This Vanilla Chai Apple Pie starts with a flaky, all-butter pie crust, and is filled with sweet-tart apple slices, vanilla, and a heavy dose of warming, wintery chai spices – cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, and a pinch of pepper.
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Say goodbye to plain, boring, regular apple pie and hello to vanilla chai apple pie! Imagine the cozy flavors of a chai tea latte mixed with vanilla bean and sweet-tart apples then topped with a creamy, vanilla ice cream...it's heaven.
I partnered with my friends over at LACTAID® to bring you guys this vanilla chai apple pie. I topped the pie with LACTAID® Vanilla Ice Cream, which is made with real cream and 100% real milk, just without the lactose. This means that it's still creamy like traditional ice cream but it allows anyone who suffers from lactose intolerance or dairy sensitivity to enjoy a slice of their favorite pie with a heaping scoop of ice cream on top. You can find LACTAID® Ice Cream (the salted caramel flavor is good too!) at most retailers, however, here's a nifty little store locator tool!
What Kind of Apples Should You Bake With?
Selecting the right apples for this pie is half the battle, honestly. Generally speaking, you want apples that will hold their shape and not become a mushy mess in the heat of an oven. These types of apples are typically referred to as “baking apples” and include varieties like:
- Granny Smith
- and Pink Lady
To add depth of flavor to your pie, try mixing a variety of baking apples. My favorite combination is Honeycrisp and Granny Smith!
How to Make Vanilla Chai Apple Pie
There are three essential parts to this vanilla chai apple pie recipe. The all-butter pie crust, the chai spice mixture, and the apple pie filling!
All-Butter Pie Crust
There’s no denying that the foundation of every great pie is a great pie crust, and its mastering the crust that scares many people, including myself, away from making pie... but fret not, because this pie crust comes together super easily and yields a deliciously flaky result!
Ingredients for Homemade Pie Crust
These common pantry ingredients will help you create the flakiest all-butter pie crust:
- All-purpose flour: This is the base of the crust, and while you can technically use other flours, I find this is the easiest to work with.
- Unsalted butter: It is an all-butter pie crust after all... I like to splurge and use a fancier European butter since they're higher in fat than the traditional US butter.
- Salt+Sugar: Just a little bit of flavor enhancers .
- Ice water: The cold water is what helps keep the butter from melting when mixing the crust; cold, unmelted butter in the pie dough = super flaky texture.
To make the pie crust, you'll start by whisking together the flour, salt, and sugar. Then you'll begin dicing your butter into small cubes and adding them to the dry ingredients, ensuring each piece is coated in flour. From there, you'll squish (super technical terms here) the butter between your fingers, flattening them out until they're all about the size of walnut halves, and then begin adding the ice water until the dough can hold itself together! (The dough will not be smooth; a smooth dough means an overworked dough!)
The key is to not overwork the dough and to prevent the butter from melting; don't be afraid to throw the entire mixing bowl with the ingredients in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes if you think the dough is getting too warm.
Homemade Chai Spice Mixture
I’ve mentioned this many times before, but I’m a huge chai fan. Anything that is chai spiced is pretty much heaven to me. And as usual, I love to make my own spice blends to use for my recipes over store brands. In fact, this homemade chai spice recipe is very similar to the one featured in a few of my cookbook recipes and in some recipes here on the blog. However, I have slightly tweaked it to give a bit more depth of flavor for this apple pie.
Ingredients for Homemade Chai Spice
To make your own homemade chai spice mixture, here's what you'll need:
- Black pepper
This vanilla chai apple pie recipe is written to make the exact amount of chai spice you need (2 teaspoons), meaning you will have no leftovers. But you can easily scale the spice ingredient amounts up and make a larger batch of it to throw in all sorts of baked goods, which is what I usually do! To make a larger batch of the chai spice blend, simply add all of the spices to a jar or bowl and whisk well or shake the jar vigorously until thoroughly mixed. You can store the chai spice mixture sealed for 6 months.
Apple Pie Filling
Why Precook the Apple Pie Filling?
If you’ve been filling your apple pies with raw, thin slices of apples, it’s time to rethink your strategy. Sautéing the apples along with sugar and spices will add a deep, rich caramelized flavor to your pie. However, the biggest advantage to precooking the apple filling is making a more sturdy pie.
Have you ever baked, or even eaten, an apple pie that has a big gap between the fruit and the upper crust? That gap forms because the apples cook down and lose some serious volume as the pie bakes. Precooking the apples gets you one step ahead of that process; it releases the fruit’s liquid, causing them to cook down and lose volume before baking. So it discourages the gap between the top of the apple filling and the top crust, leaving you with a pie that has a thick layer of apples from bottom to top. Precooking the apples also means the pie filling can be made in advance — a definite bonus when there’s a lot to be done around holidays like Thanksgiving.
Ingredients for Apple Pie Filling
To make the apple filling, you'll need a few standard ingredients:
- Apples: As mentioned earlier, you'll want to use a good baking apple; a variety is best!
- Sugar: You can adjust the amounts to your preference and depending on the sweetness of your apples, but this recipe calls for both granulated sugar and dark brown sugar.
