Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Pennsylvania Dutch apple pie is the apple pie from my childhood. Growing up in Philadelphia, I’d often accompany my mom or dad to the Reading Terminal Market where we’d buy our Dutch apple pies. On Thursdays and Fridays Amish families would come in from Lancaster county and set up booths to sell their homegrown vegetables and fruits, beef jerky, jellies, pickles, and baked goods galore. In the fall, Dutch apple pies fresh from central Pennsylvania were always at the center of these displays. Rightfully so—Pennsylvania Dutch apple pie is everything I could ever want in a pie, combining the flaky bottom crust of a traditional apple pie with the buttery, crunchy, streusel-like topping of an apple crisp. But the hallmark of Dutch apple pie, aside from its crumbly topping, is its creamy apple filling that’s saucy and only subtly sweet and spiced (if spiced at all). 

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Later in life I learned how to bake a proper Pennsylvania Dutch apple pie while working at Bredenbeck’s bakery, a German family-owned bakery in the Northwest corner of Philadelphia. Each Thanksgiving season their version of the crumb-topped pie would be added to the bakery menu for a few limited weeks. I’d eagerly join the assembly line in filling, crumbing, and boxing hundreds of them.

Through these happy experiences with Dutch apple pie I now know exactly what I’m looking for in my own homemade version: A flaky but sturdy crust, tender apples that are still intact and encased in a creamy filling with a faint hint of cinnamon, all sprinkled with a buttery crumble topping that browns and crisps while baking. Here’s how to achieve all those elements in this one humble pie.

It All Starts With the Dough: Tips for Shaping Pie Dough

The success of this pie relies on a well-made and well-handled pie dough. A properly made pie crust is the foundation of any pie. It must be sturdy enough to hold and support its hearty filling once sliced and served, yet flaky, crisp, and delicate once bitten into.

To achieve this here, I start with Stella Park’s tried and true Buttery Flaky Pie Crust Recipe. There was no need to reinvent the pie dough wheel here. Her technique of smashing the butter and folding and laminating the dough creates ideal buttery flakey layers. You can of course substitute with your preferred pie dough (or even a store bought dough, I won’t judge you). But no matter which pie dough you choose for this recipe, there are certain conditions that must be met to achieve an ideal crust that will hold its shape once baked.

First, the dough must be the right temperature when you go to roll it out. You don’t want the butter to get too warm or it will melt into the dough and the flake-forming butter pockets won’t steam properly during baking. But the dough must also be malleable enough so you can roll and shape it without cracking. Stella mentions in her dough recipe that the ideal dough temperature range for shaping is 65 to 70°F (18 to 21°C). While yes, that is a malleable temperature for the dough, I’d argue that less experienced bakers want the dough cooler when initially rolling out, closer to 55 to 65℉ (13℉ to 18℃). 

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Remember that if you are working in a warm kitchen with warm hands, the dough will turn soft and malleable quickly, sticking to the counter and becoming challenging to work with. This is especially true of Stella’s recipe, where the large pockets of butter are even more prone to stick to the work surface; the results are worth this added challenge, but it is something you should be aware of. To minimize this issue, I recommend refrigerating the dough for about a half hour to firm up before shaping. At this point you could even just keep it refrigerated for a day before shaping, if needed, to fit into your timetable. Once out of the fridge, if the dough is too firm to roll, simply let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes until it is pliable enough to roll.

Secondly, don’t be afraid to liberally dust the work surface, both sides of the dough, and the rolling pin with flour before and during shaping. Dough can easily stick to the counter and tear, and a well-floured work surface is the best way to prevent this. You can always dust off excess flour with a pastry brush at any point before filling the pie, if needed.

Another tip is to always roll the dough in a single direction to create a circle of even thickness. Start in the middle of the dough, roll away from you, rotate the dough 90 degrees, and again roll away from you. Continue rolling in one direction and rotating the dough, until it reaches its proper diameter. A bench scraper makes it easy to lift the dough off the counter and rotate and can help if the dough begins to stick. Also occasionally flip the dough over completely while rolling it out to avoid unwanted sticking.

