Vegetarian Journal 2006 Issue 3

Easy as Apple Pie

by Chef Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD, CCE

So, what type of apples do you like? Green or golden, pink or red? Sugary sweet or puckery sour? And how do you like to eat your apples? Piping hot, baked with raisins and walnuts? Cold and crunchy, right from the refrigerator? Or do you prefer one of America’s favorite desserts, apple pie?

Baking fruit pies from scratch is one of the easier dessert tasks. Depending on your time and your equipment, you may elect to bake apple pies strictly from scratch or indulge in a little speed scratch.


The first step to making a fresh, aromatic pie from scratch is to learn about the countless number of apple options. After all, the flavor of your apple pie will be decided by the variety of apple you select. If you’d like to stick with cooking apples, look for Rome, Granny Smith, or Pippins. Cooking varieties handle heat well, as they have more fiber and less juice. This allows them to hold their shape when being baked, sautéed, broiled, or microwaved.

Red Delicious are the good ol’ standbys of eating apples, but they can be cooked for a firm, rather than soft, pie filling. Mix the Red with the Golden for a change of pace. If you like the sweetness of Red Delicious, you’ll like Cameo (very sweet with a nice crunch), Fuji (sweet and crunchy), and Gala (a cross between a Golden Delicious and the New Zealand Orange Red). For a more rounded flavor, sweet with some overtones of tang, choose Braeburn, Pink Lady, or Jonagold. Look in farmers’ markets or specialty produce stores for heirloom or antique varieties, such as Maiden Blush, Winesap, or MacIntosh, or for fairly new varieties, such as Honeygold and its brand new cousin, Honeycrisp.


Apple pies can range from simple and traditional to modern and fusion. You can use one type of apple, a mixture of sweet and tart apples, or apple and pear combinations. Filling add-ins can include dried cherries, golden raisins, currants, dried cranberries, and finely chopped nuts. Depending on the season, you may want to branch out to fresh pear, nectarine, peach, apricot, or plum pies. You can follow the apple instructions in this article, just adjusting cooking times for the ripeness or softness of your fruit.

A rule of thumb for filling a 9-inch pie crust is eight to nine medium apples, tossed with 3/4 cup vegan sugar and 1/4 cup all-purpose or whole wheat flour. Spices—which can include ground cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, clove, cardamom, lavender, ginger, and/or dried orange zest—should total one Tablespoon all together.

Slice peeled and cored apples into even slices that are no thicker than half an inch. Thin, uniform slices help to ensure even baking. If fresh apples aren’t available, you can use frozen, thawed apple slices. When you’re ready to bake, place approximately half of the apples into an unbaked bottom crust and dust with half of the vegan sugar, flour, and spice mixture. Top with the rest of the apples, and sprinkle them with the remaining sugar mixture.


A great pie filling needs a great pie crust. If you’d like to make your crust from scratch, be certain to follow these guidelines:

Once the pie is filled, you’ll want to top it with a second crust. To make a standard top crust, roll the dough out and lay it carefully over the pie. Seal its edges to the lower crust by using a small amount of water as an adhesive. Use your fingers to pinch the edges together.

If you’d like a latticework pie, follow the following steps:

Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin is apple pie, all grown up and back from a Continental tour. It is really an upside down apple tart. As with many culinary discoveries, the Tatin is thought to have been a delightful accident. The story goes that Stephanie Tatin, half of a sister team running the Hotel Tatin in Beuvron, France, was having a bad kitchen day back in 1889.

She started to make a traditional apple pie but left the apples cooking in butter and sugar for too long. Smelling the burning, she tried to rescue the dish by putting the pastry base on top of the pan of apples and quickly finishing the cooking by placing the whole pan in the oven. After turning out the upside down tart, she was surprised to find how much the hotel guests enjoyed the dessert.

To create your own Tatin, peel some tart apples, such as Granny Smiths, rub them with lemon juice, halve them along their equators, and core them. Place slices of nonhydrogenated vegan margarine on the bottom of a pan that can handle the stove and the oven, and sprinkle with vegan sugar. Place the apples on top of the margarine and sugar, with their stem ends up, going round the pan.

Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Keep cooking until a fragrant, light mahogany caramel bubbles up in between the apples. Then, place the pan into the oven and bake until the apples are tender. Remove the pan, and let the apples cool. Top with either your own pie dough or puff pastry, and return to the oven for 15 more minutes. Let the tart cool, and flip out onto a serving platter. You should have tender, caramel soaked apple halves and a crispy bottom crust. Top with a dollop of vegan whipped cream, and start dishing.


