I had some apples that were beginning to get soft, so I looked for an apple pie recipe today and came up with this one. The title, as well as the technique for the crust, appealed to me.
Earlier in the year, my sister-in-law, Colleen, had kindly sent me a cookbook for inspiration called Home Baking by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. Frankly, I was intimidated by it. It is a huge, heavy book. Baking cookbooks make me nervous because baking requires a certain amount of precision, which is not what I am about as a cook. But when I sat down and finally looked at it today, it is filled with wonderful recipes. Why did I wait so long?
Here's how I made their recipe for Simplest Apple Pie:
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar, more for the apples, if needed
12 T. ( 1 1/2 sticks) butter, cut into small cubes, softened
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
3 T. sour cream
zest of one lemon (they said on a 1 t. but I love lemon zest)
up to 2 T. cold water, as needed
About 3 T. fine fresh bread crumbs
8 medium-to-large McIntosh apples (nearly 4 pounds)
2 T. fresh lemon juice
sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg (my addition to the recipe)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 8 x 8 inch square baking pan.
This part was easy:
Mix the flour and 1/2 cup sugar in a medium bowl. In another medium bowl, place the cubed butter. Add the egg yolks and sour cream and beat with a wooden spoon. Add to the flour mixture and stir. Add the lemon zest. Use your fingers to break up lumps so the mixture has a coarse cornmeal texture. Add water a little at a time if needed to make the dough come together, blending it in, then pull the dough together into a mass. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.
This part was a pain in the neck:
Peel the apples. Core them, too. Using a coarse grater, grate the apples. Should be about 8 cups. Coat them with the lemon juice as you go. They still will turn brown and look ugly.
If needed, add some sugar. I didn't, but Tom wishes I had added brown sugar.
Then for the fun part:
Spread the breadcrumbs in the bottom of the pan. (Don't know why the breadcrumbs are needed.) Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut it in half. Place one half in the bottom of the pan on top of the breadcrumbs and press it out until it covers the bottom of the pan. Pile on the grated apples, mounding them up in the middle. Crumble the rest of the dough over the top of the apples to cover.
Bake for 1 hour, or until the top is touched with golden brown. Serve hot or at room temperature.
The book says that it is a recipe of Eastern European Jewish origin. I am not sure that I would call it pie. It's more of a cobbler. Pies are round and this one is square. And, I wouldn't call it simple. Plan more time than you think for grating the apples and cleaning up the mess. But I will still make it again.