I love berries, from the exotic lingon to the oft-despised rasp, the flashy strawberry to the humble blue: I want them all. With berry season in full-swing I have been buying pints and quarts every time I enter a store, then gobbling them by the handful like the candy they are. It's been three years since I've had fresh berries, considering they weren't available in Uganda (not the right climate) and while blueberries and blackberries were occasionally imported to Kuwait, Seth and I looked at the price of a pint and decided to go on a trip to England, instead. But here in Texas I have fresh berries grown right in the states. Not since LA I have tasted anything so sweet.
Eating berries "as is" is one way to enjoy them, but last week I wanted something more, something sweet yet satisfying: I wanted pie. I didn't have enough berries for an all-berry pie, but I had apples and Ken Haedrich's apple-pie cookbook that I knew would give me something good. Initially wavering between raspberries or strawberries, I went with raspberries because their season is limited (more so than strawberries, at least it seems to me) and, well, I prefer raspberries anyway. Details. As with the best fruit pies, the ingredients are few - lemon juice to enhance the fruit flavor, sugar to cut back on the tartness of the apples and raspberries, bit of nutmeg to bring everything together and some thickener to keep the juices in check. Haedrich suggests using a couple of fresh peaces to substitute for one or two of the apples to give the pie even more awesomeness, which I did, though not to any special result. Perhaps my peaches were too small or my apples (I used Pink Ladies) too robust, but the peaches were completely lost. I can imagine how delicious an addition they would be; maybe next time.
I used a crumb topping (recipe below) because I used to prefer them; however, I think that preference arose because I had yet to perfect my pie crust skills and always baked a nearly-impenetrable shell instead of flaky, delicate crust. Haedrich recommends a top crust for this pie and, now that I have pie crust down to a science, I will follow his advice next time around. This cream crumb topping is delicious - a snickerdoodle blanketing warm fruit - just a bit much for the already-robust flavors beneath.
Apple Pie Perfect, Ken Haedrich
Summer Apple Raspberry Pie
Double crust or single with crumb topping
6 cups peeled, cored and sliced tart apples
3 cups fresh raspberries, picked over
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4tsp ground nutmeg
1/2cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ tablespoon cornstarch
Preheat oven to 400F.
To make the filling, combine the apples, raspberries, lemon juice, nutmeg and ½ cup of the sugar in a large bowl; toss well. Set aside for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, mix the remaining two tablespoons sugar with the cornstarch. Sprinkle over the fruit and mix well.
Turn filling into pie shell.
If using a double crust: invert tip crust over filling and press the top and bottom pastries together. Poke steam vents in the top and brush the top of the pie with a little milk; sprinkle lightly with sugar.
Put the pie directly on the center oven rack and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and place on a large, dark baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Reduce oven temperature to 375F and return pie, on baking sheet, to oven and bake until juices – visible at the steam vents – bubble thickly, 35-40 minues.
If using a crumb topping: Put pie directly on the center oven rack and bake for 30 minutes. Remove pie from oven, place on a baking sheet and spread crumb topping evenly over filling with your hands, pressing down slightly to ensure the topping remains on the pie. Reduce oven temperature to 375 and put pie, on baking sheet, into oven for 35-40 minutes. , until a knife poked into the pie finds soft apples or the juices bubble thickly. If topping starts to get too dark, cover the pie with loosely tented aluminum foil for the last 15 minutes.
(I tend to overbake my crumb topping, resulting in a cookie-like shell. Covering it for the majority of the bake time allows it to remain soft, which is how I like it. If you want a crispier crumb topping – or don’t suffer from hard-crumb syndrome like I do, bake it uncovered for 35-40 minutes.)
Transfer pie to a cooling rack and allow to cool for at least one hour (preferably two) before serving.
Cream Crumb Topping
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons cold heavy cream
Combine flour, sugars, cinnamon, salt and baking powder in a food processor; pulse several times to mix. Pulsing the machine, add the cream in a slow, steady stream though the feed tube. Stop the machine as soon as the topping start to form clumps. It should look loose and granular-looking, for the most part. Refrigerate until ready to use.