If you’d like to do a bit of hands-on baking but don’t feel like rolling out the pie crust or peeling apples, purchase frozen or refrigerated vegan pie crusts and canned apple pie filling. Vegan frozen or refrigerated crusts are time savers and ensure consistent quality. Toss the canned filling with your favorite aromatic spice blend and chopped walnuts, pecans, raisins, dried cranberries, or diced dried figs. Top with a second crust, with a crust cut into lattice strips, with streusel topping, or with a combination of vegan brown sugar and nonhydrogenated vegan margarine. Prepare ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to bake.


Preheat the oven to the temperature recommended in the recipe. If a recipe calls for the pie to go in at a high temperature first and to finish baking at a lower temperature, do it! The two-temperature method helps high-fat crusts be-come flaky and tender. Remember that convection ovens, those with a fan, bake approximately 25 degrees hotter than traditional, or conduction, ovens. Adjust temperatures accordingly.

Baking a pie with a raw fruit filling will take at least 30 minutes total cooking time. Apple and pear pies usually cook for approximately 45 minutes. Softer fruit, such as nectarines or plums, will probably take less time. If a canned filling is used, the pie will normally bake at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time to thoroughly bake the crust and heat the filling up. To check if the filling is done, insert a knife into the center of the pie. If there is no resistance, the pie is done. To check if the crust is done, insert a knife into the crust. If you feel the knife puncture the crust, it’s done. If the pie is not quite done but the top or edges are becoming too dark, loosely cover the top of the pie with aluminum foil to shield it from the heat.

When you remove the pie from the oven, place it on a rack. This allows even cooling so your pie won’t sag to one side. As the pie cools, the filling will settle, and the top will even out.

Don’t even attempt to cut hot pies. Your pies should cool to room temperature before your serve them. And never reheat pie in a microwave. Microwave ovens will make the crust soggy. If you want to reheat pie, use a broiler or a very hot (425 degrees), preheated oven.

Accessorize Your Pie

Apple pie can stand well on its own, but a little bit of company will enhance it even more.

Recipe Index

Maple Apple Pie

(Serves 8)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place one pie shell in a 9-inch pie pan and crimp or fold edges. Bake for 3 minutes. Allow shell to cool.

Place apples in a large bowl. Mix in the remaining ingredients (except for the other pie shell) and toss to combine. Fill the baked pie shell and cover with the top crust. Place on a baking sheet and center in the middle of an oven rack. Allow to bake for approximately 40 minutes or until filling is bubbly and crust is just golden.

Total calories per serving: 296 Fat: 11 grams
Carbohydrates: 51 grams Protein: 2 grams
Sodium: 210 milligrams Fiber: 3 grams

Apple Cream Pie

(Serves 8)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss apples with sugar, flour, and spices and arrange in the bottom of one pie shell. Combine margarine and tofu in a small pan. Simmer, stirring, until margarine is melted and well incorporated with the tofu. Pour over apple mixture. Cover with top crust. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until filling is bubbly and crust is just golden.

Total calories per serving: 365 Fat: 16 grams
Carbohydrates: 54 grams Protein: 4 grams
Sodium: 217 milligrams Fiber: 3 grams

Apple Pie, Hold the Sugar

(Serves 8)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, and 1/4 cup of apple juice concentrate.

Place the remaining apple juice in a small pot, add apples, and simmer until tender, approximately 10 minutes. Add the cornstarch mixture, stirring, and allow to simmer until thickened.

Place one pie shell into a 9-inch pie pan. Pour apples over the shell and cover the apples with the other pie crust. Bake for 30 minutes or until top crust is golden brown.

Total calories per serving: 286 Fat: 11 grams
Carbohydrates: 48 grams Protein: 2 grams
Sodium: 215 milligrams Fiber: 3 grams

Pie-Eyed Apple Pie (Apple Pie with Whiskey)

(Serves 8)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix together sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Place apples in a large bowl and sprinkle with sugar mixture. Toss until apples are thoroughly coated.

Place one pie shell into a 9-inch pie pan. Place apples in pie shell. Dot apples with margarine, then sprinkle with whiskey. Cover with top crust. Seal edges and cut steam vents in top.

Bake for 10 minutes. Lower temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Total calories per serving: 266 Fat: 13 grams
Carbohydrates: 36 grams Protein: 2 grams
Sodium: 248 milligrams Fiber: 1 gram

Ginger Snap Crust

(Makes one 9-inch crust)

Smash ginger snaps to form small crumbs. Mix the crumbs and the margarine well in a 9-inch microwaveable pie pan. Press mixture firmly and evenly into the pan. Microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes. Cool before filling.

