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Apple Pie Thickener Question


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Getting ready to bake the apple pie (among other things) for Thanksgiving. We like ours pretty tart but that's another matter.

My worry is of course cutting into the pie and have a puddle of liquid come pouring out. I've always done it the old fashioned way by tossing flour into the apples and the results are never dependable. I get that. Was wondering about thoughts on using potato starch, corn starch, tapioca or something else. And is there any "rule of thumb" for such a substitution such as -- for every tablespoon of flour substitute x amount of potato starch (or other).

Oh, and I'll probably use granny smith apples or a combo of those with a bit of golden delicious thrown in. I'm in Southern California where we get great produce but it's not really apple country here.

Any other thoughts? And thanks for the help.

So long and thanks for all the fish.
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Have you tried adding a little pectin? Or a couple of ounces (about 60 g) of chopped cranberries? Apples, particularly those that are on the underripe and tart side usually have a decent amount of pectin to begin with, but perhaps the ones you have are not as pectin-rich as would be useful. The golden delicious apples may be the problem; they always strike me as lacking in crispness, and I'd expect them to cook up mushy/runny.

I think flour, corn starch, and even tapioca would sort of dull the flavour.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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I read in a book about pies that you are supposed to let fruit pies cool for a few hours for the juices to reabsorb into the filling, then heat them back up to serve. Which sort of makes sense when I think about it, and I guess the second time in the oven is enough to refresh the pastry so it's not soggy... means you can do it ahead of time, too :)

I've never actually tried it though.

Edited by stuartlikesstrudel (log)
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I use cornstarch. Sub 1/2 the amount of cornstarch as you would use flour. I toss mine right in with the sugar/spice mixture, then coat the apple slices with it.

I mix my selection of apples - I use golden delicious for sweetness and macintosh or granny smith for texture.

Theresa :smile:

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

- Abraham Lincoln

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Finnish recipes sometimes call for oats or other "whole"wheat. This absorbs all liquids released quite nicely and they make a nice addition to the filling.

The perfect vichyssoise is served hot and made with equal parts of butter to potato.

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I agree with the cooling - I have never had a runny pie, no matter what thickener I used, as long as I waited to cut it until it was completely cool. If you like warm pie, reheat the cooled pie gently. If it's still runny you might just not be using enough thickener.

Something I've been playing around with for apple pies - tossing the apples with the sugar and a pinch of salt and letting them sit overnight, then draining and either thickening or reducing the juice before baking. Load the crust with the (somewhat shrunken but not cooked) apples, then pour over the reduced juice. Takes out the guesswork and the pie comes out very nice.

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I agree with the cooling - I have never had a runny pie, no matter what thickener I used, as long as I waited to cut it until it was completely cool. If you like warm pie, reheat the cooled pie gently. If it's still runny you might just not be using enough thickener.

Something I've been playing around with for apple pies - tossing the apples with the sugar and a pinch of salt and letting them sit overnight, then draining and either thickening or reducing the juice before baking. Load the crust with the (somewhat shrunken but not cooked) apples, then pour over the reduced juice. Takes out the guesswork and the pie comes out very nice.

By a wonderful coincidence, I caught an episode of Good Eats yesterday in which Alton Brown used that exact method of sugar + draining in a colander. He reduced the exuded liquid but used it to brush the top crust, not as a thickening agent. He used tapioca and apple jelly for that.

Here's the recipe.

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I use half potato starch and half tapioca starch. The potato starch isn't gummy like flour and the tapioca holds together well when warm. I would use about half the starch you normally do. I agree for best presentation allow to cool completely and then rewarm in oven just before serving.

Grains of Paradise should also be available at your local gourmet kitchen store.

Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Orison Swett Marden

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I've been using ClearJel since it became available to consumers a few years ago.

It has virtually no taste and produces a lovely, firm filling and does not break down with high temps.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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You can read about Clearjel

Here - Barry Farm

My local Smart & Final carries it and I have ordered it from other online vendors.

I prepare pie fillings and can them, including jars of "cobblers" that have the pastry in the jar. Clearjel is the only product I have found that produces the texture and consistency I want.

It is especially helpful when preparing berry pies which are notoriously runny with any other thickener I have tried. I use it for tarts in blind-baked crusts and it sets up nicely when it cools and usually remains fairly transparent, unlike flour or regular cornstarch does.

