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Baking pies for the holidays? 'Kat Can Cook' host says start way before you think you should

Apple pie, apples, walnuts and rolling pin on a wooden background
Renate Ayten
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Chef Kat Ashmore recommends Golden Delicious or Granny Smith to avoid apples that turn mushy when cooking.

It's apple season! And there's nothing quite like stepping in from the crisp outdoors to savor the comforting aroma of an apple pie baking in the oven. Kat Ashmore, the chef, recipe developer and digital creator of the social media platforms "Kat Can Cook" shared her secrets to baking the perfect apple pie with Connecticut Public’s Morning Edition.

On the top apple varieties for the perfect pie

Picking the perfect apple is one of the most important aspects of pie baking, Ashmore said.

“One of the biggest gripes that people tend to have when cooking apples is that they can turn mushy. So in order to avoid that, I like to choose an apple that is on the tart side,” she said.

She recommended Golden Delicious or Granny Smith.

“The reason for that is not just because of the beautiful balance of the tart flavors with the sugars, but also because of the higher pH balance, which will help to control the pectin because the pectin development of an apple as it bakes is what can turn it mushy,” Ashmore said. “So the higher the pH balance, the less development of pectin is going to occur.”

Tips for achieving the ideal pie crust — flaky, tender, delicious.

Have everything as cold as it can possibly be, Ashmore said, when starting to make the pie dough.

“That is going to create steam, which is really, really helpful,” she said. “That is what creates those air pockets that make for a nice flaky crust.”

She warned not to let the butter get too warm.

“It's going to melt too quickly and just become part of the crust rather than staying a bit separate,” Ashmore said.

Unique or unexpected twists to a classic apple pie 

Ashmore said she has two favorite takes on an apple pie. The first is to add cheese to the crust.

“You could certainly do a really nice sharp cheddar. You could also do Parmesan, something that has a nice salty bite that is going to be a really nice counterbalance to the sweetness of the apples,” she said.

She also has an option for moments when she doesn’t want to make a top crust: a crumble pie.

“I will do a bottom crust, the apple mixture of course, and then a traditional crumble on top using some oats and brown sugar, maybe some nuts,” she said. “And then I will make a quick salted caramel sauce. I do it with coconut milk, and some coconut sugar and some cornstarch and vanilla.”

Ashmore said the sauce can be made ahead of time.

“Then you just drizzle it on top of the crumble,” she said. “Salted caramel makes everything better.”

How to make the baking process a little less daunting 

“My number one advice is to start way before you think you need to,” Ashmore said.

Pie crust, especially, can be made well in advance.

“You can refrigerate it, you can freeze it. I always freeze my pie crust.”

Ashmore said to double Saran wrap the pie dough to prepare it for the freezer.

“I will make mine a month in advance,” she said. “That way, if things don't work out, which is inevitably part of the process, you've got time on your side.”

Trial and error is a key part of the process of learning to make crust, or any dish.

“The best way to learn to bake and cook is to make mistakes,” she said.

Ashmore’s cookbook "Big Bites: Wholesome, Comforting Recipes That Are Big on Flavor, Nourishment, and Fun" is available for pre-order now and is on sale in January.

Lori Connecticut Public's Morning Edition host.
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