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~ Dutch Apple, Sour Cream & Walnut-Streusel Pie ~

IMG_4589"It's as easy as apple pie."  I hear people say it all the time, and, it annoys me every time because it is a very misleading statement.  Baking a really good apple pie is not as easy as "A, B, C", "one, two three" or even "snap, crackle, pop".  Too many people think that just because they've baked an apple pie it automatically qualifies for awesome apple pie status.  It does not.  I have encountered more than a few nasty renditions:  from overcooked to undercooked, sickeningly sweet to vapid, and, soupy to pasty, they were anything but the "pleasant and accommodating" experience Mark Twain painted in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The phrase "it's as easy as pie" originated a century ago when almost every American homemaker baked pies several times a week.  It was a task so familiar, it was done without any real effort.  When it came to apple pies, they used the apples that grew in their climate and adapted the recipes of their family's heritage to suit those apples.  More often than not, they picked them off of a tree in their backyard or bartered for a basket from their neighbor.  They did not have the luxury of walking into a market and choosing from five or six varieties (from the hundreds of varieties mass produced in the world today).  It really was, "as easy as pie!"

An apple a day might keep the doctor away but:

 All apples are not created equally.  

IMG_2575Just because an apple tastes good does not make it pie-friendly!

Just because it tastes good does not make it pie-friendly.  My favorite eating apple is the soft-fleshed, creamy McIntosh, and, I use them to make applesauce too.  My husband Joe grows Fuji's and Granny Smith's in our backyard -- they both taste great and do well in our Central PA climate.  Fuji's are relative newcomers to America's apple scene.  They're crisp, sweet and are best eaten raw in salads and slaws.  As for the Granny Smith, originally from Australia, with its bright-green skin, tart taste and crisp texture, not only is it pie friendly, it is wonderful when cooked with savory foods (like onions) or served with salty foods (like cheese). I could go on -- and on -- there are hundreds of varieties of apples in the world, with about 60 of them mass grown in America.  My point is:  before you put an apple in a pie, find out if it is pie friendly!

So what exactly is a Dutch-style apple pie?

IMG_4597Recipes for Dutch apple pie date back centuries with the first written recipe appearing in 1514 (and it is said to be almost identical to modern day recipes).  The basis for a Dutch apple pie is a single crust pie with a filling of thinly-sliced crisp, tart apples (to create dense apple layers).  A judicious use of sugar in combination with cinnamon, lemon juice and sometimes sour cream give this pie a pleasant tart tang.  Raisins and/or nuts are common additions.  Traditional Dutch apple pie comes in two varieties:  a streusel topping or a lattice top made with leftover scraps of dough. Here in the USA, "Dutch Apple Pie" specifically refers to a streusel topped pie.

The Dutch apple pie is my favorite kind of apple pie and it isn't just because I grew up in Pennsylvania Deutsch country (I refer to the Lehigh Valley of PA "the land of apple desserts") and currently live in Amish country.  I really do prefer it to the typical two-crust apple pie.  For me, a flaky pie crust on the bottom and a buttery, crispy streusel on the top is the best of both worlds. The sour cream, which gives it an enchanting tangy taste and luxurious creamy texture pretty much eliminates the need for a scoop of ice cream.  It is the Dutch apple pie that has earned its place on my annual Thanksgiving dessert buffet (right next to the traditional pumpkin pie)!

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fd1ccef1970bFor the pie pastry:

1  recipe for pate brisee, or your favorite pie pastry recipe, rolled, fitted into a 9" pie dish and decoratively edged (Note:  In a pinch, a high-quality store-bought crust will work too.)

Note:  Pate brisee is the French term for "short pastry" used for both sweet and savory crusts, like pies and quiches.  You can find my recipe for ~ Making Pate Brisee:  Basic Pie or Quiche Pastry ~ in Categories 6, 15 or 22.  It's really easy to make your own pastry and takes less than 5 minutes in the food processor, and, you can make several in advance.  I freeze them flat, layered between sheets of parchment.  Just thaw and use.  How convenient is that!

IMG_5122For the walnut-streusel topping: "Streusel" (STROO-zuhl) is the German word for "something scattered or sprinkled".  In baking, it is a crumbly topping for pies, coffeecakes and muffins.  It's made from a mixture of flour, butter and sugar, but it is not uncommon for nuts, oats or spices to be added. This is my favorite blend, especially for tart pies (like apple, cherry, peach or rhubarb), where sweetness, rather than a mundane top crust, is a welcome addition!