For many years I used arrowroot and had pretty good results but occasionally, if the heat was too high, it would break down - the main problem with regular cornstarch.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Thanks everyone. Yes, I do always let the pie cool. You've given me many other good ideas. Think I'll try draining the apple mixture first and then reducing the liquid. I've got some potato starch so I may try that as well.

So long and thanks for all the fish.
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I've been using ClearJel since it became available to consumers a few years ago.

It has virtually no taste and produces a lovely, firm filling and does not break down with high temps.

I also use Clearjel and I love it. I buy it from King Arthur Flour online. For me, the big advantage is that it thickens without heat. If I mix some into my berry pie filling mixture, I can see before it goes into the pie how thick the filling will be.

Just remember, mix the Clearjel with the dry sugar for your filling before adding it to the berries to avoid clumping issues.

I also use Clearjel to add a little body to homemade fat free salad dressings.

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I've been using ClearJel since it became available to consumers a few years ago.

It has virtually no taste and produces a lovely, firm filling and does not break down with high temps.

I also use Clearjel and I love it. I buy it from King Arthur Flour online. For me, the big advantage is that it thickens without heat. If I mix some into my berry pie filling mixture, I can see before it goes into the pie how thick the filling will be.

Just remember, mix the Clearjel with the dry sugar for your filling before adding it to the berries to avoid clumping issues.

I also use Clearjel to add a little body to homemade fat free salad dressings.

That too is a good idea. I use it in aspics where I don't want to overcook the ingredients.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I use regular Clearjel that has to be cooked in regular baked fruit pie fillings.

I use the instant in glazes for fruit tarts where the fruits are uncooked - as in strawberry and multi-fruit tarts.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Even though in theory, when eaten out of hand a granny smith is much crisper and tart than a golden delicious, when baking a golden delicious is actually a better pie apple. Turns out, they actually hold together much better than baked; whereas the granny is going to get a bit grainy.

I prefer flour over cornstarch with apple pies. I just feel that the cornstarch gets a bit clear and gummy and doesn't really add much flavor to the apples. Apples need earthiness that comes from flour. And I definitely don't like clear gel as it's like gmo or something scientific. I think Alton Brown's method of draining the apples will work well for preventing extra juicyness. You could also double your flour, but I believe waiting until the pie cools (which sets the pectin) works well. You can always reheat your pie in the oven (while you're sitting down to dinner) for about 15 minutes uncovered at like 350. Honestly, I do think a bit of juicyness is really tasty, and makes a delicious sauce for the ice cream you put on top of the apple pie.

For berry and cherry pies; however, I do prefer cornstarch. For peach, I like potato starch.

Stephanie Crocker

Sugar Bakery + Cafe

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Also arrowroot and dont forget things like Xanthian Gum and all the gels (Alginate, Gellan etc) out there that can be used as plain gels or fluid gels and melt when heated or not depending on what you use, not that simple to use but useful none the less. Bit OTT for a standard apple tart though.

Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

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Clearjel was introduced to the food industry in 1948. It is NOT manufactured from genetically modified corn as no one has yet developed a GM waxy maize which is the type of corn from which Clearjel is made.

Modified corn starch is not at all the same thing as GM. It is gluten free and safe to use for people with celiac disease.

You can read the manufacturer's statement about it here.

I agree about trying other thickeners. I have several on hand, including arrowroot, guar gum, xanthene gum, sago flour, tapicoa flour and kuzu root powder(made from kudzu). Also gum Arabic, tricky to use but interesting.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I use a cooked fruit method for apple pies. I mix the fruit with 2/3 of the sugar and let it pull some of the juices out of the fruit. I then saute the fruit with any spices over moderate heat to bring out more juices. I then add cornstarch dissolved in water and bring the mixture to a boil. Once the juices thicken, I add it to the crust and bake.

Any delicate fruit, like berries, can use a similar method, but the fruit is strained. The juices are then brought to a boil, the cornstarch added, and then mixed with the fruit.

Rose Levy Barenbaum's Pie and Pastry Bible has a table that shows how much sugar and cornstarch is needed for a given amount of fruit.

Dan

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Everyone -- Thanks again and a belated report. I drained the apples (mix of granny's and honey crisp), boiled that down to a syrup and added it back in and mixed with potato starch. It came out great. Juicy and tart but no puddle of liquid. Honestly, I think the draining method is what makes all the difference. It's so basic and common sense that I can't believe I never figured this out or found int before in all me years of baking.

Thanks again.

So long and thanks for all the fish.
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