Caramel apple crumb pie

Caramel apple crumb pie

It’s 5 o’clock in the morning and The National pandora station is playing much louder than it should at this hour. I’m hunched over the dining room table, crying because I can’t sleep again. Crying because I wish I had a better relationship with my mother. Crying because my hormones are so out of whack that I can’t do anything but cry. Hands in my hair, tears on the table; I wipe the snot from my nose with the sleeve of my robe, and make a mental note to throw it into the wash because it’s been used as a hankey far too many times this week.

Ha, I just said hankey. My Oma would be proud.

In typical hormonal lady fashion, I got up from the table and started frantically looking through the kitchen for something to consume. Chocolate? Too early for chocolate. Gin? It’s definitely too early for gin. Vanilla almond butter? There isn’t any. So after five minutes of going back and forth between the pantry and refrigerator, I came out with a bag of trail mix, a can of coconut milk, and my mind set on making caramel sauce. Which probably wasn’t the best idea because I stood over the pot of caramel feeling sorry for myself, picking salty raisins from the trail mix and cursing the person who decided to add milk chocolate morsels to a perfectly good bag of nuts and raisins. So to make up for not being able to eat the milk chocolate morsels, I licked the whisk each time I gave the caramel a good stir. I thought I deserved it. Maybe I did.

Making spelt dough
Caramel apples
Caramel apple crumb pie in the making

When the caramel finished cooking I transferred it to one of those pretty weck jars and let it cool on the counter while I continued picking through the trail mix. Every once in a while I’d scoop a fingerful into my mouth, but enough was enough so I topped it and put it in the fridge. Out of sight, out of mind – until I opened the refrigerator to retrieve my coffee creamer and noticed droplets of condensation forming along the bottom of the lid. And so I removed it; quickly and carefully to ensure none of the droplets contaminated my perfectly golden sauce. Except you and I both know a little bit of water isn’t going to do a bit of harm to a jar of caramel sauce. But try telling that to an overly emotional basket case at 6AM. Then again, don’t. She’ll probably bite your head off.

The caramel sat on the counter for a good 45 minutes while I went back and forth, trying to decide what I was going to do with it. And since eating it from the jar with my finger wasn’t an acceptable option, I dove head first into making apple pie. Without hesitation I started cutting butter into flour, apples into slices, and more butter into equal amounts of flour and brown sugar. I had everything jamming at once and, although I was completely out of my element, it kind of felt good to get everything a little bit messier than usual. That, and now my unkempt kitchen resembled the way I felt on the inside; we were one in the same, me and the little kitchen.

I continued laboring over the pie; channelling all of my sadness into the crust, frustration into the filling, and shame into the topping. And wouldn’t you know? One hour later my oven gave birth to the most beautiful apple pie I had ever seen in my almost 25 years on this planet. The kind of pie you want to put on display at a county fair. But also the kind of pie you want to take into the closet and stuff into your face.

Caramel apple crumb pie
Quickest caramel sauce

The pie never made it to the county fair. And thankfully, our closets are so full that even if I wanted to take it into one of them, I couldn’t have. I can’t decide if I should curse the full closets or be thankful for them. Probably the latter, as orderly closets may have resulted in some seriously terrible things. Like a stomach ache and not being able to go number two for a week. I mean, that’s never happened to me but I imagine if I ate an entire pie it probably would. I also imagine not being able to go number two for a week would be one of the most miserable weeks of my life.

Anyway. We swept the pie away to the mountains where it was served warm, after dinner, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. One scoop because someone got a pint of vanilla ice cream instead of a quart. For six people. Scratch that, five – I don’t eat their kind of ice cream. I also didn’t eat pie because I had two too many servings of lemon butter pasta for dinner, which inconveniently hung out in my belly for a good four hours before deciding to make room for pie. And so just before midnight, I found myself standing in the immaculate kitchen of the rental house, eating a piece of pie straight from the pan. Which, from that point forward, was referred to as the Best Apple Pie Ever. Ever. I mean it when I say this is the kind of pie you write home about; the kind of pie you’ll regret not having on your Thanksgiving dinner table. This is the kind of pie that gets devoured by six people in less than 18 hours because this pie is comprised of all things good in the world.

Caramel apple crumb pie

Notes: If you’re looking at this pie, thinking it seems rather pretentious with its spelt crust and caramel innards and crunchy crumb topping – I assure you, it’s not. In fact, I’d venture to say caramel is the best thing to happen to an apple pie. And crumb topping? Second best thing. The spelt flour was my effort to balance out the sugar content, but feel free to substitute unbleached flour or whole wheat flour. I know the long ingredient list and novel of instructions probably makes you think this recipe is a lot of work, but it’s not. And even if you feel like it is, the reward is more than worth it. This pie is out of this world good, and the only downside is that it’s best within two days. But aren’t most pies?

