The Apple of My Pie

My husband and I both suffer from a dire ailment: sweettoothitis. It creeps up unsuspectingly – after a meal, in the middle of the afternoon or first thing in the morning, even before that first cup of coffee. It nags and tugs relentlessly at our willpower until we have no choice but to give in. Sweettoothitis isn’t picky – it’ll take a bit of chocolate, a few bites of cake, a pastry – anything sweet, really – to keep it satisfied.

This Sunday afternoon, we were both suffering from such a severe case of sweettoothitis that I broke down and baked an apple pie for the two of us. I had purchased some granny smith apples at the farmers market from A & A Orchard, run by John and Beth Aselage. These apples were part of the Aselages’ 120 crates which they set aside just for the Winter Farmers Market. Crisp and tart, they were the perfect starting point.

I like to flavor my apples with the traditional spices: cinnamon and nutmeg. If at all possible, use freshly grated nutmeg as opposed to the finely ground, sitting-in-a-jar-for-who-knows-how-long kind. Fresh nutmeg is exponentially more fragrant and potent. (Side note: I have a vivid memory of being 14 and hearing a rumor that fresh nutmeg will get you “sooo hiiigh” if ingested in large quantities. After about 10 minutes of sucking on several nutmeg kernels like they were Gobstoppers, I gagged and spit them out way before I ever hallucinated. Attempt at your own risk.) You can find fresh, whole nutmeg in the spice section of your local grocer.

But the flavorings don’t end there. Vanilla is an important component, adding a deep, sweet richness. You could also add a splash of dark liquor, like bourbon or rum, to add another layer of flavor. Citrus juices, like lemon and orange, would be complimentary, too.

Once I peeled, sliced and seasoned the apples, I set them aside and got to work on the crumb top. Now, I know apple pie traditionally is a two-crust affair – but there really is nothing like the sweet, buttery crunchiness of a good crumb topping. Pair that with well-seasoned apples and you’ve got yourself something of divine origins.

As I was assembling the ingredients for the crumb topping, I noticed I was out of brown sugar. After a brief panic, I realized I could substitute white sugar and add molasses to the mixture instead. With the crumb ingredients in the mixer, I unrolled the premade (Yes, premade! I am not ashamed!) pie crust. If I am making a pie 1) as a gift or 2) to truly impress and woo, I will take the hour it takes to make, chill and roll out a homemade pie crust; otherwise, a premade pie crust does just the trick. Once the crust was in the dish evenly, I spooned the apples into the crust and began to roll and crimp the edges; crimping is merely for aesthetic purposes, so you’re certainly welcome to just leave the edges rolled.

On went the crumbly top, and into the oven it went.

An hour later, our sweettoothitis subsided with the first bite of luscious pie. The apples were still hot and cinnamony, the crust perfectly browned and the crumb top was buttery and crunchy – and everything was doused with a generous pour of caramel sauce. Sweetoothitis, be gone. Enjoy!

Crunchy Caramel Apple Pie

(makes one 9″ pie)

Crust and Filling:
1 refrigerated pie crust
6 c. peeled, sliced apples
3 Tbs. flour or corn starch
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt

Crumb Topping:
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. quick oats
1/2 c. butter
pinch of cinnamon

Caramel sauce, for serving

Preheat the oven to 375°. Assemble the crumb topping: stir together the brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour, oats and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender or standing mixer, cut in the butter until the mixture is coarse crumbs. Set aside.

Unroll the pie crust and place in a 9″ pie pan. In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, 3 Tbs. flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add the sliced apples and vanilla and toss gently to coat. Transfer the mixture to the pie crust. Roll and crimp the edges, if desired. Sprinkle the crumb topping mixture over the apples.

Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour, or until the crumb topping is golden and the crust is browned. Remove from oven and drizzle with caramel sauce before serving. Serve warm, at room temp or chilled.

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