Bourbon & Bacon Smoked Apple Pie

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You're here for the bacon. And the bourbon. I get it. And you're probably questioning... would I really like a smoked pie? Fruit topped with bacon? Do I DARE put America into a single dessert?!

This apple pie with a bourbon crust and filling, a bacon lattice top, and cooked in the smoker was created by fusing flavors I enjoy with the science behind a great pie.

The molecular food science that is incorporated into this pie:

  1. Butter turns to gas = flaky crust
  2. Replacing some water with bourbon = tender, non-chewy crust
  3. Slicing fruit thin = an even gap between fruit and the crust = no air bubbles
  4. Letting cool hours/overnight & using cornstarch = firm, non-messy pie

p.s. oh, and to answer your question: yes, this pie is good.

Step 1: Ingredients

Crust

  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for rolling out crust, chilled
  • 1 TBS sugar, chilled
  • ½ tsp salt, chilled
  • 6 TBS unsalted butter, cut into medium dice and chilled
  • 4 TBS vegetable shortening (Crisco), chilled
  • 2 TBS bourbon, chilled
  • 2 TBS ice water

Filling

  • 6 large apples, cored, peeled, and very thinly sliced (I used 2 Pink Lady, 2 Granny Smith, and 2 Honeycrisp)
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 TBS cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 TBS bourbon
  • 1 TBS vanilla extract

Topping:

  • Bacon

Materials/Tools:

  • Parchment paper
  • Pie pan
  • Rolling pin
  • Optional: apple corer/peeler/slicer
  • Optional: Smoker

Step 2: Bourbon Pie Crust

  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for rolling out crust, chilled
  • 1 TBS sugar, chilled
  • ½ tsp salt, chilled
  • 6 TBS unsalted butter, cut into medium dice and chilled
  • 4 TBS vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 2 TBS bourbon, chilled*
  • 2 TBS ice water*

*Tip: I pour the amount of liquid I need in a small metal bowl and stick that into the freezer rather than try to chill an entire bottle of bourbon.

In a food processor, pulse 3/4 cup of flour and all of the sugar and salt until combined (roughly 5 seconds). Add the chilled butter and vegetable shortening until they are incorporated with the flour and the mixture is slightly smooth (roughly 15 seconds). If the walls of the bowl are dirty, give them a quick scrape clean. Add the remaining flour (1/2 cup) to the mixture and pulse about 5 times. This time we are looking for a crumbly mixture. Add the bourbon and water and pulse another 5 times until liquid are incorporated as well.

Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, quickly pat into a smooth disk, and wrap tightly with the plastic wrap.

After at least an hour of chilling - 2 hours is better, and up to 2 days - remove from the fridge and let it sit for about 10 minutes (to soften).

Place the dough onto a floured surface and roll into a 12" circle (or bigger than your pie pan). I find that rolling pie crust onto parchment paper instead of a counter requires the use of less flour. When it's the right size, fold the dough in half twice for easier lifting and place in one quadrant of the pie pan. Then open the crust. This is so much easier than trying to roll the dough around a rolling pin; that dough always stretches and breaks!

Crimp and primp the crust.

SCIENCE IN THE PIE CRUST: Butter is just water dispersed in fat. When the crust is cooked, the butter is turned from liquid to gas. This is why you keep your ingredients chilled. We don't want melted, incorporated butter. We want chunks, so when the butter evaporates, pockets are left behind. More pockets means more air and more air gives you a flakier crust.

Now, why a drunken pie crust? Did we just need more whiskey in our lives? Not quite! When making dough, gluten develops when wheat proteins in the flour are mixed with water. The proteins stick together, because they don't like to interact with water, and they start to form an extensive gluten network. This structure is great for a treat like bagels that are best when dense and chewy, but we want pie crust to be tender and flaky! So how can we minimize the gluten formation but still get a moistened dough? Replace some of the water with alcohol. You don't have to use bourbon either; vodka is a common choice as it is flavorless. Just make sure to use at least 80 proof (40%) alcohol by volume (i.e. wine crust is a no go).

Step 3: Drunken Filling

  • 6 large apples, cored, peeled, and very thinly sliced (I used 2 Pink Lady, 2 Granny Smith, and 2 Honeycrisp)
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 TBS cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 TBS bourbon
  • 1 TBS vanilla extract

First off, let's take a moment and thank the inventor of the apple corer/ peeler/ slicer. If you don't have one, find one at an estate sale or Amazon for less than $15.

Take your cored, peeled, and sliced apples and cut them down the center as pictured. We want flat, thin apples, not wedges or chunks.

Toss with the rest of the ingredients and lay flat in the pie shell.

SCIENCE IN THE PIE FILLING: First, when the pie bakes, the water from the apples converts from liquid to gas, which expands the crust. Then, the apples soften and shrink in volume. These two events can create a big gap between the crust and top of the apples. For an even gap, cut the apples flat - like mentioned above - instead of wedges. This will minimize big pockets of air in the crust later.

Apples contain less water compared to other common pie fruits such as peaches and berries, and are high in natural pectin. Both the relative "lack" of water combined with pectin, the main ingredient that makes jam a gel, helps the filling thicken. We also add a bit of cornstarch to help thicken the pie. As the filling is heated the starch molecules clump and start absorbing water molecules which remain trapped even as the pie cools down. Combining Pectin and Cornstarch leaves a pie that doesn't lose all its filling after its cut.

