What a lovely time of year. In college, my roommates and I created a tradition where every September we would go apple picking. Usually the apples languished on top of our mini-fridges, but the bonding over apple cider and under the boughs of fruit-laden trees brought us through the harshest of winters. In honor of those dear friends, I’m sharing my favorite apple recipe with you – a crumb pie.
Back in October 2000 my mother clipped this apple crumb pie recipe from the paper, and she loves to file documents (especially recipes), so it was my honor a dozen years later to receive this gem from her files. I eagerly gobbled it up and took it home, as there were two very promising sources for the recipe: the filling was adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s “The Pie and Pastry Bible” (a tome I’ve been eyeing for some time now, after I found Rose’s incredibly helpful youtube videos), and the crust was adapted from the illustrious Cook’s Illustrated.
Now, I must warn you – do not underestimate the effort put into a humble pie. Between the chilling, peeling, slicing, baking and cooling, they can be quite a time commitment. But I promise the sacrifice will be worth it, especially with a recipe as solid as the one below.
So go get some apples so you can make a new friend over a piece of this pie.
7 teaspoons unsalted butter shredded (see my method below)
4 tablespoons chilled shortening
3 tablespoons icewater
7 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup flour
1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
For the butter that is included in the dough, take the cold butter out of the fridge, grab a cheese grater and plate. You will grate the butter (be careful not to also grate the paper wrapping!) like a block of cheese, and then stick the plate in the freezer for at least 5 minutes until you are ready to make the crust.
To make the crust, add all the dry dough ingredients into a food processor and pulse to mix it up a few times.
Toss your shredded butter into the processor and pulse 5 times, then toss in the shortening and keep pulsing until the large chunks of butter and shortening are the size of lentils.
Now dribble in the cold water a tablespoon at a time, pulsing briefly until the dough begins to take shape. Priority #1 during this process is to not over mix (your butter will get too warm, resulting in a rock hard, NOT flaky crust, and that would be sad, you want to more the flakes in your life. Flakes are good).
Dump the contents of your processor onto a clean, dry counter (or a piece of parchment or wax paper for easy clean-up) and shape it into a deflated beach ball (why make it harder to roll out later by leaving it in a round ball?). Wrap in plastic and toss in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to an hour.
Then roll it out in a circle 12-13 inches in diameter, and transfer into your pie pan. Trim the edges, cover with plastic again and put it back in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to one day.
Once you are ready to actually assemble and bake the pie, prep your apples and combine with both sugars, juice, cinnamon and nutmeg into a bowl to sit out for at least 30 minutes to leach the juices out of the apples.
While the apples are sitting, you can begin on the topping. Pull out the food processor again (sorry!)... Toss in the nuts and pulse to chop them up, then toss in all the remaining topping ingredients to combine until the butter is in small pieces and evenly distributed.
Put the mixture in a bowl and lightly press the pieces together with your fingers so they form larger chunks (you can thank me later for this - they turn out SO yummy). Please don't put the mixture into the fridge... it will turn into a solid brick.
Finally, to the oven! Preheat to 425 degrees.
Take the crust from the fridge and cover tightly with foil. If you desire, you can use rice or beans as pie weights (I would recommend not using traditional pie weights, as they tend to be too heavy on the dough). Put it in the heated oven for 20 minutes this way, then remove the foil and bake another 5-10 minutes until parts of the crust are beginning to darken, then remove to a wire rack to cool for a few.
Back to your filling. Pour the apples into a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl, to separate and reserve the juices. Add these juices with the butter into a saucepan to swirl (do not stir) over medium height until it thickens and begins to look caramel in color.
Combine the apple slices with the cornstarch to dry them off, and then pour the apple syrup you just made over the slices, tossing to coat them.
Mound the apples into the pie crust. It will be quite a pile of them - that's ok!
Cover the pie loosely with foil, and cut several vents the length of your pinky finger to allow some steam to escape.
Bake the pie for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and lower the temp to 400 degrees.
Sprinkle over the topping, and lightly press it into place (be careful - it's hot under there!).
Bake until the topping is golden, about 15-20 minutes before removing to cool on a rack. Then try desperately to wait until the pie isn't piping hot before you decide to dig in.
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