Sunday, September 12, 2010

Apple Crumb Pie

Like many cooks, I find myself far less drawn to the kitchen during summer months. We don’t have central a/c, and our kitchen is ill-served by the lone wall unit that keeps the living room tolerable on the warmest days. This doesn’t usually bother me, but it does make one give pause before baking something like pie that requires an hour or so of oven time.

Husband’s favorite pie is apple pie. Despite the heat, and despite the fact that apples are just now coming into season (and I made this pie about a month ago), his craving would not be denied. I think I was promised a pony in return – husband, where is my pony?

I have referred to apple pie as my great culinary adversary, but really, it’s not so difficult. My problem is that I always over-fill the pie; if you do so, the apples inside won’t fully bake and the filling won’t set before the crust burns.

This pie was a success. I over-filled it only very slightly, so the filling was mostly set and the apples were soft when I cut into it. Clearly, I need to train myself to exercise similar restraint in the future.

Husband never has any complaints about my apple pies. Complaining about pie would be churlish.

I used a recipe from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook as a very loose guide, but this is a highly creative interpretation. They call for pre-cooking the apples for an apple crumb pie, and that’s just too fussy. Plus, I like my apples cooked but not mushy – I think pre-cooking would result in a filling of sweet, apple-flavored goo. That would be fine if that’s what you’re going for, but I prefer more defined and visible apple slices.

Apple Crumb Pie
Bottom Crust:
1 ¼ cups flour (I used an even mix of all-purpose and white-wheat, but all all-purpose is also good)
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
8 tablespoons/one stick unsalted butter, cold, cut into chunks

Crumb Topping:
1 cup flour (I again used a mix of all-purpose and white wheat)
1 cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cornmeal (optional but nice for texture)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into chunks

5-6 large apples (I think 2-2.5 pounds is what I used – I like Pink Lady)
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
zest of one lemon
1-2 tablespoons amaretto liqueur or whiskey (optional but adds nice flavor)
¼-½ cup golden raisins (optional but very nice)

Make the crust: whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Cut the butter into the mixture using a pastry cutter, your hands, or a fork until it’s all incorporated in pea-sized pieces. I recently invested in a high-quality pastry cutter, and I do think it makes crust-making easier. Sprinkle the water over the crust one tablespoon at a time, tossing the mix gently with a fork after each addition. Turn the dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap, give it a few kneads to get everything to adhere, pat into a round disc, and wrap firmly in the plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least half an hour (and hour or so is perfect).

Make the crumb topping: whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and cornmeal. Cut the butter into this mixture until it looks like a crumb topping (with the butter in pea-sized chunks). Set aside – I’d put it in the fridge if your kitchen is warm, but if it’s a cool day, you can probably just let it sit on the counter.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Make the filling: peel, core, and slice the apples into ¼” or smaller slices and place in large bowl. Add the golden raisins if you’re including them. Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Sprinkle over apples and raisins and stir. Add lemon zest and amaretto/whiskey if including them. Stir again.

Roll out the bottom crust into an 11” circle and lay into a 9” pie plate, folding over excess dough and crimping the edges with your fingers or a fork.  Which, yes: I was too lazy to do.  Honestly, with a crumb pie, it really doesn't make a difference.

Add apple mix. Sprinkle crumb topping evenly over apples.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until crumb topping is brown and filling is bubbling (you can hear it). To prevent the crust from burning, use an aluminum ring after the first 15 minutes of baking. If the crumb topping starts to brown before the pie seems very done, tent a sheet of aluminum foil on top (I’ve never had this problem).
Chester approves of pie.
Printable recipe here.


  1. Your pie looks just delicious. I think you really deserve that pony. :)

  2. I mean, I've already picked out a name for it and everything ... ;)

  3. Isn't that funny, I've never used cornstarch with apple pie.. only flour... I want to try this! Cooking in the summer is a necessary evil My kitchen isn't air conditioned either but it is at the furthest end of the apartment so I turn on the oven and leave if I can!! Weather is getting perfect for apple pie now, thank heavens. After all the heat Fall is soooo welcome!

  4. I'm not sure I'm quite ready for autumn, but really: apple pie suits all seasons. :)