I used to work as the pastry chef of a small restaurant named after a very special variety of apple that's made for making pies. Because of its name, guests of the restaurant demanded apple pie the minute the weather turned just a hint chilly, and their expectations were especially high. Being a lover of pies, I enjoyed the challenge of making apple pie for as long as apple season would afford it, although the proposition of baking apple pies early in September, when the best apples for baking are scarce, admittedly made me nervous.
Early season apples are delicious, but the choice of great baking apples that will hold their shape is limited to a few varieties; the superior but elusive Paulared, and the much less sturdy varieties: Gala, Cortland, Empire, or Liberty. What are lovers of apple pie to do? Under bake our pies in the name of structure and wait for the arrival of the Pippin, Northern Spy, Goldrush, and Crispins? Heck no! We bake our pies with the apples that taste great but go to mush and diminish in volume, then we shrug our shoulders and name it Applesauce Pie.
Applesauce pie is exactly what it sounds like: a sweet, flaky pie crust, filled with amazing, homemade "applesauce" that is cooked inside the pie as it bakes. To make it, you do as you would with other apple pies, by piling peeled, cored apple wedges high in the center of the bottom crust, and sealing them in with the top crust. The only difference is the outcome: the apples initially support the top crust as it bakes, but then cook down, leaving a big pocket of air, and juicy, chunky applesauce inside.
Now that there's no need to wait for the later season apples, raid your fruit bowl and get baking! Vanilla ice cream isn't a requirement, but it is strongly encouraged.
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About the author: Lauren Weisenthal has logged many hours working in restaurant kitchens and bakeries of Brooklyn and Manhattan. She is a graduate of the Artisan Bread Baking and Pastry Arts programs at the French Culinary Institute. You can follow her on Twitter at @evilliagekitchen.