4th of July and Apple Pie: 5 Food Science Tips for an American Classic

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My Tastebuds are as American as Apple Pie

 

Fanfare! Fireworks! Food! 4th of July is right around the corner and I’m pumped.

Maybe it’s the patriotic pride (Go Team USA!), or the festive fireworks that light up the evening sky. Perhaps it’s the smoky smell of the grill or the sound of summertime splashes. (Yes, I still do cannonballs in my parents’ pool.) Whatever the reason, every summer I find myself more excited than ever to celebrate Independence Day with family and friends.

The highlight of this mid-summer affair? The picnic! Burgers and dogs. Corn on the cob. Ice cream. The menu options for this festive feast are endless. My favorite? Apple Pie! (A la mode, obvi.)

While this traditional treat might seem simple and straightforward, it’s not always easy to get the recipe right. And if there’s anything worse than one bad apple, it’s one bad apple pie.

As I work on my Kid-Lit manuscript inspired by  The Science Chef, I am constantly on the alert for interesting Food Science facts. So when I stumbled upon a fabulously informative AOL.com article about how to scientifically perfect this American classic, I knew it must be shared:

Top 5 Food Science Tips for the Perfect Apple Pie

1. Tart Apples

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Tart apples are your best bet for making a great apple pie because of their pectin levels. Pectin is what holds all plant cells together. When apples are cooked, the pectin breaks down and causes the apples to become mushier. To ensure that your apple slices are tender, but can maintain their shape, choose tart apples. Pectin doesn’t break down as quickly when the apple has lower pH levels, which happens when the apple is less acidic. The tarter the apple, the more likely it will maintain its shape when baked.”
2. Cold Ingredients 

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“For the flakiest and most tender crust, Serious Eats recommends keeping all your pie ingredients and equipment coldKeep the butter in the fridge until you are ready to use it, chill the flour if the kitchen is warm, or even consider placing things in the freezer in between steps to keep them cool. Flaky crust layers are formed when butter chunks are pressed and flattened in between layers of gluten. If the butter gets too warm it will mix with the gluten layers, which will leave you with a greasy crust that’s more like shortbread.”

3. Par-Cook Apples

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“To ensure that the apples maintain their shape, it’s a good idea to par-cook them on the stove-top or heat them in a microwave. Heating up the apples before baking them will help to activate an enzyme that converts pectin into a more heat stable medium.”

4. Steam Vents

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“When baked, the apple slices begin to lose water, most of which is converted into steam. Without pie vents, that steam would cause the pie to swell up. Make sure to cut some vents into the crust so that the pie can release steam.”

5. Color Chemistry = Browner Crust

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“To achieve a browner and more flavorful crust, [Amy] Rowat [a biophysicist and assistant professor at the University of California Los Angeles] recommends setting the oven to at least 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Right before baking the pie, brush it with a mixture of egg wash and heavy cream. This mixture will help to set the Maillard reaction in place, which is necessary for color and flavor.”

As we head off into the holiday weekend, I wish you all a Happy 4th of July!

To Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of the Perfect Apple Pie!

 

 

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