This cinnamon apple pie is as quintessential as apple pies get. Its big apple flavor is accentuated by a few helpers: butter, brown sugar, and Vietnamese cinnamon. And lest you think “boring!,” let us assure you that the less-expected elements, like the healthy dousing of cinnamon sugar on the top crust and the big dash of bitters in the filling, make this seemingly simple pie super special.
Preheat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the lower third. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or foil and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the cinnamon and granulated sugar. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the cinnamon sugar to a separate small bowl and set aside for sprinkling over the assembled pie.
To the large bowl with the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture, add the brown sugar, cornstarch, orange zest, and salt. Whisk to combine. Add the apple slices, vinegar, vanilla, and bitters. Toss the mixture with clean hands or a large flexible spatula until the apples are evenly coated. Set the filling aside.
Let 1 portion of the dough sit at room temperature for a minute or two to soften slightly, then unwrap it and place on a lightly floured surface. Use a rolling pin to beat the dough across the surface to make it more pliable. Dust the dough and your work surface with additional flour, then roll out the dough, dusting with more flour as needed, into a 13" round about 1/8" thick.
Transfer the round to a 9" pie pan, centering it and letting the pastry slump down the sides into the bottom. Firmly press the pastry into the bottom and up the sides of the pan, ensuring contact everywhere and taking care not to stretch it. Transfer the lined pie pan to the refrigerator. Roll out the second portion of dough just as you did the first and set it aside at room temperature.
Remove the lined pie pan from the refrigerator and transfer about 1/4 of the apple filling into the pan. Fit the apple slices around the bottom of the pan to minimize gaps (this will help reduce the filling from shrinking during baking). Add the rest of the apples along with any juices that accumulated in the bowl. Mound the filling in the pie pan, pressing down to compact the apples so that you have an even, tightly packed dome of apples.
Brush the outer edge of the pie pastry with water. Place the second round of pastry over the pie, letting it slump over the filling. Press very firmly all the way around the rim of the pie pan with your fingertips to seal the bottom and top layers of pastry together, then use a paring knife to trim away the excess pastry from around the rim. Using the tines of a fork, press around the border of the pie again to crimp it, dipping the tines in flour if needed to prevent sticking.
Brush the entire surface of the pie with the remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter, then sprinkle the reserved 2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar evenly over the top. Freeze the assembled pie until the pastry is cold and firm, 10 to 15 minutes, then use a paring knife or kitchen shears to cut several slits in the top to allow steam to escape during baking.
Place the pie on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue to bake until the crust is deeply browned and you can see apple juices bubbling up through the vents, another 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes.
Remove the pie from the oven and let cool completely before slicing and serving with vanilla ice cream, if desired.
Storage instructions: Store the cinnamon apple pie covered loosely at room temperature for up to 4 days. The pastry will be the most crisp on the first and second day.
Tips from our Bakers
You’ll have pastry scraps after trimming your pie dough. Chill them, sprinkle them with more cinnamon sugar, bake, and enjoy as a snack.
While testing this pie, recipe developer Claire Saffitz learned that she prefers thicker slices of apples for pie: When the slices are 1/2" (rather than 1/4") thick, they become soft and fork-tender without turning to mush.
For more beautiful and flavorful recipes from Claire Saffitz, see her cookbook What's For Dessert: Simple Recipes for Dessert People. It's a favorite of the King Arthur editorial staff! (Heads up: At King Arthur, we only recommend the ingredients that we, as bakers, truly love. When you buy through external links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.)