Note:  Graham crackers can be substituted for the ginger snaps. Most filled pie shells can be cut into approximately 8 servings.

Total calories per serving: 114 Fat: 8 grams
Carbohydrates: 9 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 80 milligrams Fiber: <1 gram

Fruit Pie Fillings

(Fills one 9-inch shell)

Place all ingredients into a bowl and mix to combine. Pour into the crust. Set the pie on a piece of waxed paper and microwave on HIGH for 12-14 minutes or until fruit is tender. Allow pie to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.


Total calories per serving: 212 Fat: 8 grams
Carbohydrates: 35 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 87 milligrams Fiber: 1 gram

Pie Shell

(Makes one 9-inch pie shell)

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Add margarine, cutting it into the flour with a fork, and mix until crumbly. Add ice water and soymilk in small amounts at a time, stirring constantly until combined. Transfer onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to 1½-inch thickness. Fold in quarters, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate until needed.

If you would like to prebake, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a piece of folded pie dough, cut to fit the radius of the pie pan, in the center of the pan. Unfold so dough is draped over the pie pan. Press to fit pan, and crimp edges with a fork. Bake pie shell for 10 minutes or until crust is golden.

Note:  If you find that your bottom pie crust bubbles and becomes uneven when you bake it, place a second, empty pie pan on top of the baking crust. This will allow it to bake evenly.

Total calories per serving: 186 Fat: 11 grams
Carbohydrates: 18 grams Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 147 milligrams Fiber: 1 gram

Easy Blueberry Pie

(Serves 8)

Use the Pie Shell recipe above as the basis for this tasty treat!

Cook 2 cups of blueberries in 1-1/2 cups water over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add sugar and orange juice and cook for another 5 minutes. Combine cornstarch and cold water and add to cooked blueberries. Stir until thickened. Allow to cool. Pour into the Pie Shell and cover with remaining blueberries. Refrigerate.

Total calories per serving: 245 Fat: 12 grams
Carbohydrates: 32 grams Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 154 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams

Delicious Cherry Pie

(Serves 8)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

For the bottom pie crust, mix flour, salt, and softened margarine right in the pie pan. Add some sugar if you’d like a sweet crust. Mix well until crumbly. Add the water in small amounts, approximately 1 Tablespoon at a time. Roll out the dough between two sheets of waxed paper, rolling to a 1-1/2-inch thickness. Chill while mixing the filling. If you want to prebake this crust, bake at 375 degrees for approximately 10 minutes or until golden.

For the filling, mix the cherries with sugar in a large bowl. Add flour and salt and toss lightly. Add lemon juice, almond extract, and, if desired, spice. Cut in the margarine. Spoon filling into pie shell.

For a top pie crust, you can either double the recipe for the bottom crust and split it into two crusts or use the following instructions for a crumble crust.

If using a solid top crust, pierce top crust in five or six places to allow steam to escape. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly.

If using a crumble top crust, mix the melted margarine into the flour and brown sugar. Mix until well coated and crumbly. Sprinkle on top of cherries. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly.

Total calories per serving: 208 Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 45 grams Protein: 2 grams
Sodium: 49 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams

With Crumble Top Crust:
Total calories per serving: 327 Fat: 9 grams
Carbohydrates: 62 grams Protein: 2 grams
Sodium: 54 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams

Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD, CCE, is VRG’s Food Service Advisor.

Excerpts from the 2006 Issue 3:
Easy as Apple Pie
Chef Nancy Berkoff jazzes up this American classic and other fruit pies.
Cuban Family Cooking in a Vegetarian Kitchen
Cecilia Peterson makes her favorite family recipes meat-free.
Vegetarian Certifications on Food Labels — What Do They Mean?
Jeanne Yacoubou, MS, examines the standards behind the symbols.
Do You Want Your College or Other Food Service Operator to Serve More Vegetarian Options?
Develop an action plan with Ron Pickarski’s practical tips.
Nutrition Hotline
What are kidney stones, and what can I do to minimize my risk?
Note from the Coordinators
Veggie Bits
Scientific Update
Notes from The VRG Scientific Department
Vegan Cooking Tips
Salads for Every Course, by Chef Nancy Berkoff
Book Reviews
Vegetarian Action
Evelyn Kimber: An Interview with the Boston Vegetarian Society’s President, by Melissa Wong

The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone who wishes to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.

Thanks to volunteer Stephanie Schueler for converting this article to HTML.

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Last Updated
Sept. 26, 2006

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