I tried 3 celebrity apple pie recipes and the winner was flakey and delicious

I tried three recipes.

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I tried three recipes.
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Taylor Tobin

  • Apple pie is a classic dessert.
  • Michelle Obama, Alex Guarnaschelli, and Rachel Ray all have their own recipes.
  • I tried them all, and Michelle Obama’s recipe was my favorite.

There’s a reason why apple pie is an American classic. When done correctly, this treat combines tart fruit, subtle spices, a buttery crust, and a hearty helping of nostalgia, all resulting in a perfect end to any meal – or a perfect afternoon snack … or midnight snack … or breakfast … I’m not here to judge.

But if you’re anything like me, you choose to satiate your apple pie cravings by heading straight to your favorite bakery and picking up a ready-made version. While I honestly enjoy cooking I’ve always considered baking a daunting task.

Baking requires exact measurements, precise temperatures, and an overall level of precision that seemed pretty out of my league.

And so I chose to embark on my maiden apple-pie-baking voyage armed with recipes from some high-profile chefs and celebs. Specifically, Alex Guarnaschelli (chef/restauranteur, “Chopped” judge, and “Iron Chef” champ), Rachael Ray (Food Network alum, talk-show host, and entrepreneur), and Michelle Obama (former First Lady and passionate healthy food advocate).

Which apple pie reigns supreme? Read on to find out through my full account of these three very different spins on this beloved dessert classic.

First, I baked Alex Guarnaschelli’s ‘Good Ol’ Apple Pie’

Alex Guarnaschelli makes Good Ol' Apple Pie.

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Alex Guarnaschelli makes Good Ol’ Apple Pie.
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Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Hearst/ Taylor Tobin

As a major fan of “Chopped,” I’m well-acquainted with Alex Guarnaschelli’s tough-but-fair judging style. Therefore, I assumed that her pie recipe would feature a similar blend of ambitious taste and practical simplicity. Also, because Guarnaschelli’s version was the only one of the three to include a recipe for homemade pie crust, I used her crust as a base for both this pie and my second pie.

Find the full recipe here.

How did it turn out?

The crust wasn't the best.

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The crust wasn’t the best.
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Taylor Tobin

For me, the most intimidating part of baking my own pies involved making my own crust from scratch. I followed Guarnaschelli’s recipe to the letter, and the resulting pie dough came out … fine.

Not great, not bad, just completely middle-of-the-road. The texture was drier than I anticipated, even with the addition of extra water, and that caused some breakage in the top crust during the baking process. It’s also thicker than I prefer; I’d rather have a lighter crust with nice crispiness.

Overall, I can’t say that this crust’s flavor was ultimately worth the effort required.

But the filling – that’s a totally different story. Guarnaschelli’s recipe produced a zippy, apple-forward pie filling with the satisfying tartness from the lemon juice, and the extra sugar from the apple cider offered a caramel-like texture with the pleasant depth of flavor. With a hearty scoop of vanilla ice cream, this pie made a very satisfying evening treat, even in spite of the crust’s so-so status.

Next, I made Rachael Ray’s Maple Bourbon Apple Pie.

Rachel Ray makes Maple Bourbon Apple Pie.

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Rachel Ray makes Maple Bourbon Apple Pie.
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Cindy Ord/Getty Images/ Taylor Tobin

As a true and devoted fan of bourbon, I’m automatically drawn to any dessert that contains my favorite spirit. And when I discovered Rachael Ray’s recipe for Maple Bourbon Apple Pie, I was immediately sold.

Ray doesn’t include her own recipe for pie crust. Since I was already making my own crust for the Alex Guarnaschelli pie, I chose to double the recipe and use the same dough for the Rachael Ray version.

Find the full recipe here.

How did it turn out?

The filling was unique.

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The filling was unique.
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Taylor Tobin

In a definitely-should-have-seen-this-coming turn of events, I ran into the exact same crust problems with this pie as I did with the Alex Guarnaschelli version. Too thick, too dry, and too “meh” in flavor. The issue actually felt amplified with this pie, because Ray’s recipe produces less filling than Guarnaschelli’s.

But the filling … OH, the filling. The maple and bourbon notes felt pronounced, but also melded beautifully with the tangy apples and the spices. I was sincerely tempted to plunge a spoon into the middle of the pie and scoop out the filling to eat on its own.

Finally, I baked Michelle Obama’s Apple Cobbler

Michelle Obama makes Apple Cobbler.

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Michelle Obama makes Apple Cobbler.
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Rick Kern/WireImage/ Taylor Tobin

Though Michelle Obama is not a chef, she is a bona-fide food expert, and as soon as I found this delicious-sounding rendition by the former FLOTUS, I knew I had to give it a whirl.

Obama (cleverly) covers her bases by calling her dessert a “cobbler” rather than a pie … but honestly? This is definitely a pie. Also, she sets aside any pretense and openly admits to using store-bought refrigerated pie crust, so that’s what I did too.

Find the full recipe here.

How did it turn out?

This is my favorite.

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This is my favorite.
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Taylor Tobin

Obama finishes her recipe by noting that she bakes her pie for 3 hours to make the crust flaky, because “[that’s the way] Barack likes it.”

Well, I’m with you on that one, Mr. (former) President. Flaky pie crust is the jam, and by using store-bought crust designed for flakiness, Obama’s pie achieves that desirable texture.

This pie filling tastes perfectly classic; if you close your eyes and imagine “apple pie”, you’re probably thinking of a slightly-sweet, delicately-acidic apple filling with just a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg, and that’s what you get here.

Flavor-wise, it’s not as interesting as the maple-bourbon filling, but it absolutely does the job. And when this filling joins forces with the buttery, toothsome crust, it creates a pie that I’ll absolutely make again.

As a sum of its parts, this pie rose above the other two to become my unquestionable favorite. Looks like store-bought is the move, so perhaps with a storebought crust, any of these pies could be a winner.