Once the dough is rolled out and eased into its pie plate, the crimping can commence. I’ve spelled out a basic crimping technique in the recipe, but you can be as creative as you choose using a fork or spoon to imprint designs or layer decorative dough cut-outs along the dough’s edge.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

To minimize the risk of the dough drooping down or slumping over the sides during baking, press it firmly into the bottom and sides of the pie plate to anchor the dough in place, pushing up along the sides as you press. Also make sure the crimped edge is centered over the rim of the pie plate and not overhanging it.

The crimped and shaped pie dough must now be refrigerated for at least two hours. No shortcuts here. The pie dough must be as cold as possible when it goes into the oven. This is the number one way to minimize any risk of the dough slumping or losing its shape during baking (we’ve all been there). If you have the time, you will only benefit from going even longer than the two-hour minimum; just keep the lined pie shell lightly covered with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

So Nice, Cook It Twice: How to Ensure a Perfect Apple Pie Filling

One of the main challenges in baking a Dutch apple pie is ensuring the apple filling and the crumble topping cook at the same rate. You don’t want a juicy, tender apple filling topped with a burnt crumble, or still-crunchy apples paired with a perfectly golden crisp topping. 

The solution to this is par-cooking the apples in a skillet before tossing with the remaining filling ingredients and adding to the pie shell.

Par-cooking the apples not only guarantees a properly baked final pie, it cooks off excess moisture from the apples, ensuring the filling won’t be watery while concentrating and intensifying the apple flavor by lightly browning them. 

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Plus, as Kenji López-Alt points out in his gooey apple pie recipe, cooking the apples first until they reach and hold an internal temperature around 160°F (71°C) sets and stabilizes their pectin, which helps them retain their shape and remain tender once baked. While he cooks the apples in his recipe all at once at a lower temperature for a longer time, I’ve opted to cook the apples in two smaller batches in a skillet at a higher temperature for concentrated flavor and browning on the exterior.

The sliced apples are tender, lightly caramelized, and, once cooled, ready to be tossed with the remaining filling ingredients. Instead of using plain granulated sugar, I prefer apple cider and maple syrup to sweeten this pie. These, along with added heavy cream and a modest amount of cornstarch, create the signature gooey filling while adding a subtle sweetness. While many versions of Pennsylvania Dutch apple pie I’ve tried have a very simple flavor profile with no added warm spices at all, I prefer a modest amount of cinnamon to enhance the apples without the pie tasting overly spiced.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Finally, I need to talk about a (technically) optional ingredient in this recipe—the raisins. To me, raisins are a must in a good Dutch apple pie. I link raisins (or dried currants even) to the identity of this pie as much as I do the crumble topping and the signature creamy filling. Still, I know how divisive an ingredient raisins can be in baked goods so I’ve kept it as optional for those who absolutely won’t do it. I do not want raisins to be the deal breaker for anyone baking this pie. For the record, though: I, the self-proclaimed Dutch apple pie expert, always include the raisins when making this recipe.

All Butter, All the Time: Topping and Baking the Pie

A good Dutch apple pie’s topping is all about the butter. The added flour and brown sugar are just vehicles for the butter to achieve a crumbly texture. No oats or nuts are added for depth of flavor with this simple crumble, that’s not the goal. Butter is the goal—with just a touch of salt and cinnamon to season it and complement the flavor of the apple filling.

I find it easier to evenly distribute the butter into the topping by melting and cooling it slightly before pouring it into the flour mixture, as opposed to pinching in cold or softened butter pieces until combined. The mixture is ready once it gathers into firm clumps when pinched between your fingers, yet turns sandy when rubbed between them.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Once combined and sprinkled on top of the pie, bake it on the lowest rack of the oven at 375℉ (190℃) for the entirety of baking. Baking on the lowest rack allows an oven’s bottom direct heat source to speed up the browning of the bottom crust, while distance from the overhead direct heat will slow down the browning of the topping, ensuring the entire pie bakes evenly at the same rate. Using a metal pie plate will also ensure the bottom crust bakes fully. If the top crumble does start to take on too much color before the filling and bottom crust are properly baked, loosely cover the top of the pie with aluminum foil and continue baking.

