wild apple pie
Yesterday I was lucky enough to be included in a wonderful group of bakers that volunteered to bake pies for a fundraiser, “Celebrate an Apple Dessert”, at Moss Street Market in Victoria (BC) organized by Harry Burton of Apple-Luscious Organic Orchards on Salt Spring Island,.
Each chef or baker made 2 apple pies using a specific variety of apple. Pies were split into small slices so everyone could try 3 mini slices for $5, with proceeds going to the Island Chefs’ Collaborative, Our Place (a social service agency) and the Moss Street Market. This was the first time the event had been held and it proved very popular as we pretty much ran out of pies in 90 minutes! Of course the fact that it was a stellar sunny autumn day didn’t hurt.
Now close friends and family know my dirty little secret is that I actually don't like apple pie! I know, it’s shocking… I am the only person I’ve met that doesn’t love apple pie, so I’m well aware I’m in a small minority here. I guess something about it put me off it as a young child (knowing me it was a texture thing) and I just wouldn’t be budged to try again. Okay, now and then I did try a bite when socially pressed, but I could not be won over. So when Harry was on the hunt for bakers for this fun event, I demurred. Fortunately a friend encouraged me to re-think my decision so I took it on as a challenge to make an apple pie that even a reluctant apple pie eater would love. After much page flipping (on line and off) I found a recipe that did the trick. It involves a drippy caramel syrup and a crumble brown sugar topping with toasted pecans, along with a surprising ingredient. Intrigued? Read on and you may be leading a group of converts yourself.
(The apples I used were “wild harvested” from a regional park that has quite a few producing apple trees, but any suitably tart baking apple will do.)
A brief apology here: I didn’t get to shoot photos of the baked pies as I didn’t want to be late for the event, so the pies were rushed all hot and oozy, boxed up in little newspaper nests to the market. Once there I jumped right into slicing and serving mode with almost no opportunity to document my apple pie’s first public outing. Dang.
Note: This recipe is adapted from Rebecca Rather's cookbook, The Pastry Queen. This book is full of lots of yummy recipes from Rather's Texas Hill Country "Rather Sweet Bakery & Cafe" in Fredericksburg, a town settled by German immigrants. Now doesn't it make sense to look to a place like this for apple pie inspiration? I thought so too!
- 1/2 cup of pecans, toasted
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 3 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup white unbleached flour
- 1/3 cup of chilled unsalted butter
- 1 single pie crust pastry recipe (you can use my "go to dough" if you don’t have a favorite of your own)
- 5 - 7 medium-size or 12 - 15 small-size tart baking apples, such as Granny Smiths, Jonagold or Pippins
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 cup of natural cane sugar
- 1/2 cup of white sugar
- 3/4 cup of Southern Comfort liqueur
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
directions for topping
Coarsely chop the toasted pecans and set aside.
Blend both sugars, cinnamon, salt, and flour In a food processor fitted with a metal blade for about 1 minute.
Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the sugar and flour mixture.
Pulse about 10 to 15 times, until the mixture is crumbly.
Stir in the pecans.
Set in the fridge until ready to use.
Roll out the pastry and gently press into a deep 9 inch pie plate, crimping edges along the edge. Set back the pastry back into the fridge while you prepare the pie filling.
directions for apple filling
Set oven temperature to 375°F.
Peel and core the apples then chop into 1/4 inch thick slices.
Melt butter in large heavy frying pan or dutch oven (I used my Le Creuset pot).
When the butter begins to bubble, add the apples and saute for about 5 minutes, or slightly longer if your apple slices are larger.
Stir together the cinnamon and sugars in a small bowl.
Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the apples and stir gently to coat.
Simmer the apple mixture over medium heat about 1 more minute.
Quickly remove the apples from the pan or pot with a slotted spoon, leaving as much of the cinnamon sugar mixture in the skillet as possible.
Transfer the apples to a baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. (If they are layered, they will become soggy.)
Pour the Southern Comfort into the remaining sugar mixture in the pan or pot.
Simmer the mixture over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the alcohol burns off (you will be apple to tell if alcohol is still burning off by sniffing for the vapors up close).
Add the whipping cream and continue cooking about 8 to 10 minutes. The mixture should be as thick as pourable caramel.
Return the apples to the skillet and gently stir to coat.
Pour the apple filling into the unbaked pie crust and sprinkle the chilled crumb topping evenly over the apples.
Bake for approximately 1 hour (checking at about 50 minutes) until the filling is bubbling and breathing in the centre and the topping is a deep golden brown.
Let cool before slicing. (Although I didn't, but no one seem to complain about receiving a caramelly, crumbly slice of very warm pie.)
Serve warm with ice or whipped cream, if desired.