Dec 30, 2023

25 Ingredients That Will Take Your Apple Pie Up A Notch

Apple pie: the quintessential addition for hearty Thanksgiving spreads or Fourth of July picnics at the park. With a rich, flaky crust and cinnamon-y, freshly baked apple filling, there's a reason why many folks consider it a comfort food. The renowned dessert is often coined as an American classic. (Ironically, according to Smithsonian Magazine, it was an English baker who first wrote an apple pie recipe.) In any case, it is downright delicious, and its simple formula gives home bakers elbow room to modify and experiment with the famous dish.

The apple mixture usually has chopped apples, sugar, spices, and other ingredients like lemon juice, butter, or thickening agents. Meanwhile, sometimes the crust covers the entire pie or is woven into a lattice topping; other times, it has a streusel crumb topping (known as Dutch apple pie). The ingredients listed here do a fantastic job of complementing the conventional ingredients or enhancing the dessert's overall display to make it more striking — or, better yet, both.

Although cheese might not be the first ingredient that comes to mind when you consider adding unique elements to your desserts, you might want to consider including cheddar cheese with apple pie. Why, you ask? The sugared apples play off the sharpness of the cheese to create a complex yet scrumptious combination.

To try it out, add cheddar cheese with the fruit or simply bake the pie as usual and then melt cheddar on top towards the end of its bake time. If you want a more mellow approach, mix shredded cheddar into the pie dough, which makes it reminiscent of cheddar biscuits, and that way, your filling remains traditional.

Brown butter offers a deeper flavor profile than regular butter; it has toasty notes that create layers of flavor in any dish you place it in, whether savory dishes or desserts. If you want to enrich your pie easily, melt some butter in a pan over medium heat; let it bubble and cook until it darkens and smells nutty.

Then, mix it into the filling with the spices, sugar, and fruit. You can also flavor the brown butter while you cook it. For instance, with star anise brown butter apple pie, you allow whole vanilla beans and star anise to reside in the butter while you brown it to impart a warmer essence.

Cranberries' puckery taste complements sweet and tart apples and adds a nice touch of vibrant color to the pie filling. Since companies harvest fresh cranberries later in the year, you might have trouble finding them in your local grocery store at any given time.

Thankfully, you can use frozen cranberries in the same way for the pie; it isn't necessary to thaw them before you work with them. Additionally, you can use dried cranberries, which are a bit sweeter and have a much different mouthfeel. Whichever kind you use, mix them into the fruit base with the apples to take your pie to the next level.

Make your pie reminiscent of caramel apples by including caramel in the fruit base or as a last-minute finishing touch. You can make homemade caramel or go the easy route and buy caramel in a jar or squeeze bottle. Stir it into the apples before you add the thickening agent, and run a taste test to see if the caramel flavor shines enough or if you should adjust it and add more.

As an alternative, drizzle the finished pie with smooth caramel sauce to give it a show-stopping look. If your caramel is too stiff to pour, warm it for a few seconds to loosen the consistency.

Most commonly, sweet treats like cheesecakes or key lime pies have a buttery graham crust. Yet, that doesn't mean you can't experiment and use that type of crust with apple pie. Graham crackers have a honeyed taste and frequently have cinnamon, so the taste works with cooked apples and baking spices. Also, a graham cracker crust is easier to make, so it's an excellent alternative if you don't feel comfortable enough to create a regular crust.

To make it, crush the graham crackers with a food processor or utilize a rolling pin and a Ziploc bag. Then, melt butter and add it to the crumbs in small amounts until it holds shape when you squeeze a portion of it in your hand. To set yourself up for success, press the mixture into the pie dish and par-bake the shell before you add the apple filling.

Bacon and apples are an ideal pair because the meat's saltiness contrasts with the sweetness of the fruit. Texture-wise, they're dramatically different, too, since the bacon is crispy while the apples are juicy. You can incorporate this ingredient in a couple of ways, the first being in the fruit mixture and the second as a replacement for the lattice crust.

It is relatively straightforward to use bacon in the filling; simply cook and chop it before you fold it into the apple and spice blend. On the other hand, if you want to go the extra mile, make a bacon-weave apple pie with bacon pieces intertwined on top to replace the crust. Use par-cooked or raw bacon to create the design; cover the pie with foil for most of the baking time to prevent the bacon from burning.

Make an apple pie with impressive sweet heat; green chiles supply the dessert with smokiness. The canned green chiles are especially convenient, because they're pre-cooked and chopped. Therefore, you only need to dump them into the fruit base, and they effortlessly blend in.

You can also make green chile apple pie with fresh chiles; however, it is more work because you need to deseed and dice them in advance. The benefit of using the fresh kind is that they're firmer in texture, so they don't become mushy. Evidently, both canned and fresh chiles have their pros and cons.