- Apple cider: This is what the apples will be sautéed in, but you can totally replace it with two tablespoons of butter.
- All-purpose flour: Used to help thicken the filling because nothing is worse than a runny apple pie.
- Vanilla bean paste: Added right after you pull those delicious chai-spiced apples off the stove; YUM.
To make the filling, you'll start by whisking together the sugars, flour, and chai spices. Then you'll place the peeled apples into a nonstick fry pan and cook on medium-high until the apples start to release their juices. Once that happens, add the dry ingredients, stir to evenly coat, and cook until all the ingredients caramelize onto the apples and they brown slightly. It’ll take maybe 5-6 minutes. Once the apples are cooked, remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla bean paste and then ta-da! You have your delicious pre-cooked apple pie filling... try not to eat it all!
Make sure you allow the filling to cool completely before adding to your pie shell, because remember... for a flaky pie crust, we need the butter to be as cold as possible.
Vanilla Chai Apple Pie Recipe Troubleshooting & FAQ
CAN I FREEZE PIE DOUGH?
This pie dough can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months wrapped in several layers of plastic wrap followed by foil or a freezer-safe plastic bag. I like to write the date on the wrapping with a sharpie to keep track of how fresh it is. Simply thaw in the refrigerator for a day or two -- and then allow to come to room temperature for a few minutes -- before rolling it out.
HELP! MY BOTTOM CRUST IS SOGGY. WHAT DID I DO WRONG?
A soggy bottom crust can be a result of underbaking the pie, a filling that's too watery -- or a combination of both. To prevent underbaking, make sure to bake your pies until absolutely golden brown; maybe even try using a glass pie plate, because it's easy to see the bottom.
A light dusting of flour in the bottom of the pie, before adding the apple pie filling, can also keep the bottom from becoming soggy by absorbing any excess liquids from the filling. You can also brush the pie dough with a beaten egg white before adding the filling. The egg white forms a somewhat impermeable layer that will help keep any filling juices from turning the crust soggy.
HELP! MY CRUST IS DRY AND HARD. WHAT DID I DO WRONG?
This is a result of overworking the pie dough, which basically overworks the gluten in the flour and turns what would have been a nice, flaky dough into a gummy one.
The most important part about making pie dough is to work it as little as possible and to keep all the ingredients as cold as possible (cold air allows the gluten to relax, preventing it from seizing up). Use cold butter and ice-cold water. You can even go as far as to chill the flour and the mixing bowl. If you've made the dough well, you should see flakes and streaks of butter throughout.
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Vanilla Chai Apple Pie
For the Pie Crust:
- 310 g all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 230 g unsalted butter cold & cubed
- 120 g ice water as needed
For the Vanilla Chai Apple Filling:
- 1080 g apples peeled & thinly sliced (approx. 8 medium apples)
- 45 g apple cider OR 30g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter
- 25 g granulated sugar
- 30 g dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 25 g all-purpose flour
- Egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon LACTAID® Milk
- Coarse sugar for sprinkling, (optional)
- LACTAID® Vanilla Ice Cream for topping
To Make the Pie Crust:
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt to combine. Add the butter, tossing the cubes in the flour to coat. Working quickly, using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut the butter into the flour until the butter is about the size of walnut halves.
- Make a well in the center and add the water a few tablespoons at a time, and mix just until the dough comes together. Continue adding water a tablespoon at a time until you have a dough that holds together well but isn’t wet or sticky.
- Divide dough in half and shape each one into a round disc about 1-inch thick. Wrap both halves in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
To Make the Vanilla Chai Apple Filling:
- Add apples and apple cider to a large sauté pan set over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, pepper, and flour, and sprinkle this over the pan, stirring to combine. Lower heat slightly and cook until apples have started to soften, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the vanilla bean paste, and stir until combined. Transfer the apple mixture into a bowl and allow to cool completely. (The apple mixture will cool faster if spread out on a rimmed baking sheet.)
- Place a large baking sheet on the middle rack of oven and preheat to 425°F (220°C). Remove the circular disc of dough from the refrigerator and, using a rolling pin, roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it is roughly 12 inches in diameter. Fit this crust into a 9-inch pie plate, trimming it to leave a ½-inch overhang. Place this plate, with the dough, in the fridge.
- Remove the other disc of chilled pie dough from the refrigerator and roll the dough out. Using a pastry wheel or sharp knife, cut 16 strips 1/2 inch wide.
- Remove the pie plate from the fridge and put the cooled apple pie filling into it. Carefully thread the strips over and under one another, pulling back strips as necessary to weave. Using a pair of scissors, trim the extra overhang. Crimp the edges of the dough with a fork or your fingers. Lightly brush the lattice top with the egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar.
- Place the pie onto a large baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Keeping the pie in the oven, turn the temperature down to 375°F (190°C) and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the crust is deep golden brown. If the top of your pie is getting too brown, cover loosely with aluminum foil.
- Let the pie cool on a wire rack to room temperature, at least 3 hours, before slicing, topping with ice cream, and serving.
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