%0A EASY FRENCH 3-COURSE MEAL FOR VALENTINE’S DAY AT HOME:  2-HOUR COOKING CLASS @  SHOUSE APPLIANCE  THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 5:  5-7PM.  INTRODUCTORY OFFER 2 FOR 1.  $50.00 for two students–includes food, recipes and ideas for wine pairing. Email me or leave me a message. Can’t wait to cook with you!  Ok, now on to the pie…

I make this apple pie for special people. Special times. I make it when I have a little extra time to think and bake.  It’s not simple. I can never remember exactly how to make it. I have two recipes and I never use either one.  I use a combination of the two with my own little caveats including a crust I’ve come up with over the years. I think I might have actually documented it now.  Make it and let me know.

If there were a best pie in the world, this might be it. Not that apple is the tops for sure (go cherry–apple’s not my favorite), or that I’m prejudiced,  but somehow this particular pie just takes the cake. Hmm.  Think of the very crispest apples holding their shape in fragrant layers under a crust. Dream on to a silky smooth undercurrent of tart custard holding them together on a bottom crust you just sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar. Up on top, chunky browned streusel with the nuts poking up like tiny, kissable toes under a crocheted baby’s blanket and adding a buttery crunch only God could have thought of. There you go. You got it. The best pie in the world. And it’s yours. Now or at Thanksgiving. Or Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day…or today if you’ve made your partner/friend/neighbor/father mad and need to make amends. This pie could make saying, “I’m sorry,” not so terribly difficult. And he or she just might share a piece. Very rich indeed, this is a very special occasion sweet, and calls for just a tiny slice. Or two.  It also needs two drinks:  coffee and Calvados.

If it’s not a special occasion and you have no one you need to make up with, you can make this pie on a day when you need something special to do.  Like when the weather is freezing and if you didn’t make this pie you’d have to clean out your sock drawer or weed the kitchen towels or think out some horribly necessary endeavor you’ve been putting off for ten years anyway.  Or when you just can’t watch or follow the incessant slaughter within our world and need an hour or two’s break.  Invite a neighbor or two and watch a movie while snow flies.  Let them eat pie and pray for peace.

 Read THE ATLANTIC’S article on the massacre in Nigeria and the Paris terrorist killings here.

Try this: IMG_7062

(above–a version with more finely chopped nuts in the streusel)

Sour Cream Apple Pie with Walnut Streusel

Serves 6-8

Make the dough, roll it out, put it in the pie plate and refrigerate it while you make the apple filling and then the walnut streusel topping. When baking, make sure you put a rimmed, foil-lined baking sheet under the pie plate in case of drips.  The pie needs to cool nearly completely before slicing, so begin by early afternoon if you want this for tonight’s dinner dessert.

Make the dough for the crust:

  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose, unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup iced apple juice or cider
  • 1 tablespoon white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. In food processor place flour, butter, and salt. Pulse until mixture has several different sized lumps from rolled oats to peanut M&M-sized.
  2. Pour ice water in slowly, while processing, and continue processing until dough just begins to hold together. Do not over-process.
  3. Remove to a well-floured board or counter and quickly pat together first into a ball and then into a disc. Sprinkle both the disc and the rolling pin with flour and roll into an circle about 1/8″ thick and 2″ larger than the diameter of your pie pan. Turn the pie pan upside down and hold it over your dough to check size. (You can also do this between sheets of waxed paper on a dampened counter, turning over and rolling once on other side to release dough after your dough is about 11″.) Carefully and loosely roll pie onto your rolling pin and drape over the pan so that you can
  4. Line a 10″ pie pan (or 9 1/2 if you can’t find 10-inch) with the dough, making sure there are no air bubbles in the bottom on the crust. Trim overhang and crimp. If you don’t know how to crimp a pie crust, use a table fork and press the edges of the dough into the rim of the pie plate. (See bottom of post for photos on crimping; they may help.) I recommend glass Pyrex pie plates so you can see how done the crust is.
  5. You can buy pre-made dough in the refrigerator section at the market. Fit it in the pan and continue. Don’t buy frozen crust, please.
  6. Mix sugar and cinnamon in a small cup and sprinkle evenly over the crust.
  7. Place crust in refrigerator while you make the filling and the topping.

Preheat oven to 350 and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Make the filling and then the topping.

Make the apple and sour cream filling:

  • 8 tart apples such as Granny Smith or Honeycrisp, cored, and sliced (no need to peel)
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose, unbleached flour
  1. Place sliced apples in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream, sugar and egg. Add salt, vanilla and flour. Beat well.
  3. Stir sour cream mixture into the apples and mix well.
  4. Pour apple mixture into the chilled cinnamon-sugar pie crust and make topping.

Make the walnut-streusel topping:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl using a fork and softened butter if by hand or using a food processor and cold butter if making by machine. Do not over-process; it’s nice for the walnuts to not be too small here. If you’d like them in larger pieces, stir them in at the end. Spread the topping over the apple mixture in the pie crust. Bake and cool the pie: Place filled pie on foil-lined baking sheet and carefully set the sheet in the middle rack of the oven. Bake about an hour, checking the last 10-15 minutes to see if pie is getting too brown. If so, place a sheet of aluminum foil loosely over the pie. Pie is done when the crust is nicely browned, the apples are tender (check with a paring knife), and the topping is crispy and golden. Let cool completely (or nearly) before slicing.  Store leftovers wrapped well for no more than 3 or 4 days.

Recipe provenance or truth in baking: Having made this pie for years, I’ve developed my own method and a combination of several recipes to do it. The pie dough began as the pâte brisée recipe Cuisinart used to put out with its food processors in the early ’80s maybe. (There’s no date on mine) The cinnamon sugar is my addition. The juice idea came from one of the pie recipes: The pie filling is part of a similar recipe (Sour Cream Apple Pie) in THE SILVER PALATE by Sheila Lukens and Julee Rosso (Workman, 1979). The topping is a from a pie in a September, 1984 issue of FAMILY and came to me from an old teammate named Rotraut with whom I happily worked at WOODLAWN PLANTATION.  Woodlawn, if you’ve never visited it, is located in Mount Vernon, Virginia and was originally part of George Washington’s  plantation. The Pope-Leighey House, a small Frank Lloyd Wright gem, is also on the property.  When I worked there, Marjorie Leighey was  still alive and we often had coffee in the Woodlawn kitchen on Saturday mornings, smoking like chimneys.  Don’t miss these gems next time you visit D.C.; they’re right down the road from Mount Vernon on Route 1.

CRIMPING PHOTOS, AS PROMISED:

Seal or crimp edges quickly; don’t over work dough.
You can use your index finger or thumb to press down into the edge

Sing a new song; bake a new pie, Alyce