If you asked me what my favorite dessert was, those who know me are sure I would not say, “apple pie.” When a friend bakes one, naturally I’ll have a small piece. Without regret. But it’s pretty darned weird there are two apple pies on the blog within a month. I’m not a betting woman, but if I were, I sure as heck would have betted against that happening.
Apple-Pecan Pie November 10, 2021
So either something is changing or these are two extra-special apple pies. I’ll leave it to you to decide.
At this time in December, I’m usually knee-deep in cookie dough. Making cookies for the kids, the neighbors, and whatever parties we’re attending. “The kids” are now excellent bakers on their own terms and parties are fewer, right? (I’m ready for that to change, God.) But dear friends were coming to dinner last weekend without a lot of notice and I needed a memorable dessert. Checking out the larder, I had apples, lemons, cranberries, nuts, dates, prunes, and chocolate. Apples, lemons, and cranberries won. After a simple meal of grilled salmon with Puttanesca sauce, green beans with fennel and mushrooms and roasted potatoes, this pie in the sky (we live at 6,500 feet above sea level) was all we needed. Well, maybe a little espresso and a wee dram of whisky or Armagnac. Scottish heritage, French tastes. Wherever you live, you might love it, too. When I teach pie-baking, I teach crostata first. There are reasons for that and while I’ve shared them before, they’re worth repeating:
Why a crostata rather than a traditional American pie? 1. The doughs are very similar, but a crostata has only one crust and that one doesn't have to fit (trimmed, crimped, etc.) in a pie plate. Much easier and the feel is casual and fairly rustic. Easy as pie is a lie; there's that, too. 2. The crostata serves 6 instead of 8. 3. With only one crust, there are less calories and fat. 4. The baker needs less fruit for filling. 5. Either makes a winning breakfast, but my husband Dave votes crostata with Greek yogurt. 6. Crostatas bake in about a half hour and are soon ready to cut. A fruit pie takes at least twice as long and must cool several hours before serving. 7. Try this:
- Parchment paper lined half sheet pan or rimmed baking pan
- Dough for one crostata – recipe below or use your own or use purchased dough
- 2 extra-large apples—about one pound, peeled, cored and cut into 2-inch chunks (I like Pink Lady and Granny Smith, but used Gala here with good results.)
- 1 cup fresh cranberries cut in half or very coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar plus 1 teaspoon to sprinkle on dough before baking
- Zest of half a lemon
- Pecan streusel topping – recipe below
- 1 tablespoon milk-to brush on pastry before sprinkling with the teaspoon of sugar and baking
- DOUGH: MAKE + CHILL (see recipe below): Make the dough as per instructions below (or use your own dough) and chill for an hour or freeze for 15 minutes.
- PREHEAT THE OVEN to 425 degrees F and place oven rack at center. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
- STIR TOGETHER FRUIT: While the pastry chills, in a large bowl stir together the apples, cranberries, sugar, and lemon zest. Set aside.
- MAKE THE PECAN STREUSEL (see recipe below) and set aside.
- ROLL OUT DOUGH: Sprinkle the counter or board lightly with flour. Roll out the chilled pastry dough into an 11-inch round, lifting/turning dough and dusting counter again once or twice to keep dough from sticking. Roll the dough up onto the rolling pin (or carefully fold it into fourths) and move the dough to the center of the parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.
- SPOON APPLES AND CRANBERRIES INTO PASTRY: Spoon/pour the fruit mixture into the center of the pastry, stopping about 1 ½ inches before the edges. Top evenly with the streusel. Bring up the edges of the dough around the fruit, folding or pleating gently as needed to go around in a circle. You’ll have about a 9 ½-inch crostata (9″ after baking). Brush the dough carefully and lightly with the milk and sprinkle only the dough with reserved teaspoon of sugar. (This will help brown the crust.)
- BAKE/COOL/SERVE: Bake for 25-30 minutes or until crust is crispy golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Don’t worry if some of the juices have escaped onto the parchment paper. Remove pan to cooling rack. When it has sat for 30-40 minutes cooling, move the crostata off the paper so that it sits directly on the rack to cool completely as follows: Move the pan off the rack. Using both hands, lift the parchment paper off the pan (keeping the crostata level) and place it back onto the rack with the pie still on it. Carefully slide the crostata off the paper and onto the rack itself while pulling the paper from underneath it. Cool completely or until just warm. Slice and serve warm or at room temperature.Store well-wrapped on the counter for 2-3 days or in the refrigerator for a week. If it’s very warm and humid when you are baking, you might want to wrap and leave the pie in the fridge immediately after serving. We never have much crostata leftover, but I would probably share it with neighbors or eat it for breakfast rather than freeze it. The dough, however, freezes very well if you’d like to make a double batch and freeze one. Let it sit overnight in the fridge, wrapped, to thaw before using.
CHANGE IT UP:
- Use one pear and one apple.
- Sub hazelnuts or walnuts for the pecans.
- Orange zest instead of lemon — Ina’s idea!
- Skip the streusel and use toasted nuts — your choice.
- Use purchased pastry. Just this time. Next time try the real deal.
Want to see photos of the dough being made and rolled out? Scroll down through my Strawberry-Blueberry Crostata post. To see photos of a crostata being made, scroll down through my Plum Crostata with Walnut Streusel.
- By baking at home, you’re already reducing waste. Bravo.
- By baking at home, the food tastes so much better that you eat it all instead of throwing some away. Even better.
- As always, keep all raw nuts in the freezer so they don’t go rancid on you and force you to pitch them.
- Keep your butter (bought on sale) in the freezer. Lasts for months. Defrost in the fridge.
- Buy a freezer if you don’t have one. If you have room, that is.
- Store your brown sugar in a sealable plastic bag within a tightly-sealed plastic or glass container.
- Lots of apples on sale this fall? Store them in the fridge or in a dry, cool place. Check often and pitch the rotten-to-the core fruit.
- Cranberries freeze well. Use them frozen, then quickly rinse, and stir into in baked goods.
- Can’t eat it all? Share. Invite a friend. Whatever. We’re meant to be together around food.
LIFE GOES ON:
below: Christmas comes early sometimes. Met “the kids” for brunch last weekend in Golden, CO at the Table Mountain Inn (MANY THANKS TO ALL WHO COOKED AND SERVED!) had the Carnitas Sweet Potato Hash with Poached Eggs. Perfecto!! A mild Bloody Mary, too — which was actually truly mild. Lovely to be so pampered. We all deserve it.
Between work and travel plans, this was our family celebration together for 2021. Some years, you take what you can get. I’ll be shipping gifts and cookies off to them in the next couple of weeks before we head off in our 2010 Subaru Forester (getting the 90K checkup first) driving to Illinois for Christmas and New Year’s with my husband Dave’s folks in Champaign, Illinois.
I’m having a group of good friends for lunch on Wednesday and you know it’s a soup menu — Creamy Pumpkin-Peanut and Lamb-Italian Sausage Stew (Slow Cooker) — an old, but luscious special meal perfect for the holidays. Everyone’s bringing the rest — bread, wine, salad, cookies. Nice to have so little to do. How are you celebrating this month?
below: Tucker is styling this Christmas….
Thanks for keeping me company in my kitchen. I’m hoping you’re cooking, baking, laughing, and opening that ill-advised second bottle of wine — December, after all, comes only once a year….