Apple Crumb Pie (From Awful to Amazing!)
The sad part of the story
You might have seen the OrnaBakes post on Facebook two days before Thanksgiving, with the sad looking Apple Crumb Pie that my husband called the “most hideous looking pie I ever saw.”
How it began
I love the Apple Crumb Pie from Maria’s Italian Kitchen. I tried to get the recipe from them and got an email from Madelyn Alfano (the owner) that they make their pies in huge quantities, so she doesn’t have the single recipe for me. But she did tell me that it’s a butter crust and is made by hand, as opposed to the machine-made shortening crusts from Marie Calendars—which I had mentioned I am not a fan of.
And so the quest began for the perfect butter crust pie. It would have been remiss for me not to have consulted the queen of cake and pastry, Rose Levy Beranbaum. I had to wait for my book, The Pie and Pastry Bible to arrive on Monday to start. (Agony!)
In the meantime, I scoured the internet and watched demonstrations on how to make pie dough on thejoyofbaking.com. (great site)
I was ecstatic when my book arrived on Monday—well “books” actually, since I also ordered The Bread Bible. (Gotta love Amazon) And even more ecstatic to find a recipe for Apple Crumb Pie, with a cream cheese and butter dough and a delicious cinnamon walnut streusel (crumb topping)!
The Pie and Pastry Bible reads almost like an autobiography, with tips, details and gorgeous photos. I am dying to make everything in it! (I have a major thing for pastry—it’s a bit of a problem.)
After reading all about the dough-making process and the issues that can come up, I decided to get a good night’s sleep and dive in on Tuesday morning.
In the meantime, I tried desperately to find a demonstration online of Rose doing her ziplock bag technique—to no avail.
The mixture was very dry and tough to knead into a piece of dough—with the knuckles and heels of your hands, like she says to do.
Maybe I left the pieces of cream cheese and/or butter too big?
I was in waaaay too much of a flap to take pics of the process, hence the spotty representation of the dough-making-process!
But I did manage to flatten it into a pretty good-looking disk, so was quite happy.
Unfortunately, I was now only left with 6 hours to refrigerate the disk—not overnight, which I had planned.
The dough felt very tough and hard to roll out. The video that I (and 170,000 people) watched on how to roll pie dough on thejoyofbaking.com sure made it look easier than it was… for me at least.
The dough kept sticking and then tearing on the ends.
But I remembered her saying on the video that it won’t be perfect the first time and to just piece it together and practice makes perfect.
I was very proud that I managed to roll it onto the rolling pin and then into the pan (seemed daunting) and it looked pretty darn good.
Though the crimping did not look pretty. (Again, looked much easier when they did it!)
I baked the pie with the beans, and that’s when the sides started to crack. So sad.
But I just figured that the apples would cover it up and hopefully the juices wouldn’t all leak through and burn on the bottom.
The apples didn’t release the 2/3 of a cup of juice like she said they would, after sitting over a colander, but I still kept going. And I must say they did taste delicious once I had poured the caramelized juices over them. (The same caramelly taste as the Maria’s Crumb Pie.)
I forgot to put the baking sheet in before preheating the oven, but luckily remembered with enough time for 15 minutes in the oven.
I guess I took her too literally when she said to pinch the dough lightly between your fingers to form 1/2 inch pieces.
I also made my “foil ring” too thick, because when I took the pie out of the oven, there was one strip of what looked a bit like dog food pellets surrounding the nicely browned middle streusel.
I then had to put patches of foil on the browned parts in an attempt to get all of it evenly browned. But I just couldn’t get the darn streusel evenly browned for fear of over-doing the crust!
It was at this point that Sam came in, so I can’t hold his comment against him… completely.
I was seriously contemplating having a big piece of the Sad Apple Pie with a scoop of Dreyer’s Vanilla Bean RIGHT THEN and purchasing one from Gelson’s to take to Sam’s sister and her family in Novato!
As I said before, I am much better at making cookies than cakes and other whole items where I can’t have a taste beforehand.
Luckily Sam wouldn’t let me do it.
To refrigerate or not to refrigerate?
It was now midnight and I had a steaming hot pie and didn’t know what to do with it. I looked online but believe it or not there was no advice on how to handle a hot pie at bedtime.
I decided to just leave it on the cooking rack, lightly covered with a paper towel, praying that I would wake up sometime in the night! Which I did.
At 2am the pie was put into the upside-down cake Tupperware.
What would you have done?
Refrigerated the hot pie?
After taking a peek at the Gelson’s Apple Pie the next day and realizing that I should’ve left more “crumbs”, I went home and made a second batch of streusel on a baking sheet.
Brilliant! (If I say so myself)
That made the pie look way better.
So we schlepped the pie to Novato (San Francisco Bay Area)—with a beautiful Pumpkin Pie from the Gelsons Bakery as backup!
We finally cut the pie…
And people were asking for seconds even before finishing their first slice. Even my extremely picky niece who tells it exactly like it is!
It was sooo tasty and even the dough was delicious. This is Rose’s favorite pie crust and “took several years and over fifty tries to get it just right.” As she says, it is tender and also flaky—the exact type of dough I had been on a quest to find. Using the cream cheese takes away the guessing game of how much water to add, which for newbies like me is a huge bonus!
So… a very happy ending to a long and sometimes not-so-happy story.
I will definitely attempt this again soon, and hopefully after some more research will discover why the dough was hard and dry.
As always, I love to get feedback and suggestions.
Unfortunately, for obvious and understandable reasons, Rose asks that us “bloggers” do not post her recipes online. Her recipes are so good that I will still continue to post my pics and experiences in the hopes that it will inspire you to go out and buy her cookbooks.
I used an equal amount each of Pink Lady, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples and it was the perfect balance of tart and sweet.
Next time I will double up on the streusel up front.
I might try the method from thejoyofbaking.com instead of the ziplock bag method, because I don’t think I am doing it right. Even though the pie turned out delicious.
If you find a clip of Rose or someone else using a ziplock bag to put her dough together, please send it to me!
I didn’t cut a 13″ circle out of the dough like she said to do. I just put the pie plate upside down on top of the dough (not actually resting on it though) like I saw Stephanie do on joyofbaking.com to see that the dough was big enough. Truthfully I wouldn’t have had enough dough to make a 13″ circle! Before I make it again I will measure the pie plate I used (per Rose’s book) and see that it is actually a 9″ pie dish—since they can fluctuate quite a bit.
Another good tip I saw was to keep a pastry brush handy and brush off the dough when you put it on the rolling pin to transfer, so there’s no excess flour on the dough, which can make it bitter.
I am hoping that I inspire someone out there to bake something you haven’t tried before. It is so rewarding—especially when it turns out!
If you’re interested in making pies or pastries, please buy Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Pie and Pastry Bible.
$31.50 on Amazon.
The perfect holiday gift for someone who loves to bake.