Crumble-topped apple pies used to be my absolute favorite type of pie. When I was a little kid, I was even known to ask servers in a restaurants whether their pies were crumble-topped or not, and base my dessert decisions entirely on their answers. This all came to an end around the time that I first had a traditional apple pie with a really great crust. Now, I would have to say that my favorite is a double-crust apple pie, although I still have a soft spot for crumble-toppings.
For some reason that I have never been able to figure out, apple crumble pies are often called French Apple Pies, though they seem to be more strongly reminiscent of homey cobblers and such than any french desserts I’ve had. The pies start off the same way a “regular” pie does, with a single layer of pie crust and a filling of apples, sugar and spices. This filling is not topped with another sheet of crust, but instead is topped with a generous layer of crumble mixture. Typically, it is made with a mix of butter, flour and sugar, but can range in texture from a a coffee-cake crumble topping to a crispy layer of oats and nuts.
My topping is of the crispier variety, as I like the texture that oats give to the crumble and the contrast it makes with the tender apples in the filling. I used Granny Smith apples for this pie, although I also like to use Jonagolds or a mixture of multiple types of apples for fillings for variety.
When it comes to crust, I prefer one made with a combination of butter and shortening (nonhydrogenated, of course) to one made with all one or the other because it turns out a crust with the perfect degree of flakiness and tenderness. All shortening crusts sometimes tend to be a little crumbly, while all butter crusts can get a little tough at times. But I’ll take all butter over all shortening any day, and that is exactly what I did here. I took care, however, when cutting the butter into the flour mixture, to leave some larger, pea-sized pieces of butter to keep the crust as light and flaky as possible. I added a bit of sugar to help brown the crust as it baked, too.
Apple Crumble Pie
All Butter Single Pie Crust:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter, chilled and cut into pieces
4-6 tbsp ice water
Whisk together flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Rub in butter with your fingertips, pressing it into the flour mixture and breaking it up, until mixture resemble very coarse sand and no pieces larger than a large pea remain. Using a fork, stir in ice water until dough almost comes together into a ball. Press dough into a ball with your hands and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least 30-60 minutes before using.
6 med/lg granny smith, jonagold or other pie apples
1 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
Mix apples, sugar, flour, spices and salt together in large mixing bowl. Set aside until dough is rolled out.
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup quick cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch freshly ground nutmeg
3 tbsp butter, chilled and cut into pieces
Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Add in butter and rub in with your fingertips, pressing it into the flour mixture and breaking it up, until mixture resemble very coarse sand. Set aside until dough is rolled out.
Preheat the oven to 450F.
On a large, lightly floured, flat surface, roll out the chilled pie crust into a large circle. Add more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Keep rolling until the dough will fill the pie dish, which you can double check by holding the pie plate over the dough and looking for 1-2 inches extra crust around the rim of the plate. Gently lay the bottom crust into the dish, crimping the edges if you desire (or just pinching them off, as I tend to do). Lightly score with a fork 4 or 5 times.
Fill pie dish with filling, leaving any excess juice at the bottom of the bowl to help keep the pie from getting soggy. Arrange slices in an even layer. Top with crumble topping, squeezing it into small clumps in your hand (to create larger crumbles) as you finish the pie.
Bake pie for 20 minutes at 450F, until browned. Turn down oven temperature to 350F and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes, until pie is dark gold and apple slices are tender when pierced with a fork. If the apples are not tender and you need to bake for an additional 5 or 10 minutes (some types of apples are very resiliant in the oven. Granny Smiths worked fine for me at this time) and are worried about over-browning the crust, you can place a ring of foil around the edge of the pie plate to shield it from the heat while the filling finishes cooking.
Cool down to room temperature before slicing.