Fall is a Gravenstein apple fresh from the tree.
Growing up in Nova Scotia, I was lucky to live in a corner of the world where some of its best apples are produced.
The province’s Annapolis Valley, with its particular combination of soil and micro-climate, is home to an industry responsible for almost 10% of Canada’s total apple production.
A trip to a Valley U-pick was a favorite autumn activity.
Now I live in New Brunswick, on the other side of the Fundy basin that generates this region’s unique climactic conditions, and while the apple industry is smaller here, a trip to the nearby orchard is still an annual family ritual.
And what can’t you do with apples?
Apple sauce, apple butter, apple crisp, cake, muffins…
It’s not something I usually make, but once in a while (like when you’ve spent the past week experiencing almost every possible complication there is from cataract surgery) it’s the best thing.
This Apple Caramel Streusel Pie isn’t an everyday kind of dessert (too much butter and cream for that), but it’s a perfect celebration of the season, and makes a wonderful alternative to pumpkin pie for people who don’t do squash.
The pie will need time to set after baking: if you serve it too soon the caramel will be runny. If you can, it’s best to make it a day ahead.
If pie pastry makes you nervous, here are a few tips:
- Chill your ingredients before you start, especially in warmer weather. At least make sure the butter and water are cold.
- Use a combination of butter and shortening or lard for the best balance of taste and flakiness.
- Cut the fat in with a pastry blender to keep the warmth of your hands from melting the butter. At the very end you can do a quick rub through your fingers.
- Sprinkle the water over the flour mixture and blend with a fork just until a rough ball forms. Don’t let the dough get wet or sticky.
- When you are able to form a rough ball, put it in a plastic bag and flatten slightly, then let it sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before you roll it out. This gives the dough time to relax, and will give the flour time to absorb the water.
- When you are ready to roll out your dough, sprinkle the rolling surface with a bit of flour and rub your rolling pin with flour, too. Lightly sprinkle the dough and surface with flour as needed to prevent sticking.
- When the dough is about 1/8-inch thick, place it over your pie plate. Gently push the dough to the bottom of the pie plate, and trip the edges with a sharp knife or scissors. Leave a bit of dough hanging over the edge.
- Turn the extra dough under and pinch the edges with your finger to form a decorative edge. This video from Fine Cooking shows how to make a lovely fluted pie crust.
If you’d rather not make your own pastry, there are plenty of good pre-made crusts available. One of those will do just fine.
I prefer using a tart, firm apple for this recipe, but use whatever is readily available, and enjoy the beauty of the season.
- 2 cups / 500 ml all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons / 30 ml sugar
- 1 teaspoon / 5 ml salt
- ⅓ cup / 80 ml cold butter, cut in small cubes
- ⅓ cup / 80 ml shortening or lard, cut in small cubes
- 4-6 tablespoons / 60-90 ml cold water (place in freezer until ready to use)
- Extra flour for rolling
- 6 medium apples: peeled, cored and thinly sliced (about 6 cups / 1-1/2 liters)
- ¼ cup / 60 ml all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup / 60 ml brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon / 5 ml cinnamon
- ½ cup / 125 ml butter
- ½ cup / 125 ml brown sugar
- ½ cup / 125 ml whipping cream (35% fat)
- 1 teaspoon / 5 ml vanilla
- Pinch salt
- ½ cup / 125 ml all-purpose flour
- ½ cup / 125 ml brown sugar
- ⅓ cup / 80 ml butter. in small cubes
- In mixing bowl, stir the flour, sugar and salt together.
- Toss cubed butter and shortening or lard in the flour mixture.
- With a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the fat into the flour until the mixture looks crumbly and there are no lumps bigger than a pea in the flour.
- Remove the water from the freezer and sprinkle 3 tablespoons / 45 ml over the flour mixture.
- Toss the mixture with a fork.
- Sprinkle another tablespoon of water over, and toss with fork again. The dough should begin to hold together a bit. Stir gently to see if you can form a ball.
- If needed, sprinkle 1-2 more tablespoons / 15-30 ml of water over, then with hands form a ball with the dough. It's okay if it is not completely smooth.
- Place the dough in a bag and flatten slightly. Leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes while you continue with the rest of the pie preparation.
- Toss sliced apples with the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside while you prepare caramel and streusel.
- In medium saucepan, melt brown sugar and butter together.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer and stir for one minute.
- Add the whipping cream and stir until completely blended. Bring the mixture back to a simmer, and continue stirring until the sauce has started to thicken and turn a rich brown color. This should take about 5 minutes.
- Remove the caramel from the heat and add vanilla and salt. Be careful, as the vanilla will sputter a bit when it is added.
- Stir and set aside.
- Mix flour and butter in a small bowl.
- Toss butter with the flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until it forms small crumbs. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F / 204 degrees C.
- Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface. The dough will be a bit stiff from the fridge, but be patient. Sprinkle flour over the surface and the dough as needed to prevent sticking.
- Roll dough out into a circle larger than your 9-inch / 23 cm pie pan.
- Place the dough over the pan and gently ease dough into pan. Trim excess dough and crimp the edges to create a decorative edge.
- Spread apple mixture over pastry.
- Pour caramel sauce over apples and cover with streusel.
- Bake in 400 degree F / 204 degree C oven for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees F / 177 degrees C and continue baking for 50-55 minutes until pastry is golden brown and apples are tender.
- Remove from oven and cool completely before serving.