Apples are here, and Homemade Apple Crumb Pie is a great way to serve them up!
My neighbor’s apple tree is bearing fruit this year, and I decided to take him up on his offer of free apples. They are Granny Smith – the perfect apple for pie! Tart, firm and dense, Granny Smith apples not only hold their texture when cooked, but they retain all the apple flavor, too.
Homemade Apple Crumb Pie – the Perfect Fall Treat
It takes about five pounds of apples to make a pie, so taking advantage of free apples is a no-brainer. And with the fall weather just starting to make itself known, filling the house with warm cinnamon and nutmeg is just the thing.
Tips for Homemade Apple Crumb Pie
There are pies that are super-easy, and pies that are a bit more of a challenge. This is the latter. It’s not difficult, but it does take some time to get it right. And when you do, it’s just an unforgettable experience!
There are three components: The Crust, The Filling, and the Crumble.
The Crust: Lard is the Way to Go
For the crust, I use a simple lard-based crust. I’ve tried all-butter, but frankly, I find them to be too fragile and fussy to work with. They tend not to cut cleanly. Lard produces a tasty crust that rolls out perfectly every time, and with its higher melting point, I don’t have to worry about keeping the crust cold every single second.
The Filling: Use the Right Apples
I mentioned I use Granny Smith apples. But there are other dense, tart varieties that bake up well, too. If you see them on sale, you can also use Braeburn, Cortland, Honey Gold, Jonathan, Fuji, Gala, Haralson, and Newtown Pippin. Some people even use Delicious, but I wouldn’t.
The spices include Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Cardamom. Cardamom is one of those spices that is super-intense, and some people just don’t like it. If you choose to use it (and I do), be very sparing. Even at 1/8 of a teaspoon, you’ll smell this fragrant spice through the whole house.
The Crumble: So Easy
Honestly, I choose Homemade Apple Crumb Pie over a two-crust pie because it’s one way to make it easier on myself! A crumble is anything made with sugar, flour and butter, and you see it in all kids of fruit dishes, so it only makes sense to use it with apples. Some people add oats, but I just don’t care for that texture in my apple pie. Simple does the trick here.
Baking Your Homemade Apple Crumb Pie
This recipe calls for a blast-bake for the first fifteen minutes at 425°F, then back it down to 350°F for the rest. I find this really sets the crust nicely and gets the filling caramelizing right away. Backing off the temp keeps the crust from burning while the filling forms.
Pie Shields and Why You Need Them
To keep the crust from over-browning, it’s a great idea to pick up some pie shields – or you can just make your own from aluminum foil. A pie shield is just a round ring of metal, foil or silicone that deflects heat away from your pie.
I posted a link to some good shields below, and here is a link to making your own shield out of foil. Just a couple of notes, though.
- If you wait until the crust is already turning too dark, you’ve waited too long! You have to anticipate it a bit.
- If you make your own shield out of foil, make sure you form it to your pie before you put it in the oven! It’s a lot easier to slip on the scorching hot pie rim if it’s pre-formed and ready to go. (My burned palms are testament to this truth.)
Speaking of Burning . . .
I have to stress that this particular pie is not one that can be eaten fresh out of the oven. The filling is comprised of molten caramel. To give you an idea – hot pasta might be the temperature of boiling water at 212°F, and you’ve all made that mistake. Hot caramel can reach a temperature even higher than your 350°F oven setting. And in a glass pie plate, that temperature will be maintained for quite some time. Please don’t burn yourself or your guests!
Homemade Apple Crumb Pie
- 5 lbs Apples Granny Smith or other tart, dense apple
- 1/2 cup Brown Sugar packed
- 1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
- 1/3 cup Flour
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt or slightly less table salt
- 1/4 tsp Lemon zest
- 2 tbsp Lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp Nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp Cardamom
- 1 tsp Vanilla
For the Crumble
- 1 1/2 cups Flour
- 3/4 cup Brown Sugar
- 1/3 cup Granulated Sugar
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt or slightly less table salt
- 3/4 cup Butter melted
For the Crust
- 3 cups Flour
- 1 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1 cup Lard 220 g
- 1 lg Egg
- 1 tsp Apple cider vinegar
- 5 tbsp Ice Water
Preparing the Pie Filling
- You'll need a medium Dutch oven or large skillet with steep sides to hold all the apples. I used a 10-inch cast-iron skillet.
- In a bowl, whisk together the sugars, flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom. Set aside.
- Peel the apples, remove cores and slice thin. Place the sliced apples in the skillet over low heat.
- Add the lemon zest and juice, then the sugar/flour mixture. Fold together until well-blended with the apples.
- Cook the apples on low heat, covered, for 20 -25 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes or so to prevent scorching. Taste after 20 minutes to see if the apples are done to your liking – if not, cook a little more.
- Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool completely in the fridge.
Preparing the Pie Crust Dough
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder. Add the lard and mix together with your fingers or pastry cutter (I use an old-fashioned potato masher) until the mixture is the texture of wet sand.
- In a small bowl, lightly whisk the egg, vinegar and water. Add the liquid to your flour mixture and combine with your hands just until it comes together into a ball. Do not knead!
- Cut the dough ball in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap and flatten to a disk. Refrigerate for an hour or so.
Preparing the Crumble
- In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars and salt. Set aside.
- Melt the butter in the microwave and pour over the flour/sugar mixture. Mix until combined and then cool in the fridge.
- The crust recipe will make 2 deep-dish crusts, or 3 regular crusts, so have the pie pans available. I use glass pyrex dishes.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the cold dough until you get a surface that's smooth and roughly the size of your pie plate. Roll the dough on to your roller (with a little help from a bench scraper, if necessary), and then unroll over your pie plate. Trim the edges and pinch against the top of the pie plate. Place the formed shells in the fridge while you preheat the oven.
- Place two foil-lined baking sheets in the oven and preheat to 425° F. Check with an oven thermometer to make sure it's reached the proper temp.
- Remove the crumble from the fridge and break apart with a fork until it's no larger than pea-size bits.
- Remove the pie shells and the filling from the fridge. Divide the filling evenly between the two or three pie shells (depending on the size you're using).
- Put the pies on the heated baking sheets and blast bake at 425° F for 15 minutes. After that, turn down the heat to 350° F for another 45 minutes.
- Check your pies to see if the edges are browning too fast. To prevent that, place a pie shield on top of the pie.
- At one hour check your pies – the edges should be golden brown with some caramel oozing up the edges (hence the baking sheets). The crumble should be a bit browned in the middle.
- Remove the pies and cool on a wire rack for a good 3 hours. If you cut into them while hot, they will run, and you will seriously burn your mouth – hot caramel is much hotter than boiling water!
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