theory…
Although we had lots of Winesaps from our trip, I actually used a mix of apples in this pie. Mostly Winesaps, yes, but also some Granny Smiths and a few Gala apples. Whenever possible, I always like making my pies with an assortment of apples. I love the variety of flavors and textures that using different types provides—some are tart, some sweet, some get mushy and some hold their shape, so each bite is interesting and a little different.
The other thing I tried in this pie is using UltraGel as my thickener of choice. I’m always experimenting with different thickeners, and most recently had success with ground-up tapioca in my Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. But I think UltraGel might be my new favorite! It’s a gluten-free, non-GMO corn-based starch that instantly thickens—no heating or whisking required—and it does a great job of absorbing extra moisture, while not imparting any sort of starchy, gummy, or glue-y texture. The apple filling stayed moist but there wasn’t any liquid pooling in the bottom—score! Apparently UltraGel is also great for puddings, pastry cream, and gravy, so I’ll be doing more experimenting and will report back! (There are lots of different versions of this product that have different names. I linked to the specific brand that I bought, but I imagine many of them work similarly well.)
And finally, the question everyone asked—how do you serve a pie this big? With a big spatula! Ba-dum-ching.
Seriously, though, it’s actually not hard at all. If you wait a few hours after baking, it’ll be more stable and you should be able to cut clean-ish slices fairly easily. I took a multi-step approach and first cut through the crust, then sawed through the apples using a sharp serrated knife, then cut through the bottom crust. Slow and steady wins the pie game! You’ll probably want to serve these slices in shallow bowls or on large plates so all the apple pieces have a place to spill out when they go for a bite.
Oh, and ice cream is a must. Preferably with some caramel sauce drizzled on top. But you probably already knew that, didn’t you? Happy baking!
Continue to Next Page (>) for the full list of ingredients and complete cooking instructions.