Five Spice Apple Pie

Chinese Five Spice Apple Pie

It is fall, right? For us in Southern California, temperatures hit triple digits and other parts of the country had their first snow this past week! But there are apples in the markets, and apples = autumn to me. Last week’s trip to the potato fields of Idaho was a gorgeous reminder of what we miss here in the way of seasonal changes and, coming home to 100 degree temps due to Santa Ana winds that come off the desert every year around September/October, had me missing the kitchen aromas of apples pies and hearty stews and chili that seem in sync with the vibrant hues of the hillsides and brisk cool days.

I usually get homesick this time of year and am gleefully anticipating my annual trip to the Ozarks later this month to see family and indulge my senses with the sights, sounds, and smells of Fall. In the meantime, I dug up this recipe from the archives to share with you and fill my house with the lovely aroma of apples and cinnamon – or in this case Chinese 5-Spice for a little twist on good ole traditional apple pie like mom used to make.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas, Table Rock Lake

View from our deck – see why I miss it?

This is from a series I called “Bon Appétit Challenge” that had me cooking the covers of some of my favorite decade-old issues.

Bon Appetit, The Century in Food

The issue was the September 1999: Special Millennium Edition and on the cover was apple pie. Inwardly I groaned because I am not a baker – I can count on one hand the number of homemade pies that have seen my oven.

I could have shirked from the challenge because you all would never know, but I’m not like that. So I read through the recipe, check to make sure I have all the ingredients, buy Crisco (eek), apples at Plowboys, my current fave market, and – oh crap, I don’t own a pie pan – go to Target and buy a Pyrex glass pie dish.


Now, I never use Crisco, but I have heard that it does make the best pie crust… so putting aside the fact that it is made from partially hydrogenated oil; and everything we’ve learned about harmful trans fats (ignorance was bliss in 1999); I tackled the job of peeling all those apples.  This didn’t take as long as I thought it would – only about 10 minutes; coring and slicing them took a little longer.

I bet that you did not know that Crisco came out in 1911 and that early sales were largely  generated by Orthodox Jews.  The recipe for Five-Spice Apple Pie begins with this anecdote:

“By the time Crisco came out in 1911, apple pies had long been an American classic. But Crisco, the first hydrogenated vegetable shortening, gave cooks a boost.  Here was a shelf-stable alternative to perishable butter and lard. While a lot of consumers were skeptical of Crisco, many early sales were generated by Orthodox Jews,who bought the shortening after a recipe booklet was published in Yiddish showing how Crisco could be used without breaking kosher dietary laws. Crisco’s success was assured when rationing made lard scarce during World War I.”   Bon Appetit, September, 1999 

What I learned from this experience:

If I am going to bake more pies, I need to have a pastry blender so I don’t need to use two knives and a peeler with a more comfortable handle (see wish list); and homemade apple pie is the best, so much better than Mrs. Smiths!

Five Spice Apple Pie, Bon Appetit

13 Responses to “Five Spice Apple Pie”

  1. Gerry @ Foodness Gracious October 6 at 11:33 pm #

    Love this pie and the interesting flavor it has! It’s been crazy warm here, right?

    • Priscilla October 7 at 5:01 pm #

      Hi Gerry – That means a lot coming from an experienced baker such as your bad self 😉

  2. ally October 7 at 8:53 am #

    That Chinese 5-spice is rockin’ that apple pie!! OMG, it looks sooooooooo good, and I could eat a piece, and I’m not even hungry!! Nothing’ better!!

    • Priscilla October 7 at 5:02 pm #

      Yes, the 5-spice made it extra yummy! Can’t wait to see your posts from Israel, love.

  3. shockinglydelicious October 7 at 10:39 am #

    Love your pie!

    • Priscilla October 7 at 4:59 pm #

      Thanks, Dorothy – we had no problem eating the whole darn thing! I love “vintage” recipes :)

  4. Nami | Just One Cookbook October 7 at 11:45 pm #

    I love apple pies! I’ve never had golden delicious before, but my daughter (kindergartener) had apple party at school where she tried all kinds of apples. And her #1 pick was golden delicious (I was like… not Fuji?? lol). She wants to make apple pies and apple sauce with golden delicious… Your pie with 5 spice sounds good!

    • Priscilla October 8 at 11:29 am #

      Hi Nami! When my daughter was young her favorite apple was Golden Delicious. She loved to cook and bake too :)

  5. Angie@Angie's Recipes October 8 at 2:18 am #

    I love that you have used 5-spice in apple pie. It must be very delicious!

  6. Laura Bashar October 10 at 7:25 am #

    I have been experimenting with an olive oil pie crust – turns out flakey and perfect! I have always been wary of traditional pie crusts that use Crisco, too. But, I never said no to a slice of pie!

  7. Valentina Kenney (@cookingweekends) October 11 at 10:02 am #

    This looks so warm, comforting and delicious. Love five-spice! :-)

  8. Adri October 12 at 10:40 am #

    Beautiful pie! And I am intrigued by the use of five-spice powder. I have never tried it, but now I will. Thanks for the inspiration! For the proverbial best of both worlds – try using half butter and half Crisco – you might like that! This is my first visit to your site, and I will be back!

  9. laura (Tutti Dolci) October 29 at 6:57 pm #

    I love apple pie, five spice sounds so delicious here!

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