I don’t bake. It’s odd, because I used to bake really well. Now I’m a pretty decent cook and I can’t bake anymore. It’s like I lost it. It’s exactly like when Chandler got his third nipple removed and his jokes weren’t funny anymore. The reason, I think, is because I used to be afraid of cooking, and so had the temperament (and in fact have been known to have to go back and look up my own recipes because I forgot what I put in it the last time) to follow a recipe very closely, thus ensuring a successful baked good. Nowadays I don’t use recipes anymore, and baking really requires the discipline to do what the recipe says, that clearly I no longer have. But pie was my assignment, so here we are. I didn’t follow a recipe with this pie, either, but luckily it turned out tasty anyway. (I judge pie success by whether anyone is eating the pie out of the pan, with a fork, several hours after dinner. Which, last night, was me.)
Here’s the secret to pie: don’t make your own crust. Sue always, always makes her own pie crust, but I don’t, because I’m not crazy. To be fair, she makes fantastically good pie crust, flaky and delicious every time. But I don’t do that, because they sell it pre-made in a little box at the store.
Caramel Apple Pie with Pecan Crumble
For the filling:
5 green apples, peeled and sliced thinly (I used Granny Smith, and I wished with all my heart, for the whole 20 minutes it took me to peel and slice those apples, as uniformly as possible, that I had stoled my mother’s apple peeler corer slicer.)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
a squirt of honey or maple syrup (For God’s sake, if your maple syrup isn’t real, don’t use it, and jsut go ahead and throw it out.)
For the crumble on top:
3/4 cup toasted, chopped pecans
1/4 cup quick cooking oats (Full disclosure: I used steel cut oats, because that’s all I had.)
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
dash of cinnamon
1/4 cup cold butter
For the crust:
a pre-made, pre-packaged, pie crust from the store (There’s two in the box, you’ll only need one, so put the other one in the freezer and make sure the one you’re using is totally thawed, or it’ll crumble and be a pain in the ass. Or, keep the other one out and make sugar pie. Your choice.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. When your pie crust is room temperature, lay it into a pie plate and press it in, making a nice little top with your fingers and taking care to make sure there are no cracks. You want to be sure that no caramel-apple juice is going to seep under the crust. Then, dump all the filling ingredients BUT the apples: the butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, nutmeg and maple syrup into a big saute pan and cook on medium heat until it gets thick. When it’s thick, as in, coats nicely the back of a spoon, dump in the sliced apples and cook lightly for 4 or 5 minutes until the apples are a bit soft. Turn off the heat and let them sit in the pan for a few minutes while you assemble the topping.
Dump the flour, brown sugar, oats and cinnamon into a bowl and stir it around until uniformly combined. Cut the cold butter into cubes and mash it around the dry mixture with your fingers, until it becomes crumbly but there isn’t really any dry flour left.
At that point, mix the nuts in gently, and spread the whole lot across the top of the pie.
Bake the thing at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. The crust should be nice and golden brown and the crumble on top should feel crunchy. Let it cool to room temperature (the liquid in it from the caramel and the apples will firm up as it cools) and serve.