Hurry Up and Wait: How to Achieve a Perfect Pie Slice

This pie is not for the impatient. Every element and step of this recipe takes time. The most important time being the final cool down. Like most fruit pies, this apple pie is best when cooled completely for at least 4 hours, but preferably cooled even a full day ahead before slicing into. The filling’s cornstarch along with the apple’s natural pectin will gel further once cooled, ensuring a perfect pie slice that holds instead of slopping apart on the plate. So while the wait may seem punishingly long, it is well worth it to avoid a soupy mess.

You can of course still enjoy a nice warm slice of apple pie, but the best way to do so is to let the pie cool completely, then gently rewarm the whole pie (or individual slices on a baking sheet) in the oven at 325℉ (165℃), covered if needed, until just warmed through before serving.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Another helpful tip to avoid the common problem of a messy first slice is to make initially make three cuts into the pie before slicing, as though you are cutting out two slices from the pie. The extra cut allows for a bit more movement when trying to wiggle out a tidy pie slice.

While I think the best Dutch Apple Pie recipe is one that needs no accompaniment, I wouldn’t scoff at serving this alongside some whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

For the Crust: Using your hands and rolling the dough’s edges on the counter, shape into a 5-inch disk. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Set the dough on a generously floured work surface and roll dough into a 12-inch circle. If the dough is too firm to roll at the start, let sit on the counter for 5 minutes before trying to roll again. Loosely roll dough around rolling pin and gently unroll it onto a 9-inch pie plate (preferably metal), letting excess dough hang over the edge. Ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with your other hand.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Trim overhang to 1/2 inch beyond the lip of the plate. Tuck overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of plate. Press the double layer of dough with your fingers to seal, then bend up at a 90-degree angle and flute by pressing thumb and index finger about 1/2-inch apart against outside edge of dough, then use index finger (or knuckle) of other hand to press into the dough to form a fluted edge. Repeat all the way around. Wrap dough-lined plate loosely in plastic and refrigerate until dough is firm, at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours. 

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

For the Apple Filling: Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 375℉ (190℃). In a 12-inch stainless-steel or nonstick skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat until bubbling. Add half of apples, cover, and cook until the apples begin to release their juice, about 4 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer apples and their juices to a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining 2 tablespoon butter and remaining apples; transfer to sheet with cooked apples. Spread apples into an even layer and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

In a large bowl, whisk maple syrup, cider, heavy cream, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt together until smooth. Add cooled apples and any accumulated juices and toss to combine. Stir in raisins, if using.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

For the Topping: In a bowl, whisk flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt to combine. Drizzle in butter and stir until no dry spots remain and mixture forms clumps when pressed between fingers. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

For the Pie: Place the dough-lined pie plate on a parchment paper–lined rimmed baking sheet. Transfer apple mixture to the prepared dough-lined plate. Press apples into an even layer (take care not to mound the apple mixture in center of plate). Pour any remaining liquid from bowl over the apples. 

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Break topping (it will harden in the refrigerator) into pea-size crumbs and distribute evenly over the apple mixture. With clean, dry hands, pat topping lightly to adhere.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Bake pie, rotating sheet halfway through baking, until the topping is golden brown, filling is bubbling, and a paring knife inserted in the center meets little resistance, 50 to 75 minutes. (If crumb topping darkens too quickly before the filling and bottom of pie are fully baked, cover top of pie loosely with aluminum foil and continue baking.) Let the pie cool on a wire rack for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight. Slice and serve.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Special Equipment

9-inch pie plate (preferably metal), rolling pin, 12-inch stainless steel skillet or nonstick skillet


I prefer a mix of tart (e.g., Granny Smith) and sweet (e.g., Golden Delicious) apples; you can also use Empires or Cortlands as tart options and Fuji, Jonagolds, or Braeburns for sweet.

Make-Ahead and Storage

The pie can be made ahead and held at room temperature for up to 2 days or refrigerated for up to 5 days.

To serve warm, heat the pie on the middle rack of oven at 325℉ (165℃) until warmed through, about 15 minutes.

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