I live in the tropics, so this means we only have two seasons: blisteringly hot and dry and torrentially wet. As we are currently in the throes of an El Nino, the weather continues unusually hot despite the fact that we are nearly halfway through November. Nevertheless, in my book at the very least, it wouldn’t be the run-up to Christmas without me baking at least one apple pie.
I featured my personal recipe for apple pie six years ago and it is a recipe that has stood the test of time and remains a firm favourite among family and friends. It has evolved over the years and its 2015 iteration is the most interesting it has ever been.
This year, we have a touch too many almonds in the house at the moment. My sister’s boyfriend gave Mom a massive bag of those nuts earlier this year. Then a cousin sent over an equally large bag. Throw in the huge jar of unroasted almonds an aunt brought in from California and it would certainly be safe to say that we have a regular glut of the stuff.
Apples and almonds are a classic combination that is usually eaten in salads or in traditional Jewish desserts and seasonal condiments such as haroset which is eaten during Passover. In many Western countries, the combination is more commonly seen in baked goods that are warm and satisfying, perfect foil to the encroaching cold that seeps in as autumn gradually gives way to winter. That said, I decided to use the nuts to give my pie a toasty aroma and a luscious taste that certainly evokes the hearty flavours of the season – a perfect precursor to the delights of the Holiday feast.
One more thing: I subscribe to the notion of using two varieties of apples for an apple pie. In Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess, she features a dish referred to as “Double Apple Pie as it uses Cox and Bramley apples. The thing here is that you need a crisp, tart apple to bring on the texture and a sweeter, mealier-textured one to round out the taste. For this particular recipe, I used mealy but sweet Washington apples with their dark red – almost maroon-coloured – skins and the paler, crispier Fuji variety. When you bake this in your own kitchen, try different varieties until you find a combination that suits you just fine.
Also: throw in a pinch of cinnamon into the crust for extra flavour. 😉
Almond Crumble Apple Pie
For the Crust:
- 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
- 1/4 cup vegetable shortening or butter
- 1/4 cup iced water
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the Filling:
- 3 medium Fuji apples, peeled, cored, and diced
- 3 medium Washington apples, peeled, cored, and diced
- 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
For the Streusel:
- 1/4 cup ground almonds
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons margarine or butter
Grease a nine-inch pie plate; set aside. Cut the shortening and salt into the flour with two knives or a pastry blender until the mixture has the appearance of fine breadcrumbs. Add the iced water by tablespoons, tossing the mixture with a fork until well combined. Form dough into a ball and set upon a floured surface. Roll out the dough to approximately 1/2 inch thickness and line the prepared pan. Set aside.
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees / Gas Mark 5.
Make the streusel by cutting together the flour, brown sugar, and butter till the mixture also resembles breadcrumbs. Set aside.
Toss the sliced apples with the brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour. Leave to rest for about fifteen minutes. Drain off much of the liquid; otherwise, your filling could make the crust soggy.
Dump the filling into the prepared crust, evenly spreading it over the surface. Cover with the streusel.
Cover with aluminium foile and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 20 minutes.
Serve hot with ice cream or allow to cool completely and serve with hot coffee.
Makes 1 pie and serves about 8.