Maybe I’m picky….but when I see a recipe in a cookbook, a magazine or a professional food site, I assume the recipe has been tested thoroughly. I pretty much expect it. Sometimes if the recipe type is new to me, or it’s a method I’ve not tried before, I tend to want to make the recipe as-is, noting along the way any changes that might come in handy for next time. This pie was one of those Definitely Needs Changes Next Time – But We Can Taste the Potential! That’s why we made it two food blog cooking weekends (technically, every weekend is a food blogging weekend) in a row.
The photos in this post are a combination of the first attempt to make this pie and our second. The first attempt resulted in a beautiful – and sinfully delicious – cinnamon bun top crust, but the apple filling inside was so full of watery liquid it was ridiculous and the apples were significantly underdone. We were beyond disappointed, but, as was our motto that day – never surrender! Obviously the filling needed a little reworking, so we made it again the following weekend using advice from our mother, a seasoned pie baker.
For our first pie, we used a combination of gala and honeycrisp apples, the second time we used only honeycrisp. I think whatever apples you want to use would be fine, just make sure they’re good for baking. Google searches led us to honeycrisp (I’ve also used Gala many times for baking other types of fruit desserts), so do some research if you’re unsure. Keep in mind that if you go the Granny Smith route, you might need a little more sugar mixed in with the apples. Cuz those things be mucho tart!
In looking at the original recipe, we rearranged the steps a little, one being to slice your apples and mix in some flour (something very important missing from the original recipe), the sugar, and a slight(er) bit of lemon juice and cinnamon. This way the flour has a chance to sit and fully incorporate with the apples as you prepare the top crust. Any liquid that forms should already start to thicken.
The top crust is a bit of a labor of love, but after making it a second time, it’s clear it’s just one of those things that, once you get the hang of it and figure out a couple of tricks, it’s actually not hard to do. You can use homemade pie crust or the store-bought suggested. We went with store-bought and it worked great. First, spread on a little softened butter. Go calm and sure with an offset spatula as Sis Blogging Partner did above, or you can go hog wild and spread it with your hands like I did the second time.
Next, just sprinkle on a simple sugar cinnamon mixture. As is usually the case with cinnamon sugar, it seems like too much, but use as much of it as possible because this is what’s really going to make all your effort with the top crust worth it when it’s baked.
Following the age-old tradition of making to-die-for cinnamon roll goodness, tightly roll up your crust AFTER patting the cinnamon sugar down. A lot. I mean like pat the hell out of it, people, so that it and the butter become as much a part of one another as possible. You want to see the butter kind of start to come through to the top, almost like the cinnamon sugar is getting damp. Pat pat PAT!
After tightly rolling your crust, use a very sharp knife to cut into as-even-as-possible half-inch pieces. Keep the ragged end pieces even if they’re not the prettiest things on the pie planet and use them, too. We found that after we discarded the end pieces for the first top crust attempt, we really didn’t have enough to roll out a big enough crust. The more ragged-looking ends can be placed on the outer edges and won’t make a difference in their appearance because they’ll get crimped together with the bottom crust anyway.
So after you’ve arranged your cut pieces in a somewhat circular shape, cup your hands around the edges of this about six-inch-wide shape and gently press them together, crimping individual pieces together here and there, to try to help them adhere to one another better as you roll out the crust. Sprinkle a small amount of flour, just a light dusting, on top of them, a little on your rolling pin and slowly start to roll out the crust. If some of the circular pieces start to pull up or stick to your pin, simply place them back into position, crimp them gently back to their neighbors and keep rolling. An occasional extra sprinkling of flour might be necessary sometimes. Keep at it patiently till you get about a 10-and-a-half-inch round.
Your finished top crust will look something like this. It’s not going to be perfectly round and that’s OK. Part of this pie’s quirky personality is that the top crust can be adjusted pretty easily, really. Once you get it onto the top of your pie, it can be slid a little to get it to drape how you need it too, and you want the top crust to be a little bigger so that it can fold down and meet the bottom crust adequately. If there’s some gaps in the top crust when you crimp, just leave em or stretch your crust a little to make it meet up wit the bottom. Do whatever seems good to you at the time.
As you can probably tell here (especially on the right side), our top crust wasn’t quite wide enough, but we were able to make it work in the end. The second top crust we made was about half and inch wider than this one and worked much better.