Add pine nuts to the apple mixture to give the dessert texture variation. They are incredibly delicious when you toast them because it amplifies their taste and makes them crunchy. Their nutty and buttery qualities shine alongside brown sugar, apples, and the other components of the sweet treat.

Also, if you make apple pie with a streusel topping, you can include them in the streusel instead, and they will toast while they bake. It is optional, but if you don't want a super coarse crumb topping, run the pine nuts through a food processor or rough chop them before mixing them in.

If you're a bourbon fan, infusing it in your pie is a no-brainer because it creates flavor depth. Additionally, you can include it in the fruit base or use it as a garnish. When you use it as a finishing touch, make a bourbon glaze with melted butter, vanilla extract, bourbon, and confectioners' sugar. Add the powdered sugar to the liquids in small amounts until it's thick enough to drizzle across the baked pie.

Alternatively, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of it to the apple filling so the whole pie can have hints of bourbon. When you choose which kind to use, Whisky Advocate notes that you should consider whether you wish to harmonize with the ingredients in the dessert or contrast them with the alcohol. To accentuate the fruit and other components, choose a dessert bourbon with caramel-like or warmer notes.

Add blueberries to the baked dessert to make it extra fruity. Blueberries are convenient because you don't need much time to prepare them; they are already the perfect size to throw into the filling. To be safe, give them a rinse before you work with them.

Additionally, if you cook the filling on the stovetop rather than baking it in a raw state, add the blueberries at the last moment. This step prevents the berries from becoming too soft and bursting. To avoid that issue, you are welcome to use dried blueberries, which slightly hydrate after mixing them with the filling and baking them.

Golden raisins are a fantastic option for adding texture to your classic apple pie. Think about it: With a flaky crust, perfectly tender apples, and chewy raisins, you can't go wrong. For one, this addition is easy because you can simply remove them from the packaging and put them into the filling, and two, you can add as much as you prefer.

Wholesale Nuts and Dried Fruit reports that companies make golden raisins from sultana grapes, which gives them their blonde color. Furthermore, golden raisins taste sugarier than their dark-colored counterparts and are often more plump, so they are indeed the better raisin for the job.

Don't limit thyme by only using it in savory recipes; it works wonderfully in apple pie because its earthy qualities aren't too overwhelming. Instead, the herb complements the fruit and other ingredients in the filling, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.

According to Healthline, thyme is useful for cooking and baking, and people use it medicinally too. It can do all sorts of impressive things for the body, from curing acne to improving people's moods. People use thyme oil for natural cough and bacterial infection remedies too. You can use food-grade oil in your pie to provide flavor, but fresh or dried thyme is best because you can see the specks in the dessert and even sprinkle them on for garnish after you bake the pie.

Use white chocolate sauce, or simply melted white chocolate, as a lovely garnish for the pie. When you decorate the pie with it, the light-colored drizzle contrasts with the browned crust. White chocolate sauce often has a simple formula. People include either milk or heavy cream with the chocolate to make it taste richer. It also makes the chocolate easier to pour.

On the other hand, if you want to take the easier route, simply melt white chocolate chips or wafers in the microwave to make it more liquid-like. Also, so you're aware, it's perfectly okay if your white chocolate has a yellow tint; truth be told, exceptional products often do because of the cocoa butter.

Hot honey is the ultimate apple pie topping because all it takes is a drizzle to boost the display and flavor of the sweet treat instantly. Of course, you can use regular honey, but spicy honey adds extra pizzazz because of its flavor depth.

First, the honey's sugary attributes shine through with the cinnamon and apples, then a dash of peppery heat sweeps in to make your tastebuds tingle; it is just enough spice, not too staggering. Purchase hot honey at the store or create your own to customize the level of fieriness. Moreover, don't pour the spicy component on the pie until just before serving, so it looks as fresh as possible.

Apples, spices, and maple are a must-try combination because they are warm and comforting, which is why you should mix maple extract into the fruit base to give the pie maple undertones. Beware, though: Maple extract is concentrated, so you only need 2 or so teaspoons. Otherwise, the taste will be overpowering.

Mix it with the spices to create a paste, which you can fold into the apples to distribute evenly. Additionally, you can replace the vanilla extract in the pie dough with maple extract to make the crust more saccharine than usual; the tender maple crust will likely remind you of waffles and syrup.

This spice amplifies the pie's autumnal essence; it works in sweet and savory applications because of its minty undertones. You can buy ground cardamom to make it easy on yourself. However, if you want to buy whole pods, you can remove the seeds and grind them for a fresh and potent taste.

