(I've been cooking from a random cookbook each week even when I've been too busy with edits to blog about it, so now that I'm back in the land of the blogging I'll be posting a month's worth of catch-up entries.)
I don't think of myself as a pie person even though the last few years I've made the pecan and pumpkin pies at our family Christmas celebrations, and depending on the season I often make a pecan or a berry pie when we have dinner guests. You see, a real pie person would make her own crusts, and for some reason homemade pie crusts intimidate me. I feel the same way about yeast breads. I'm game for anything else that's within a normal home cook's repertoire, but those two feel like you need a PhD in advanced cookery to tackle, or something. I don't claim this is rational. Maybe next year my culinary challenge will be "overcome yeast phobia."
My mom could do both, naturally. She rarely baked bread, but she made pies ALL THE TIME, always made her own crusts, and looked with scorn upon ready-made pie shells. I mean, next thing you'd be making your cakes from a MIX.
So now, whenever anyone praises my pecan pie, I'm all self-deprecating and say, "Oh, thanks, but I cheated. I used a store-bought crust. My mom would've made the crust, too." And when The Pie and Pastry Bible came up in the rotation, I felt preemptively guilty, because I knew I'd end up cheating and using a ready-made crust.
But I did not! Instead I chose to make...
CRUSTLESS APPLE CRUMB PIE
5 c. baking apples, peeled & sliced 1/2 inch thick (~3 large)
1 1/2 t. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 T light brown sugar
2 T granulated sugar
3/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/8 t. nutmeg, pref. freshly grated
1/8 t. salt
1 T unsalted butter
2 T + 2 t. light brown sugar
1 T. sugar
1/2 c. walnut halves
1/16 t. salt
3/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. unsalted butter, melted
3/4 t. vanilla extract
EQUIPMENT: a 9-inch pie pan
Preheat oven to 400 F. Set oven rack on 2nd level from the bottom.
In a large bowl, combine apples, lemon juice, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and toss to mix. Allow the mixture to sit for 30 minutes to an hour.
MAKE THE TOPPING:
In a food processor, pulse together sugars, nuts, salt, and cinnamon until the nuts are coarsely chopped. Add the flour, butter, and vanilla and pulse until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Empty into a small bowl and with your fingertips lightly pinch the mixture to form little clumps.
Transfer the apples and their juices to a colander suspended over a bowl to capture the liquid. The mixture will exude about 1/4 c. of liquid.
In a small saucepan, reduce this liquid, over medium-high heat, with the butter, to 2 T. Pour the hot liquid over the apples, tossing them gently.
Transfer the apples to the baking dish. Pour in all the remaining juice. Cover the dish with foil and make a 1-inch slash in the middle. Bake the apples for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil and sprinkle the surface evenly with the topping. Continue baking for 20-25 minutes or until the topping is crisp and golden brown, the fruit juices are bubbling thickly around the edges, and the apples feel tender but not mushy when a cake tester or small sharp knife is inserted.
Cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature.
It came out looking like this:
Not the most photogenic dessert ever. It was reasonably tasty, though not enough so to justify the amount of work that went into it. It would've been far better with some vanilla or dulce de leche ice cream, though.