There’s nothing quite like an apple pie to fill up a stomach and satisfy a sweet tooth.
Whether it’s a rich breakfast, a hearty Sunday brunch, a family dinner, or a game day cookout, apple pie is that one dessert that almost nobody can resist!
As much joy and deliciousness as this traditional dish can bring, it can also be super frustrating when you take your apple pie out of the oven only to find it soggy, runny, falling apart, collapsing, and so on.
Today’s article tackles common apple pie problems to prevent such unfortunate scenarios. So keep reading to learn more about avoiding and fixing apple pie mishaps.
There are a few reasons why your apple pie crust would come out soggy instead of flaky.
For one, you may have left the dough out at room temperature while preparing the filling.
You see, pie crust normally has butter in it. So if you let the dough sit out for a while, the butter can soften and melt.
Upon baking, this mistake translates into a soggy, too-soft crust.
To prevent this outcome, keep your pie dough -whether homemade or store-bought- in the fridge until your filling is completely ready for use.
Another reason for a soggy apple pie crust is baking it on the wrong oven rack. Most people choose the middle rack for this job, but that’s not going to give you the crisp, firm texture you want.
What you should do is place the apple pie as close to the oven’s heat source as possible. In other words, on the bottom rack.
Additionally, the bottom of your apple pie crust can turn out soggy if you forget to brush it with an egg white wash.
That’s right, don’t just brush the top layer and forget about the bottom.
The protein from the egg white creates a barrier that keeps the moisture in the filling from leaking into the bottom crust so it stays crispy.
If the top of your apple pie collapses once you cut into it after taking it out of the oven, then you’re most likely dealing with a problem known as the “pie gap”.
As your pie is inside the oven cooking, the apples in the filling will shrink and release air. This is more likely to happen when using raw apples in the filling.
If you don’t create a vent route for this hot air, it’ll push down the filling and create a gap between the filling and the top of the crust. So when you cut into the top, it’ll simply fall into the space.
To avoid this, be sure to make vents in the crust’s top by poking it with a fork or knife.
Also, cook your apples first so they shrink outside of the oven. The decrease in volume and the release of air that can get trapped will already have happened before baking.
If your apple pie crust comes out so crumbly that it falls apart when you touch it, you could be looking at a couple of pitfalls.
The first is that you’ve overworked the dough before shaping it.
While preparing the pie dough, you only need to lightly knead it. Your goal is to combine the ingredients just enough to create a smooth dough.
Over-kneading the dough will make the crust too chewy and crumbly due to the formation of gluten. You want that for bread, but not pastries.
If your dough feels hard when you touch it, doesn’t stretch, and breaks when you use a rolling pin, chances are it’s overworked.
- You’re not supposed to fully blend all the ingredients; scattered butter bits are meant to be there to produce flakiness.
Many people also tend to over-knead pie dough because it’s sticky. You can work around this by flouring the rolling pin or placing the dough between two parchment papers when rolling.
The second reason behind an apple pie that falls apart is using an opaque container while baking, whether it’s a pan or a disposable plate.
This prevents you from seeing what’s happening to the bottom crust, so you’re more likely to take it out before it’s fully cooked.
A soft, undercooked bottom layer won’t be able to hold the required shape. As such, you should always check the bottom before calling it a day or simply use a pyrex glass dish.
There are a few reasons why your apple pie would come out with a loose and runny consistency.
First of all, you may have picked the wrong type of apples and/or prepared them wrong too.
Softer varieties of apples such as Gala, Macintosh, or Red Delicious will break down too much under the oven’s heat, turning into mushy applesauce.
You want your apples to be tender but keep their shape, varieties like Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, or Honeycrisp can do that for you.
Additionally, you should avoid using very ripe apples. These will make your crust soggy and your filling runny.
Also, don’t chop your apples into too small bits. While it may be convenient to throw them into a food processor to save time, the oven’s heat will liquefy those tiny apple pieces and give you a runny mush instead of a firm filling.
- The sweet spot for cutting apples is 1/4-inch slices.
Another reason behind a runny apple pie is skipping or forgetting to use a thickener in the filling. As the pie filling cooks, the thickener absorbs excess moisture and increases viscosity by binding to water particles.
- Examples of thickeners you can add to your filling include cornstarch, flour, pudding mix, potato starch, tapioca, arrowroot starch, and agar-agar.
Finally, you could do everything right up to taking the pie out of the oven but still get a runny, loose slice. It’s tragic yet possible if you cut into the apple pie while it’s still too hot.
Breaking the pie too soon after baking doesn’t give it the chance to set. You need to allow at least an hour of resting on a cooling rack before slicing and serving to let the filling thicken as its temperature drops.
If your apple pie filling tastes bitter when you start digging in, the problem is probably with either the apples you used or the amount of sweetener you added to the recipe.
You see, some varieties of apples contain very high levels of tannins; the compound that gives a bitter taste. These include Dabinett, Ellis Bitter, and Medaille d’Or.
While staying away from such varieties, make sure to peel your apples and remove all the seeds.
Apples store most of their tannin content in the skin and seeds, so even types like Granny Smith and Cortland can taste bitter if you don’t prepare them correctly.
If your apple filling has bubbled over the crust, it’s because you didn’t allow the steam to vent properly.
As the filling cooks, hot air is produced. If this air builds up beyond a certain point, something has to give to make room for it.
The filling is the softest and most lightweight element of the apple pie, so it’s the one that’s going to move out and go over the crust.
To prevent this from happening, you should create venting routes for the steam. You can cut vents into the top layer or you can use a pie bird if you want to keep the crust fully intact.
An undercooked apple pie crust is more likely than not the result of baking on the wrong oven rack.
Most folks rely on the middle rack for everything they bake since it’s a “neutral” and “safe” temperature zone. Unfortunately, that’s no good for baking apple pie.
The middle oven rack won’t give you the crisp, firm texture you want. What you should do is put the apple pie as close to the oven’s heat source as possible.
Particularly, you want the base of the pie to be closest to the heat because that’s where most of the crust is. So place your pie on the bottom rack and you probably won’t have to deal with an undercooked crust again.
There you have it, a guide to avoiding and fixing the most common apple pie problems.
As you can tell by now, these issues can be easily prevented or resolved by simple techniques.
So the next time you’re baking an apple pie, keep our pointers in mind and you’ll end up with a successful, mouthwatering dessert!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.