Mix this spice into the apple pie filling, crumb topping, or dough. It suits the streusel topping because it is an excellent match for brown sugar. Healthline reports that cardamom also has several potential health benefits. For instance, it can improve blood pressure, aid in digestion, and prevent cavities.

Apple pie is a dessert that benefits when you pair it with a milky component, such as fluffy whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream. But what if you knew you could bake the creamy ingredient right into its base?

Sour cream apple pie is the way to go because it adds richness to the dessert and only takes a second to mix in. Scoop about 1 cup of sour cream into the apples, lemon juice, spices, and more. And fear not; it doesn't make the pie watery, as long as you have a thickener like cornstarch in your recipe.

Have you ever heard of the dark-colored, citrusy, yet sweet drupe better known as the Italian plum? These plums are optimal when you make baked goods because they don't become as soggy, and they hold shape well through the cooking process. Also, although they're tarter when raw, they sweeten when you cook them.

Furthermore, the pits in Italian plums are painless to remove. The only downside is that finding Italian plums might be challenging; you likely have to go to a specialty produce market to get ahold of them. Once you snatch them up, omit the pit and slice them into small wedges when you make apple Italian plum pie.

If you enjoy dipping crisp apple slices into peanut butter, you're definitely not alone. They are an incredible duo because the nut butter's creamy and salty qualities enhance the fruitiness of the apples. Include peanut butter in the filling to create a pie that has a similar effect. Since it has a bold taste, you don't need more than ½ cup of peanut butter for a whole pie; mix it with the apples.

To make things easier, pop it in the microwave to soften it first so it effortlessly blends with the sugar and other components. Then, bake the pie as usual and allow time for it to set before you dig in.

If you make your apple pies similar to tarts with open-faced fruit filling, using apricot glaze is a wise way to improve their presentation. Sometimes, once the pie bakes, the apples look dry and less glamorous than you hoped. Luckily, you can buy or make apricot glaze and brush it on the pie, which seals the apples and makes them shiny.

Another bonus is that you can add it to the pie before you bake it to prevent the apples from drying out. Martha Stewart uses this trick for her homemade pies, which is advantageous because it adds a tangy yet sweet flavor to the dessert.

Since zucchini has such a subtle flavor, it is like a blank canvas because you can involve it with many foods, and apple pie is the perfect opportunity. The recipe's spices, sugar, and other components seep into the zucchini. Not to mention, the zucchini visually blends with the apples when you peel and chop them.

Some recipes entirely substitute the apples in zucchini apple pie, but we recommend you use half zucchini and half apples because of the slight textural differences. Zucchini does soften quicker than apples, though, so if you make the filling on the stovetop, add the zucchini once the apples are almost ready.

Give your dessert floral hints by including rose water in the fruit base of the pie. Rose water is aromatic and has a distinct, enjoyable taste that works with the baking spices in the sweet treat. You just need 1 or 2 tablespoons of the liquid to supply the pie with sweet botanic traces, not to mention you don't want to add so much that it makes the filling runny.

You can find rose water in many supermarkets and online; it often comes in bottles. Alternatively, if you are up for a side project, you can make your own if you soak food-safe rose petals in water.

There are several methods for adding coconut to your apple pie, depending on whether you want the coconut's pleasantly gritty texture to stand out or its flavor to accompany the fruitiness. First, add raw or toasted coconut flakes directly to the fruit filling or the crumb topping; both are equally delicious.

However, if you add it to the topping, use the raw kind and cover the pie with foil for part of the time it bakes. Otherwise, it might brown too much. Alternatively, if you enjoy coconut's taste above all, make your pie crust with coconut flour, which is mild-tasting and yields soft dough.

Although sweet potatoes are technically vegetables, they mesh well with spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon. Once you cook them, they have a fork-tender consistency, and their taste is subtly sweet and creamy. You can mix sweet potatoes into the filling with the apples, but you must par-cook them first.

Otherwise, there isn't a guarantee they will have the mouthfeel you desire. Instead, chop the root vegetables into small cubes and roast or simmer until they are less firm. Undoubtedly, apple pie is already satisfying enough, but it becomes heartier when you throw this ingredient into the mix.

Sprinkle turbinado sugar on the crust if you cover the pie with a lattice or whole crust covering. If you've never dealt with this variety of sugar, you likely don't know that turbinado sugar isn't the same as brown sugar. Although they have a similar color, turbinado sugar's granules are much larger, and it's best if you use them for garnish rather than, say, as part of a dough, because of their texture.

To use it with your pie, brush on some egg wash first, then sprinkle the sugar so it adheres. The sweet crystals give the delicate and flaky crust a nice crunch and the dessert a polished look.