Great Dumbarton Bake Off: Apple Pie

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, people around the world have turned to baking for solace, entertainment, and fun. My name is Mary Lesher and I run public programs for Dumbarton House. I decided to join in the fun by baking historic recipes in my 21st century kitchen.

This week in celebration of the unofficial start of summer— Memorial Day— I made an apple pie recipe from 1787. Although we think of apple pie as a tried and true American dish, this recipe originated in the London Art of Cookery!


4 Cups Flour
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Pound Butter
Cold Water

5 Apples
1 Lemon
1 Cup Sugar
Ground Cloves
Ground Nutmeg

Tips, Tricks, and Historical Context:

This recipe had very few instructions, so I made up most of the measurements. Feel free to experiment! This recipe makes two pies. The most difficult part of the recipe was timing. I recommend getting your apples pared and sliced first so you can put them on the stove to boil into filling syrup. That process took about 40 minutes and I started it last, so my whole process was delayed.


Wash, pare and slice the apples. Put the apple skin and cores into a pot and cover with water. Sprinkle with nutmeg and boil. Once the boiled mixture has a good taste, strain the liquid, add 1/6 cup of sugar and boil into a thick syrup. While the apple and water mixture is boiling, prepare the crust and filling. Mix four cups flour and teaspoon salt together. Cut in 1 pound of butter and knead into dough. Add small amounts of cold water until you form a dough. Roll out thin, using flour to keep the dough from sticking. Transfer the pie crust into the pie tin. Put a layer of apples into the pie. Sprinkle 1/6 cup sugar and ¼ of a lemon peel minced over apples. Squeeze some lemon juice over the apples and sprinkle with ground cloves. Add a second layer of apples, sugar, minced lemon peel, lemon juice and ground cloves. Once the water and apple peel mixture has boiled down, pour the syrup over the pie filling. Finish with the upper crust. Be sure to cut vents so moisture can leave the pie as it cooks. Bake for 35 minutes at 350˚. Feel free to coat the upper crust with an egg wash at the end of the baking time.

Final Thoughts:

I do not like apple pie and I’ve never made it before. But I absolutely loved making and eating this pie! It was time consuming but not as difficult as I thought it would be. I highly recommend making this for your next picnic or cook out! I’ll be sharing new recipes with you each week through our social media @dumbartonhouse and here on the blog.

Mary Lesher
Programs Manager