After the Apple Tasting Festival at Portland Nursery, I found myself in need of some apple pie–amazing how that works out. I couldn’t find the recipe my sister Maiya gave me last year, so I looked for a patty-pan crust and nice crumb topped recipe to try. The first one I came across that looked delicious and trustworthy was Martha Stewart’s Apple Crumb Pie with Almond Crumb Crust. This worked out nicely since I had some walnuts I wanted to use up before they got rancid, and well, apples and walnuts go really well together. This also gave me the perfect opportunity to use my little nut grinder, which I so dearly love. I used a few Newtown Pippins and two Spitzenberg apples; you’ll remember the latter from last year’s Apple Tasting, but the Newtown was a runner up, only picked because they were out of Cox’s Orange Pippin and all the new heirlooms I wanted to try (save the Calville Blanc, which is excellent). They were fantastic in the pie, with a complex sweet-tart flavor.
I must say, this was not only the best apple pie I have baked, it might be one of the best I have ever tasted. I don’t know whether it was the perfect combination of apples, nuts, and recipe, or what, but everything came together marvelously. The filling was almost custard-like in its rich smoothness, but the apples retained their bite. The crust was like a nutty shortbread, and not at all soggy. The only improvement I would try would be to use brown sugar, but I was out of it. Guess I’ll just have to make it again! I wanted to try a hazelnut crust, or even the original almond, anyways ….
1-½ cups all purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons toasted walnuts, coarsely ground
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1-½ sticks (3/4 cup) butter, room temperature, cut in small pieces
Whisk together the flour, walnuts, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. With your fingers, squeeze the crumbs together to create pea-size pieces. Cover and chill if not using right away.
Apple Crumb Pie
2-½ pounds apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼ -inch-thick slices
juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
⅓ cup sugar
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Evenly and firmly press a little more than half of the crumbs (about 2½ cups) into the bottom, up the sides of a 9-inch glass pie plate. Freeze pie shell until firm, about 15 minutes–this is important!
2. In a medium bowl, toss together apples, lemon juice, sugar and spices. Pour the apple mixture into the chilled pie shell, and mound the apples slightly in the center. Make sure to pour all the sugary lemon goo over the apples. Dot apples with butter. Mix ¼ teaspoon cinnamon into the remaining crumb mixture, then sprinkle the crumbs in clumps over the apples till covered completely.
3. Bake, rotating halfway through, until the crust is golden and the juices begin bubbling, approximately 50-60 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. The pie can be kept at room temperature, loosely covered, for up to 2 days. (It’s really good on the second day.)