Easy as pie

If you opt for the crumb topping for your apple pie, left, add texture and crunch by squeezing some of the oat mixture into larger clumps before covering the filling.

To ace this American tradition, combine different varietals with nuanced flavors and textures. The sublime result: a bold, aromatic filling bubbling under a crumb or crust topping.

Keep reading to learn the core curriculum.

SARAH’S BEST APPLE PIE

3½ pounds apples, peeled, cored and cut into ½-inch-thick slices (8 cups)

¾ to 1 cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

 teaspoon ground cardamom

 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of ground cloves

¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

Test Kitchen’s favorite pâte brisée (see additional recipe)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 large egg, beaten

Sanding sugar (optional)

1. Macerate the fruit

This technique helps the slices maintain their shape while they bake. In a large heatproof bowl, toss together apples, granulated sugar (use 1 cup if your apples are very tart), salt, vinegar and spices. Let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for at least 3 hours, or refrigerate (covered) as long as 24 hours.

2. Thicken the liquid

Stir flour into apple mixture, then set a colander over another bowl and drain, reserving liquid. Transfer liquid to a small saucepan; return apples to bowl. Bring liquid to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly until thickened to the consistency of loose pudding, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir back into apple mixture.

3. Roll the dough and fill

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with a rack in bottom third. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one disk of dough  inch thick (about 13 inches in diameter). Fit it into a 9-inch pie dish.

“If possible, use a glass pie dish. You can check the crust through the clear bottom to make sure it’s well browned to the center,” says Martha Stewart Living editorial food director Sarah Carey. Fill with apple mixture; dot with butter. Roll out second disk  inch thick; drape over filling. Trim overhang to 1 inch. Pinch to seal, folding edges under; crimp as desired.

Cut five 2- to 3-inch vents in top crust. Brush with beaten egg. If you want a sparkly finish with a bit of crunch, sprinkle with sanding sugar. Refrigerate 15 minutes (to help the crust hold its shape in the oven).

4. Bake the pie

Bake 20 minutes (the high temperature jump-starts the process), then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees (so the crust doesn’t get tough), and bake until golden brown all over and bubbling in center, 50 to 60 minutes more. (If the top browns too quickly, tent it with foil.) Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely, at least 6 hours.

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For a double-crust pie, try the full pâte-brisée recipe. Otherwise, use one disk for the bottom crust (freeze the other disk) and the crumb topping.

TEST KITCHEN’S FAVORITE PÂTE BRISÉE

2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2 sticks cold unsalted butter

7 tablespoons ice-cold water

Pulse flour, salt and sugar in a food processor until combined. Add butter, cut into small pieces; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with some pea-size pieces remaining. Drizzle with 7 tablespoons ice-cold water; pulse several times, until mixture holds together when pinched. (If it doesn’t, add 1 more tablespoon ice water and pulse to combine.)

Divide dough evenly and shape into two disks; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate at least 1 hour and as long as 1 day, or freeze for as long as 3 months; thaw overnight in refrigerator before using.

CRUMB TOPPING

6 tablespoons soften unsalted butter

¼ cup packed light-brown sugar

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup quick-cooking oats (or rolled oats pulsed in a food processor)

Beat unsalted butter with light-brown sugar, baking powder and salt until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add flour and oats and beat to combine.

In Step 2 of pie recipe, reduce flour to 3 tablespoons. In Step 3, omit butter and second disk of dough; crumble topping over filling before baking.

Three’s a charm

The secret to a next-level filling is combining different apple varieties. The ideal mix ranges in taste from sweet to tart to good, old-fashioned apple flavor, and includes some firm ones that hold their shape, so you don’t wind up with a pie full of applesauce. These assortments have it all.

Supermarket

1½ pounds Braeburn (sweet-tangy and firm) plus 1½ pounds Granny Smith (tart) plus ½ pound McIntosh (classic apple flavor) or 1½ pounds Golden Delicious (sweet-tangy and firm) plus 1½ pounds Granny Smith (tart) plus ½ pound Macoun (classic apple flavor)

Farmers’ market

1½ pounds Suncrisp (sweet-tangy and firm) plus 1½ pounds Stayman Winesap (tart) plus ½ pound Northern Spy (classic apple flavor) or ½ pounds Pink Lady (sweet-tangy and firm) plus 1½ pounds Esopus Spitzenburg (sweet-tart and floral) plus ½ pound Jonathan (classic apple flavor)

More recipes and additional tips may be found online at www.marthastewart.com/everydayfood. Questions or comments may be sent to ask.martha@meredith.com.