Fall is here! My very favorite time of year. I’m teaming up with my amazing friend Becky again. This time we’re cooking with apples. Perfect for fall. Be sure to check out her Apple, Bacon, Cheddar Grilled Cheese Sandwich. (YUM.) And for mine…Brandied Apple Pie.
My mom has always been a really good cook. She could make anything, it seemed. I first learned to cook by watching her. One of my favorite things was her Dutch Apple Pie. She baked it in a big, brown paper grocery sack that was either stapled or closed with paper clips.
The recipe was somewhere near the center of an old paperback, plastic spiral-bound cookbook from a man, Fred Wix, who went by The Gabby Gourmet. (He would make recipes during the noon news here in Utah when I was a little kid.) I can still see the black type-face on the manila-colored pages of that cookbook.
The book would lay open on the counter as she would peel and slice the apples. It was irresistible not to reach in and pull out a few slices to savor–mine were not the only tiny hands and tiny mouth who loved the taste of the tart apples tossed with lemon juice (usually bottled), cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and flour. My sisters did too.
I would sneak over to the fridge and pick a few little bits of butter from the streusel topping that was chilling while Mom prepared the crust. We didn’t use real butter a lot in those days–mostly for desserts and special occasions. I loved the way it melted on my tongue in a salty, rich puddle.
After the pie was assembled and carefully slid into the brown bag (and stapled or paper-clipped), it would bake for what seemed hours and hours. The house would fill with the smell of warm apples and cinnamon and burnt paper. The timer would signal it was time to take the pie out and then we’d wait for what seemed to be hours and hours until the bag was ripped open and the pie was cool enough to slice into (messy) wedges and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The wait was always worth it.
I think my mom liked her recipe for apple pie so much because you made the crust in the pie plate and stirred the ingredients together with a fork. No rolling (or swearing) needed. The topping was an easy-to-prepare streusel. But what seemed like shortcuts yielded the best apple pie ever.
This pie is based on my mom’s Dutch Apple Pie recipe, but I’ve added my own twist. Except I went with a rolled pie crust because I am not longer intimidated by it. :)
As I was reading up on Dutch Apple Pies, I found a recipe from Cooks’ Illustrated that uses a slightly cooked filling. I liked that idea. I think the biggest reason I don’t love apple pie so much is that the apples never seems to be fully cooked like I want them to be. I’ve also used brown sugar instead of white, more cinnamon, and a large splash of brandy.
The streusel topping gets the same flavorful update with the use of brown sugar and chopped pecans. Instead of vanilla ice cream, to help cut the sweetness of the pie just a bit, a little (slightly) sweetened sour cream. That’s been a favorite topping of ours for a long time, but we forgot about it until last week when the whipped cream was all gone and there was a cry for something creamy to top all of the pies I’d made.
The lesson for today is: Brandied Apple Pie is good. You should make some.
- For pie crust and filling:
- 1 unbaked single pie crust (this is my favorite, check this tutorial for pie crust tips)
- ¼ cup butter
- 10 medium-sized apples, peeled and cut into ¼" slices (I used honey crisp and golden delicious)
- ½ to ¾ cup brown sugar (start with ½ cup and only add more if the apples are very tart)
- juice and zest of 1 lemon
- ¼ cup corn starch
- ¼ cup brandy (or apple cider)
- ¼ cup cream
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp. sea salt
- pinch nutmeg
- Sweetened sour cream, whipped cream, or ice cream, for serving
- For streusel topping:
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- ½ cup cold butter
- For crust and pie filling:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Butter a 9-10" deep dish pie plate. Roll out pie dough and fit into the pan. Trim the edge so there's about ½" over hang. Chill while preparing filling.
- Heat the butter in a large skillet. Let the butter start to brown a little, but not too brown. Add the apple slices, lemon juice and lemon zest and lower the heat a bit. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples start to soften a bit.
- Meanwhile, stir together the brown sugar, cornstarch, brandy, cinnamon, vanilla extract, sea salt and nutmeg. After the apples have softened a bit, add the brown sugar/cornstarch mixture and cook until it thickens and turns syrupy. Add the cream and cook for a minute longer.
- Transfer the filling to a big bowl while preparing the streusel.
- For streusel:
- Combine the flour, brown sugar and chopped pecans in a medium bowl. Add the cold butter and using your fingers or a pastry cutter, mix until crumbly. Set aside.
- For assembly:
- Pour the apple filling into the chilled pie crust. Sprinkle the top with streusel.
- Bake at 400 degrees F. for 20 minutes and turn oven down to 375 degrees F. for an additional 30-35 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the top is dark golden brown.
- Place on cooling rack and allow to cool before serving. Serve slightly warm or for nicer slices, at room temperature.
- Top with a little sweetened sour cream, whipped cream, or ice cream.