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I don’t know if people still say ‘easy as pie.’ I never found it that easy to throw together a pie. If I did, I’d do it more often than once every autumn, when the mood reliably strikes that I must have some pie – preferably apple crumb. So I picked up a nice assortment of apples at the produce market – 5 granny smiths and a couple of galas and a honeycrisp – and rolled up my sleeves to get started when I hunted around and realized I don’t really have a pie recipe. What had I done last time? I consulted Betty Crocker and The Joy of Cooking for help but I was in that zone of fractured memory, where the elements that seemed certain were really based on a chimeral vision that perhaps never existed at all.

Neither Madams Rombauer or Crocker provided versions of basic pie that were as I remembered. Joy of Cooking’s streusel topping recipe that I had been convinced was my go-to was weird. I had never melted butter or toasted cake crumbs for a crumb top in my life. That much I knew. Why did I misremember? Had I consulted a Penzey’s catalog for a pie recipe the last time?

I would have to cobble together something from the parts of various recipes I could find. I would not give up.

If you search through enough versions, you will eventually find the blueprint you want. So, no, I didn’t want to cook the apples first (as in the Joy o’ Cooking version), but that version said to use cornstarch as a thickener and that worked better than Crocker’s use of flour with the apples. But I liked Crocker’s baking time and temp better. The topping recipe comes from a third source, an old New York Times recipe for apple crisp.The pie that resulted turned out to be one of my best in recent memory. (Not that recent memory is an impressive skill for me, apparently.) So it is high time that I write it down so that it is archived here as its own creature.

Happy Halloween, everyone!



One 9-inch pie crust. (Frozen is good enough for me! I use Marie Callendars)

  • 5-6 cups apples, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 – 1½ tbsp. cornstarch
  • pinch salt in apples, 1/4 tsp. for the topping
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup flour

Preheat oven to 425°F.

PIE FILLING: Pare, core and thinly slice the apples. Combine 1/2 cup of the brown sugar, and the cornstarch, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, then sprinkle over the apples. Place all in unbaked pie crust.

FOR TOPPING: In a small bowl, mix together ¾ cup flour, ¼ tsp salt and ½ cup light brown sugar. Cut in 6 tbsp. butter with a pastry blender until pea-sized crumbs form. (You can expand to 1 stick butter and 1 cup flour, if you want an extra thick crumb top layer. I also mixed buckwheat flour with cake flour. It baked up a little dark, but tasted very nice.)

Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the apples.

Bake 50 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble up. Cover topping with aluminum foil for the last 10 minutes of baking if top browns too quickly.

Place on baking rack to cool. You’ve got pie!