Monday, March 18, 2013

Dutch Apple Pie (and memories of summer)

I made my first pie before I could drive, relying on only a tattered index card that held my Nana's secret recipe for pumpkin pie. I think it turned out fine and although I can't really remember (there have been endless pies since) I also don't remember any complaints. 

After playing it safe with pumpkin and apple for a few years, I made a jump to mixed-fruit pies only three years ago. My boyfriend was working at an agricultural research centre doing... insert ecology jargon and boring science procedures here... The job was out of town and I put up a fuss at the start of each week when he had to leave. However, a wonderful perk that almost made the distance bearable was the free fruit he was allowed to bring home. 

Apparently after harvesting the fruit, an appropriate amount was set aside for experiementin' and the rest was fair game. We quickly found ourselves overwhelmed with fruit - cherries, plums, raspberries, blueberries, peaches - glorious crates of the sweet stuff started stacking up in our garage and as much as we consumed (and gave away) the stacks didn't seem to shrink.

Times were tough. 

A wonderful side effect, besides the relief we would never be overcome with scurvy, was the opportunity to test out an array of new recipes using fruit I would normally reserve for eating fresh, not baking. Plum clafoutis, berry crumb cake, peach pie with raspberries - after filling our fridge with frozen goodies we moved on to gifting desserts to friends and family. All this baking was wonderfully fulfilling. 

Years later, I still dream about the crates of fruit. However, as we will never be able to afford the quantity or quality of fruit at retail prices, I reverted back to my safe and cheap comfort zone to celebrate International Pi Day. 

More affordable than peaches in March, this Dutch Apple Pie with Strudel Topping doesn't taste like a consolation prize. I added some pecans to the topping for added crunch and cut back on the sugar to ensure the flavour of the apples came through.

I know in baking every measurement is supposed to be precise but honestly when it comes to apple pies/crisps I kind of wing it and, since I took the lazy way out and used a frozen pastry shell, all I really had to make was the filling and strudel topping which was insanely easy and went something like this...

1. Cut up your apples - any apples you like - until there are enough to fill the pastry shell. Toss in a bowl with a tablespoon or two of flour, 1/8-1/4 c. sugar (depending on how sweet your apples are), a teaspoon or so of cinnamon, and 1/4-1/2 tsp. nutmeg. Pour apples into pie shell. 

2. Cut cold butter into small chunks and add to a bowl with 1/2 c. flour, 1/4 c. sugar, and more cinnamon. Add oats or pecans or whatever your little heart may desire - brown sugar in place of a portion of the white sugar above is also delicious. Using a pastry blender, or two butter knives, cut into mixture until butter chunks are pea sized. If this sounds daunting simply crumble everything up with your hands (don't worry, everything will taste good, this isn't rocket science). Pour strudel mixture over pie. 

Bake pie in a 375 degree oven for 30-45 minutes - the total baking time will depend on how large your pie is and your individual oven. To test done-ness prick apple pieces with a knife, they should be soft. 

Let cool a good ten minutes before devouring, this not only lets the pie firm up a bit but also helps avoid any nasty burns. If there is vanilla ice-cream within a 5km radius of your house YOU MUST find it and apply a generous scoop to the top of your warm pie. Seriously, it's for the good of all of humanity.

As a result of not following a rigid recipe, sometimes my pie is runnier or sweeter than average, but with this combination of ingredients it's always delicious. 

*If you really need a recipe to follow don't worry, just check out this recipe for Dutch Apple Pie with Oatmeal Streusel

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