Before baking, an egg wash goes on, which did help the crust to brown beautifully. We did tent both our pies with foil about twenty or so minutes before they were done. They were nicely browned at that point and the foil will help to keep it from browning too much.
If you’re a fan of pies that look just as pretty as they taste good, you’ve got to try this cinnamon bun crust! Along with the glaze (a simple mixture of powdered sugar and milk), it’s absolutely to die for. We adjusted the filling recipe a little and the second pie we made turned out pretty much perfect. The top crust was amazing, the apples were nice and cooked through with a slight bite to them and they weren’t a runny, watery mess.
Amazing what a little flour can do for a pie filling. This was a detail we didn’t notice was missing from the original recipe till it was way too late.
It’s pretty rare that we run into issues with recipes, and sometimes we just figure it’s not worth repeating the exercise with changes thrown in either due to lack of time or interest, but there was no way we were letting this delicious cinnamon bun crust go. All we really needed was a little more practice with the crust and some reworking of the filling. Thankfully we didn’t need to adjust too much to make this one a thoroughly sensational pie. I’ll be making another one ASAP! Incidentally, you should Google “Cinnamon Bun Apple Pie” and take a look at some of the other creative results out there.
Cinnamon Bun Apple Pie
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook time: 1 hour Level: Intermediate Serves: 6-8
- 5 assorted apples (we used gala and honeycrisp)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
- 1 1/8 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about half of 1 lemon)
- 1/4 cup plus 1/8 cup flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 14.5-ounce box refrigerated pie dough
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk, plus more if needed
Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Line a 9-inch pie plate with 1 piece of dough; refrigerate until ready to assemble.
For the filling, peel and thinly slice the apples. Add the lemon juice (if using), 1/4 cup sugar, the 1/4 cup plus 1/8 cup flour, and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon. Stir well, making sure all the flour and sugar is incorporated (they tend to settle to the bottom of the bowl). Set aside.
To make the cinnamon bun crust, mix together 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the other crust and spread the softened butter evenly over it. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the butter. Using the palm of your hand, pat and press the cinnamon sugar into the butter, adhering as much of it to the butter as possible (you should begin to see dampened spots come to the surface where the butter is coming through). Tightly roll the crust into a long tube and, using a sharp knife, cut it into 1/2-inch-thick pieces. Save the uneven ends as well. Arrange the pieces cut-side down in a snug circle on lightly floured parchment paper, crimping and pressing the pieces together slightly to help them adhere to one another (use your uneven ends on the outside of the crust). Lightly dust the top of the pieces with more flour, then gently roll out into a 10-and-a-half-inch round, pressing back together any pieces that try to come apart or stick to the rolling pin. Another light dusting of flour or two on top of the crust may be necessary. Slide the parchment onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for ten minutes.
Stir the apple filling one more time and pour it into the chilled bottom crust, making sure the apple slices are laying fairly flat against one another. Take the chilled top crust and gently flip it onto the pie filling. If some of the cinnamon bun rounds come loose again, gently place them back again, crimping and pinching them back to their neighbors as needed. Take the edges of the top and bottom crusts and crimp and pinch them to seal them together and against the pie plate. Brush the egg wash over the top and sides of the crust.
Place the pie on the preheated baking sheet in the oven and bake for one hour until the crust is golden brown. If the crust is browned enough before the hour is up, tent a piece of aluminum foil over the top. Cool on a rack for at least one hour.
To make the glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar and milk, adjusting with more milk if the glaze isn’t runny enough to drizzle, or more powdered sugar if it’s too runny. Drizzle over the pie and serve.
Refrigerating the crust after working it into that yummy-looking cinnamon bun topping was so that it would be easier to then pull it away from the parchment paper. When dough gets warm, even if you’ve floured the parchment first, it might still stick to the paper. Getting it a little colder first helps to remove it from the paper once your crust is on top of the apple filling. We cooled ours off for about ten minutes.
Even though Food Network classifies this as an easy recipe, I personally feel the top crust goes beyond the simply easy category, at least for a first-timer. That’s pretty much a personal, subjective thing, though, so I say give it a try and see how it goes for you.
If you’re like me, you may not measure out the powdered sugar and milk for the glaze. If so, remember less is probably more with the milk. It’s surprising how little liquid you need to turn a lot more powdered sugar into a drizzled glaze consistency. I’ll say it again, too – the glaze really completes this pie.
We ended up eventually omitting the vanilla seen above, but you can always add it back in if you like the idea.