Step 4: Bacon Lattice Top

SCIENCE IN THE PIE TOP CRUST: I would love to say there is a scientific reason this pie has a bacon lattice top. There isn't. Unless you count the fact that apple pies need vents in the top crust. Apples lose 1/3 of their weight from evaporation and the steam needs some place to go to prevent the pie from swelling. I keep the bacon lattice pretty tight so it doesn't fall apart when cut and served, but I also make sure it has a little room to vent.

To create the bacon lattice top, I lay 4 strips of uncooked bacon on a sheet of parchment paper. Side note: I create the lattice weave on the table and not the pie because it's easier and it will weave more tightly. This is going to be a basic weave project. Lift up the 2nd and 4th bacon strip half way and place a strip in roughly the center as shown. Lay those first two strips back down and repeat with the 1st and 3rd strip; lay another strip below the first. Repeat two more times on the top of the weave. I ended up with a 4x4 bacon strip weave. I got some assistance to help flip the bacon weave on top of the pie and noticed that I had a gap on one of the edges. Room for another strip! You can fold the ends underneath, on top of themselves, or wrap around the crust.

Just in case you are worried, the bacon does not make the pie super greasy or fatty like you'd think. The bacon grease gets infused with the pie and crust.

Step 5: Smoke the Pie

Okay, so we've got this apple pie. It has a whiskey crust. It has a whiskey filling. It's topped with bacon. There is NO WAY this thing is going in the oven. It has to be smoked. I mean... why not?

Side note: this can absolutely be baked. Cook for 60-70 minutes at 350. Throw on some aluminum foil about 50 minutes in.

Add your pellets (we used applewood, of course) and start the smoker with the lid open until the fire is established (4 to 5 minutes). Set the temperature to 400F (High) and preheat, lid closed, for 15 to 20 minutes.

Bake the pie for about 50-60 minutes. Open the lid and top the pie with a sheet of aluminum foil to keep the bacon from burning. Cook for 10-20 more minutes or until the apples are tender and the crust is golden brown. I literally move the bacon out of the way a bit and pull out an apple slice to taste if it's tender. I took one for the team.

Cool on a wire rack when done.

Step 6: Let Cool

Let the pie cool at least a few hours or, even better, overnight.

SCIENCE BEHIND THE WAIT: As I mentioned, as the pie cools, the pectin molecules of the apples interact with each other. This results in a more solid filling that doesn't seep out of the pie when it's cut and served.

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    16 Discussions

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    WUVIE

    15 days ago

    Loved your use of Mise en place! So neat and tidy! Very interesting, on the grill. :-)

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    provadance

    18 days ago

    So... the science says that lard is a whole lot more healthful than Crisco, so I would suggest that substitution. Makes better crust, too. And, you should mention that this recipe will work as a main dish at any meal - breakfast, lunch, or dinner. :)

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    Whitney Fabreprovadance

    Reply 15 days ago

    It's so interesting you say this. My whole life I've heard, "people used to use lard, but they don't anymore because it's so bad for you." So I've kept with that mentality. But yeah, you're right! Compared to vegetable shortening, it is "better" for you. Once the contest is over (I don't think I can edit during), I will add that you can use lard. Thank you for pointing this out!

    And right? I like your apple pie meal choices. However we won't mention having bourbon for breakfast.... :)

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    SoyGreen

    18 days ago

    Missed opportunity on the bacon - Hickory instead of Applewood? ;)

    Joking aside... this will be made in my home... In fact - in 2 weeks I have an Annual Beer/Bourbon boat event I go to with some buddies - I'll be making this for our trip.

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    Whitney FabreSoyGreen

    Reply 15 days ago

    YOU ARE SO RIGHT. What was I thinking?! Amateur. (Actually, I have an entire box of bacon in my freezer, all hickory smoked for no reason at all, so I just used it). Next time it needs to be applewood to complete the pie.

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    Whitney FabreWhitney Fabre

    Reply 15 days ago

    Also, I think this may be the most perfect dessert for a beer & bourbon event. Now, there's not a strong bourbon flavor by any means, but I think it's the thought that counts, right? I wonder if you could up the bourbon amount in the filling and/or coat the bacon in bourbon like an apple juice in the smoker. (Or mix apple juice and bourbon. No idea if that would work.)

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    MistressJada

    18 days ago

    My girlfriend suggested chedder cheese on top of the bacon.

    1 reply
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    Whitney FabreMistressJada

    Reply 15 days ago

    I was TOTALLY going to photograph this with a slice of cheese on top. But I thought, listen. Isn't it weird enough with the bacon?! But your girlfriend is right. Apparently cheddar cheese on apple pie is a thing. I mean... cheese and bacon is a thing, so I should make it happen.

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    jessyratfink

    19 days ago

    Well now I know one more thing to make on my smoker: a pie! :D

    1 reply
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    Whitney Fabrejessyratfink

    Reply 15 days ago

    It doesn't even give it an overly smoked flavor, which is good. Just a neat, different way to cook a pie. Especially during a BBQ party.

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    clange60

    20 days ago on Step 6

    Thank you for your recipe. Also your science info was great. I never think about putting my pies in my smoker/bbq. I will try it. It will be great party discussion piece. Thank You

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    Whitney Fabreclange60

    Reply 15 days ago

    It is definitely a conversation piece! While coming up with ideas, it started with, "ok, let's smoke a pie." Then it was, "let's put bacon on said pie." Then it was, "how can we make this even extra? Whiskey."

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    igorkholkin

    20 days ago

    This looks amazing! Gonna have to try for the next 4th of July party.

    1 reply