Old-Fashioned Apple Pie with Crumb Topping

So Saturday before last, I made this totally gorgeous deep dish apple pie that photographed really well, but was dry and practically tasteless.  This was probably my worst apple pie ever.  Really, stupendously bad.

So anyway, as fate would have it, the very next day I found myself by Graves Apple Orchard just outside Shenandoah National Park.  I proceeded to buy more than 20 lbs of Granny Smith, York, Stayman and something called Grimes Golden.  The price, $10 even!  Really, these beautiful apples deserved to become a delicious pie, so I decided to try try again.

FILLING

  • 3 lbs apples (all Granny Smith, or mostly Granny Smith with a portion of another baking apple like York or Stayman)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon (or to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

CRUST & TOPPING

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter in 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 recipe American Pie Dough or 1/2 recipe Pate Brisee

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Put your oven rack in the bottom third of the oven.

Peel and cut the apples into 1/4 inch slices.  Granny Smiths are my standby, but this time I used 5 medium Granny Smith and a couple of York.  After all the peeling and the coring, that 3 lbs of apples turns into about 2 1/4 lbs.  Toss the apples with the lemon juice.  In a small separate bowl, mix 1/2 cup sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon zest and flour.  Add to the apples and toss to coat.

At this stage, you need to taste an apple.  If you have more than one kind, be sure to taste each variety.  Judge whether there is enough sugar and/or spice to meet your liking and add to adjust.  You are looking for a nice balance between sweet and sour.

Roll out the Dough and fit into a 9-inch pie plate.  Put the dough-lined pan in the freezer while you make the crumb topping.

To make the crumb topping, put the flour, sugar, brown sugar, kosher salt, oatmeal in the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment.

Mix to combine.  Add the cubes of butter.

Mix until it clumps together, but not until it forms one big ball, that’s too much.

Put the dough-lined pie plate on a lined cookie sheet.  Pile in the apples and sprinkle with the crumb topping.  Mine was so high, I had to kind of pack the topping on the sides of the apples.  I do like a lot of apples in my apple pie, it makes it seem healthier somehow. ;)  After this cooks, it will lose over an inch of height.  If you think this is just too much, you could cut down on the apples, sugar and spice a bit for a greater ratio of apples to crust and topping.

Bake at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake for 45-55 minutes longer.  Like with most things that are baked, cooking time is very important.  You know the pie is done when the apples are fork-tender, but still retain their shape and aren’t mushy.  Remember that they will continue to cook from residual heat even after the pie is out of the oven.

Cool the pie to room temperature.  If you can possibly wait, apple pie is really best at least 4-5 hours after it is baked.  Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

So three pounds gone, over 17 lbs left to go.

TASTING NOTES:  When I ate my first slice of pie, the flavor was perfect.  The balance of sweet to sour to spice was just the way I like it.  However, I thought that the apples were just a little too crunchy.  My daughter disagreed, saying they were just the way she likes them.  A slice reheated the next day was much closer to the apple consistency that I prefer.  Still, the next time I make this pie, I think I will bake it about 10 minutes longer.


4 Comments

  1. Is this the same pie you brought to the party? It is amazing. I am guessing you made it Friday, we ate it after dinner on Saturday night. The crumb layer was almost as thick as the apples. I normally am not a fan of apple pie, but this was great.

    Reply
    • So glad you liked it! It is sort of the same pie. The ingredients are basically the same, but I’m in the process of tweaking my process. For your pie, I cooked the apples on the stovetop for about 10 minutes with some of the sugar and spices. This causes some of the water to evaporate and some to distill to the bottom of the pot. Then, I discard the extracted liquid and cool the apples before adding more sugar, spice and lemon juice and zest to taste. The overall effect is a more flavorful, more stable apple that doesn’t leave a lot of juice in the bottom of the pan so the bottom crust stays crisper. I’m planning to share this updated recipe eventually, but so far I’ve only made it “to taste” and need to come up with some amounts to make it a sharable recipe. More than you wanted to know, right? :)

      Reply
  2. I have a variety of apples like golden delicious, gala, and Fuji… Mainly all sweet. Do you recommended I cut down the sugar since I am not using any sour or tangy apples such as Granny Smith? Btw, Your crumb topping looks delish!
    Thanks!
    Milena

    Reply
    • Absolutely cut back on the sugar by about one third. You may want to increase the amount of lemon juice to taste as well. Lastly, watch the cooking time carefully. In addition to being sweeter, these types of apples are also a less dense and, when cooked, they soften up more quickly. If you overcook your pie, it can turn into applesauce. Let me know how it turns out. Best, Heather

      Reply

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