When Thanksgiving rolls around, my menu tends to veer toward traditional foods. While our family never had a traditional dessert that was served every year, apple crumb pie has a special place in my heart, since it was the first type of pie I ever made. I started with a recipe from one of my mother’s cookbooks, but the recipe has evolved and changed many times since then. For this pie, you can use your own favorite crust recipe, or buy a ready-made flat sheet of crust. For the apples, look for baking apples, like Granny Smith, but it’s fine to use several varieties so you have a few different apple textures in one pie.
- For the crusts:
- 1 prepared crust, for a single-crust pie, homemade or store-bought
- 1/3 cup sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 ounces finely shredded cheddar cheese
- For the filling
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons instant pectin, to help thicken the juices
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
- 5 cups peeled, cored and sliced apples, I used 3 Granny Smith, 1 Gala, and 1 McIntosh
- Egg wash, (1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon of water)
- Position oven rack in the bottom third of the oven and then heat your oven to 400° F.
- Arrange the crust in the pie pan, cut the excess off the edges, and crimp or flute the crust edges as desired. Place the pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the crumb topping. Note: save the pie crust scraps! One of my favorite treats is pie crust cookies – just sprinkle them with some cinnamon sugar and bake until golden brown.
- To make the crumb crust: In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, salt, flour, unsalted butter, and cheese. Use a pastry cutter or two knives to begin cutting the butter into the dry ingredients. When you have butter that’s about the size of small peas, use your fingertips to continue working the butter into the mix until it forms small clumps for the crumb topping. Set this aside until you’re ready to assemble the pie. If your kitchen is very warm, you can refrigerate it.
- To make the filling: Combine the sugar, cinnamon, salt, and instant pectin in a 2-quart measuring cup (this makes it easier to measure the amount of apples), or in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Add the vanilla bean paste.
- As you peel, core, and slice your apples, add them to the sugar mixture and stir to coat the apples – this will help keep them from turning brown as you continue peeling and slicing apples.
- When you have five cups of apple slices – and a little more is fine – remove the pie crust from the refrigerator. Add the apples to the crust, along with any dry sugar mixture or any liquid remaining in the bowl. Arrange the apples so they are mounded and higher in the center.
- Top the apples with the crumbs.
- If desired, brush the edges of the pastry with egg wash, for a shiny brown edge.
- Bake the pie for about 40 minutes. The crumb topping should be golden brown with some darker bits.
- Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool on a rack, then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. If you cut the pie before it’s chilled, the juices won’t be as thick and they’ll run out when you slice.