IMG_43066  tablespoons cold, salted butter, cut into cubes or slices

1/2  cup sugar

1/2  cup all-purpose flour

1/2  cup old-fashioned, uncooked oats, not quick-cooking or instant

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon 

1  cup coarsely-chopped walnuts or pecans (optional) (I don't add nuts for cherry or rhubarb pie but do for apple and peach pie!)

IMG_4353For the pie filling:

1 1/2  pounds peeled, cored and thinly-sliced Granny Smith Apples (Note:  I got 1 1/2 pounds from 4, large, 9-ounce apples.  If your apples are smaller, you may need 6-7 apples.)

1/2  cup sugar

6  tablespoons all-purpose flour

1  cup sour cream

1  teaspoon lemon juice

IMG_43571/2  teaspoon pure apple extract*

1/2  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4  teaspoon ground cloves

1/8  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

* Note:  Never heard of apple extract?  Neither had I until about a year ago.  Olive Nation, however, has "turned me on to it", along with many other organic extracts and flavorings (key lime, mango, peach, pineapple, etc.).  Check them out!

IMG_4303~ Step 1.  Prepare the pie pastry. Roll, fit, form and edge one 9" pie pastry as directed in specific recipe. I use a 9" quiche dish because I like the look of streusel pies baked in a fluted-edged pan.  You can prepare the crust up to a day in advance of baking the pie, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight. Just be sure to remove it from the refrigerator an hour or so prior to assembling and baking the pie so the crust is at room temperature when it goes into the oven.

IMG_4311 IMG_4321 IMG_4324~ Step 2.  Prepare the walnut-streusel topping. In a medium mixing bowl, using a pastry blender and a sharp knife, "cut" the IMG_4344butter into the sugar, flour IMG_4332and cinnamon until  mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs.

IMG_4335Fold in the nuts, which are  the same size as the butter pieces.

IMG_4364 IMG_4367 IMG_4370 IMG_4374~Step 3.  Prepare the pie filling.  In a large mixing bowl, using a large rubber spatula, stir together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt.  Add the sour cream, lemon juice and extracts.  Thoroughly stir.  Mixture should be smooth and uniform in color.  Set aside.

IMG_4394 IMG_4398 IMG_4404~ Step 4.  Peel,  slice and add the apples in increments as you work, stirring into the sour cream mixture each time.

This will insure the apples all get thoroughly and evenly coated in the sour cream mixture:  

IMG_4381Note: I slice my apples to a thickness of 1/4" to slightly less than 1/4".  It is important for know that if you slice your apples thicker or thinner, this will affect the baking time and the end result.

IMG_4415~ Step 5.  Spoon the pie filling into the pie shell. Take your time, meaning: don't dump it in.  With each spoonful, make sure the apples are randomly layered flat on top of each other, with not a lot of wasted air space in between.

IMG_4427Trust me, all of the pie filling will fit, and yes, the pie dish will be very full. This is exactly what you want.

IMG_4438~ Step 6.  Spoon the streusel topping evenly over the pie filling, taking the time to spread it into the edges and mound it towards the center.  Do not pack it or anything down.  Keep it light and airy.

IMG_4446Trust me, all of the streusel topping will fit, and yes, the pie dish will be really, really full.  This is exactly what you want.

~ Step 7.  Bake on center rack of 350 degree oven for 1 hour.  After the first 30 minutes in the oven, lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the top of the pie.  Make no attempt to seal it.  The foil sheet is there for protection, to keep the walnuts from burning.  Remove pie from oven and place on a cooling rack, to cool completely prior to slicing and serving, 4-6 hours or overnight. 

Pie going into the oven:

IMG_4466Pie coming out of the oven:

IMG_4477Pie going into my mouth:

IMG_4604Dutch Apple, Sour Cream & Walnut-Streusel Pie:  Recipe yields 1, 9" pie, 8 servings.

Special Equipment List:  9" pie or quiche dish; pastry blender; paring knife; large rubber spatula; vegetable peeler; cutting board; chef's knife; large spoon; aluminum foil; cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b0147e01a0cb0970bCook's Note:  This amazing combination of McIntosh apples, Bosc pear, clove-studded oranges and white wine is not your grandmother's applesauce.  I simmer and puree a bit batch every Fall to have on hand in my freezer all year.  To get my recipe for ~ Simply Silky-Smooth Spiced Apple-Pear Puree ~, just click into Categories 4, 8, 18 or 22!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)


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