You’ve read this from me before, but I don’t mind saying it again: I adore First Prize Pies and The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book. I credit the authors with getting me past my irrational fear of pie crust and to a place where I am confident, excited even, to make and share pies. I think of the books as a complimentary set; I will forever more use the pie crust from First Prize Pies, and I love the creative, unusual fillings in Four & Twenty Blackbirds. For this apple crumble pie, I used the perfect classic pie crust from FPP, created a filling on my very own using a hand-blended apple pie spice from a friend, and topped it with a crumble topping heavily inspired by F&TB.
A quick aside about my lovely friend S and her spice blend: tiny jars of apple pie spice and grilling spice were given as favors at her wedding, a genius idea, and you should go look at the amazing work she does at Letter & Line Studio as soon as you’re done reading about my pie!
Now back to dessert. Here’s a confession: I don’t remember ever making an apple pie before this one. I watched my Mom make her fair share, and often peel and slice apples for the Thanksgiving pie my husband makes every year. I enjoy apple pie (who doesn’t?) but always default to apple crisp or cake like this one when given the chance to make an apple dessert. Because– another confession coming right up– I love apple crisp and will chose it nine times out of ten over pie. It’s the crumble factor. I am particular about my crisp topping and prefer those without oatmeal, nuts or other fuss. That’s why the crumble from F&TB is perfect. I deducted a little sugar from the amount called for in the book because I planned to serve the pie with ice cream and butterscotch sauce and didn’t want a sugar bomb. A bonus point in favor of a crumble topping on your apple pie: most crust recipes make enough for a double crust pie, meaning that you will have an extra crust with which to make a second pie. Two pies! That’s a game changer if I ever saw one.
Two pies aside, what really sets this apple crumble pie apart is the balance of flavors and textures. The crust is buttery and flaky; the filling is saucy, with slices of apple providing another layer of crisp bite, and the spices are pleasantly assertive to play off the sweet ingredients. I like to use a combination of sweet and tart apple varieties; a few juicy Honeycrisps, a couple sweet Fujis and some classic McIntoshes, or a similar mix, gives your pie a more interesting flavor and ensures your filling will be neither too crispy/dry nor too soft. The crumble gives texture, crunch, and added sweet and buttery flavors. It is a pretty pie, perfect for upcoming holiday gatherings. For me, this apple crumble pie checks every box on the list of ideal traits of an apple dessert, and I know there are other crisp fans out there who will be so happy to see that golden streusel on top. Why choose between a pie and a crisp when you can have both?
Apple Crumble Pie
- 7-8 apples, mixed varieties (I used Fuji, McIntosh & Honeycrisp), peeled, cored and sliced, tossed with 1 T. lemon juice to prevent browning
- 2 tsp. apple pie spice*
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 c. packed brown sugar
- 1/4 c. apple cider (or water)
- 2 T. cornstarch
- 1 c. flour
- 3 tsp. sugar
- 2 T. brown sugar
- pinch of kosher salt
- 6 T. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature
- 1 9″ pie crust, preferably the classic crust in First Prize Pies
Start by making the apple filling, which can be done 1-2 days ahead. The filling needs to be cooled to room temperature before using, so give yourself enough time.
Set aside about a third of your apple slices for later use and add the remainder to a large saucepan along with the apple pie spice, salt and 1 c. brown sugar. In a small bowl, mix about 2 T. apple cider with the cornstarch and set aside; add the rest of the cider to the saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat while you stir; try not to mash or break up the apple slices, though they will break down naturally on their own. As they heat, the apples will give off a good amount of liquid, which is fine. When the mixture begins to steam and gently boil, add the cornstarch mixture to the pan and continue to stir until the sauce thickens noticeably and looks shiny. Remove the pan from the heat and gently fold in the reserved apple slices. Allow the filling to cool to room temperature before proceeding. You can cool it in the refrigerator; if you do so, bring it back to room temperature before baking, or add about 5 mins. (at 350 degrees) to your baking time.
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place one rack in the middle of the oven and cover the rack below it with tin foil or a similar drip catcher– this is a juicy pie!
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, 2 T. brown sugar and pinch of salt. Use your fingers to rub the butter into the ingredients. Stop when you still have some pea-size pieces of butter but the rest of the mixture appears like wet sand and is uniform. Store in the refrigerator for at least 15 mins. before using. The crumble topping can be made 1-2 days in advance, too.
Roll out the crust and place in a 9″ pie plate. Flute the edges or decorate with fork marks as you prefer. Pour the cooled apple filling into the crust and top with the chilled crumble mixture. Bake for 20 mins. at 425 degrees. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and raise your oven rack closer to the top of the oven. Rotate the pie if your oven heats unevenly or if one side appears to be browning faster. Bake for 25-35 mins. more, checking after about 20 mins. and every 5 mins. thereafter, until the crust and crumble are golden brown. Cool the pie for at least an hour before serving. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream and a drizzle or butterscotch sauce if you’re feeling feisty.
Your apple crumble pie will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for about 4 days… but probably won’t last that long.
*As I mentioned, I used apple pie spice blended by a friend. There are countless recipes online for making your own, including the one I linked above, which is the blend I would make myself. In the grocery store, you can usually find apple pie spice in the baking aisle as well as most well-stocked bulk spice sections.