Apple Pie with a Crumb Crust

Authentic pie my mom made

Authentic pie my mom made

This apple pie is my favorite dish during the holidays. I will eat this pie for dessert, breakfast the next day, and then again for lunch if there’s any left. I want to make sure I get as much of it as possible so that when the slices run out, I have no regrets. I am jealously possessive of this pie in a way that goes against the holiday spirit.

When I was a kid, my mom would make an apple pie for me and a pumpkin pie for my brother. Dessert time would come around and she would ask, “what do you want?” Sometimes, Eric said apple and I would boil with rage. That was my pie and he was doing this on purpose to infuriate me because he knew I wasn’t going to eat his pumpkin pie. I have no evidence to prove this is true, but it’s how I felt at the time.

I love this pie so much, that in college my mom would make one pie for the holiday meal and one pie for me to take back to my dorm.

Last year, we hosted Thanksgiving for Ryan’s family and I just had to make this pie. It would not be Thanksgiving otherwise. I had helped my mom make this pie before, but usually I just mixed the apples and sugar. Then, I’d eat the apple slices until she told me to stop. Last year was my first year doing it by myself. So the week before, my mom helped me make the crust. The day before, Ryan and I had an apple coring-peeling, slicing sweatshop where we produced a giant mountain of apple slices. All was going well…until it wasn’t.

2012 Thanksgiving pie that I burnt

2012 Thanksgiving pie that I burnt (this is before I tried to fix it)

I made the rookie mistake of not checking on the pie. When I finally took it out of the oven, the crust was a little bit burnt. I was hysterical and inconsolable.

“I’ve ruined dessert!” I cried to Ryan.

No he assured me, I hadn’t. The pie would still be good (and it was). And even if it wasn’t, Ryan’s mom brought a pumpkin pie and I had made cupcakes, so there was still plenty for dessert. But even so, I was disappointed that I’d burnt my pie. So I called my mom to whine some more.

“Mom! I’ve ruined dessert!” I moaned, while Ryan stood nearby shaking his head.

She was sympathetic and then came up with the brilliant idea of scraping off the burnt part, adding new crumbs, and then when I reheated it the new crumbs would cook to the perfect brown. I wasn’t able to remove all of the dark spots, but her scrape and re-apply method really worked out (so keep that in mind if yours gets too dark).

My mom's well loved, ripped, and beat-up cookbook

My mom’s well loved, ripped, and beat-up cookbook

Anyway, Thanksgiving arrived and the pie was devoured. I felt pleased with myself not only for making the pie, but being adult enough to share it with others.

This year, I’ll be eating my mom’s pie. But I made my own a few days early so I could be sure get enough (and so not have to share too much).

This recipe is adapted from my mom’s recipe, which is adapted from the oldest and most beat-up Betty Crocker cookbook. That book is so old, I have no recollection of the cover ever being attached to it.

Ingredients (for a 9″ pie pan):

Pie Crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup+ 1 tbsp shortening (or butter, or 1/3 cup lard)

cup of cold water (you won’t need it all)


8 medium sized apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (I used a mix of Gala, Fuji and Cameo)

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

Crumb topping:

1 cup flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 stick cold butter


1. Put a small cup of water in the freezer.

2. We’re making the pie crust first. In a large bowl, mix the 1 cup flour and 1/2 tsp salt.

3. Cut the shortening into the flour until you have what looks like pieces the size of small peas. (Cut the shortening/lard/butter using 2 butter knives or with a dough blender)

4. Take the water out of the freezer. Add 1 tbsp to the flour. Mix it into the flour with a fork. Keep adding 1 tbsp and mixing with a fork until a dough forms and it isn’t sticking to the side of the bowl. For me this was almost 5 tbsp, but the recipe book says it should be 2-3 tbsp.

5. Gather the dough into a ball and put it on a well-floured counter. Roll out the dough until it’s about 2″ larger than the size of your pie plate.

rolled out

6. To get the crust in the pan, I find it easiest to fold the dough into quarters and place it into your pie plate. Gently unfold the crust and press it into place on the pie pan.


7. Gently pull off dough that is overhanging the edge of the pie pan. If you’re feeling fancy, roll the excess crust into snakes, put it on the crust on the rim of the pie plate, and them crimp it to make a pretty edge. I used a spoon and pinched a little point to make it look pretty.

8. Put the crust in the fridge while you work on your filling. Now preheat the oven to 425°.

9. Peel, core, and cut your apples. This year instead of an apple-prep sweat shop, I used what I call an “apple crank.” It does all three jobs in one, all you have to do is turn the handle and it pushes the apple through the corer, peeler, and slicer. I think it’s awesome, and I felt like it made good slices. After cranking, I cut the apple in half so I had half-moon slices. This is a divergence from my mom, who likes her slices even thinner, so she cuts the apples by hand.

10. In a large bowl mix the sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Mix that with your cut apples. Mix until everything is coated. This is MY FAVORITE PART. I love eating the apple slices, so be sure to save yourself a few to snack on.

photo 2

11. Take the pie crust out of the fridge, put in the apple filling that you just made.

photo 3

12. Now for the crumb topping! In a medium bowl, mix 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Cut in 1 stick of cold butter. You should have some big peas and some little pea sizes. Sprinkle this generously over the top of your pie filling.

photo (15)

13. Put the pie plate on a cookie sheet. It makes it easier to take in and out of the oven. Then, put the pie in the oven for about 30-35 minutes. If at this point it is your desired golden brown, put a tin foil cover gently over your pie.

14. Cook for 15-20 more minutes (so a total of 45-50 minutes). The pie is done when you can easily stick a knife through the pie and it meets little resistance from the apples.

full pie

15. Serve with vanilla ice cream!

ice cream

3 spoonMessy level: This is pretty messy because there are so many steps. The crust can stick to the counter and tear which can be mess number one. I feel like the apple-crank really keeps the mess down when making the filling because it makes preparing the apples most efficient. Still, the sink was filled with ribbons of apple peel. And finally, a crumb top is just asking for me to drop things everywhere. However, it’s worth it. It makes the kitchen smell and feel festive.


2 thoughts on “Apple Pie with a Crumb Crust

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