1 1/2 cups whole spelt flour
1 tbsp whole cane sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
10 tbsp vegan butter, cold
4-6 tbsp water, ice cold

Crumb topping
3/4 cup whole spelt flour
1/2 cup evaporated cane juice
1/4 cup whole cane sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
6 tbsp vegan butter
1/2 cup rolled oats

6-8 medium apples, a variety is best
Juice from half a lemon
1/4 cup evaporated cane juice
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup caramel sauce

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Place bowl in the freezer and chill for 15 minutes. Do not skip this step. Once the flour mixture is chilled, use a pastry cutter, or two knives, to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stick the bowl in the freezer for another 15 minutes to get the ingredients nice and cold. Once chilled, add water 1 tablespoon at a time and mix the dough using your fingertips. Your goal is a dough that’s firm but slightly sticky – and adding too much water will result in a tough dough (I added 4 tablespoons). Knead the dough for a minute then pat it into a disc, wrap with plastic, and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to two days.
While the dough is resting, prepare the crumb topping. Whisk together the flour, sugars, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter, or two knives, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix in the oats then cover mixture with a damp cloth (or paper towel) and set aside.

Once the dough has rested for an hour, line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Roll the dough out into a large circle, about 1/4″ thick and fit it into a floured 8-10″ pie pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 
While the crust is chilling, prepare the filling. Peel the apples and cut them into 1/2″ thick slices, then into chunks. Drizzle with lemon juice; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the sugar, tapioca starch (use an extra tablespoon if your apples are super juicy), and cinnamon. Add apples and toss to combine. Pour the caramel over the apples then mix to evenly coat; set aside. Remove the crust from the fridge and sprinkle the bottom with about one tablespoon of flour (to ensure it doesn’t absorb too much of the liquid from the filling). Fill with caramel apples (there are a lot, but they settle during baking) then spread the crumb topping evenly over in two layers; press the first layer firmly to pack, then sprinkle the remaining crumbs. Trim the edges and decorate crust with finish of your choice. Bake at 375˚F for 15 minutes, then remove pie from the oven and carefully cover the crust with foil. Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, until the crumb topping is golden brown. If you’re not anywhere near the 20 minute mark and the crumb topping starts to brown too much, simply place a piece of foil on top of it; do not seal it, just sit it on top. Transfer pie to a wire rack and allow it to cool for at least 6 hours. Refrigerate in a not-so-air-tight container for up to two days. Crumb topping may soften, but will return to its previously crunchy state after a few minutes under the broiler (make sure you cover the crust with foil).

Yield: 12 slices


36 thoughts on “Caramel apple crumb pie

  1. You are a far better woman- I would've went for the gin. (although, had I had the potential for a pie like this, it might have been a toss-up…)

  2. I am DYING. This looks so incredibly good, and you're spot on that this looks like it belongs at a county fair! I'm going to TRY to make this this weekend, but if it doesn't get done then, it's definitely on my short list of things to bake!

  3. i find your brand honest truth to be refreshing, this is the kind of authenticity that i want to read, where one can talk about mommy issues and poop in the same post without coming off as pretentious. thank you for sharing.

  4. I can tell this is the best apple pie EVER, because it's not gooey + limp, spreading out all over the plate. It looks SO incredibly thick, and I love that about apple pie. I rarely find an apple pie I enjoy but know that this is IT. The crust pinching is perrrfect, the topping, the caramel, your story. Just stop. Okay, don't. More of this. Please.

  5. Oh boy I have so been there. Trying to figure out to do with yourself and your hormones at 5am. I tend to turn to chocolate, but this pie looks even better! Perfect self-therapy 🙂

  6. Oh. My. Goodness. This pie sounds so beyond good. I'm sorry for your sleepless troubles, but I am not sorry they resulted in you creating this amazing goodness. I can't wait to make it!

  7. I always find that baking seems to help me out in tear-soaked situations. I'm really digging the coconut caramel & the crumb topping on the pie. I'll have to devour, oops, I mean make it soon 🙂

  8. My eyes lit up at the mention of "Oma"–I never hear that word these days. Are you Dutch? My dad immigrated from Indonesia and I grew up calling his parents Oma and Opa. Anywayyy I adore your writing. This makes me feel like it would be justifiable to get up tomorrow morning and make yet another coffeecake (an obsession!) before work, just because I'm hormonal and I want to.

  9. Wow, this looks like an absolute dream. I'm just off to bed and I'm pretty sure this is what I will see when I close my eyes. Whenever I feel lousy I bake, it's the perfect way to forget about everything that sucks.

  10. I am so overwhelmingly hormonal. I can feel the crazy the coming out, but I just can't reel it in. Yesterday I trudged home in the snow, tearing up, and consumed a whole chocolate bar mere moments after opening the cabinet door.

  11. between how you and Kelsey write, you girls make me want to move to CO. We'd be steadfast friends, I know. My hormones are WILD. Straight up, crazy lady. I cannot wait to make this!! I am going to do a dinner with friends in a couple weekends and this looks like it would be so perfect on the menu. Well, I was thinking of doing mexican-ish but still. So maybe not exactly perfect but does it matter if it makes sense with a pie this gorgeous??? It does not.

  12. Ack – I can relate (with the insomnia and the hormones). I hope you are feeling better – baking is always therapeutic for me (and the National is strangely calming, too).

  13. A good cry can take a weighth of your shoulders – at least if it wasn't about an issue that has been continuously pressing hard on you. In that case, if it's a family thing, well, it might get better (but remember: these things should come from both sides!! don't just take all the blame) or you'll have to accept it's the way it is. Changes take time and time heals. – Take a deep breath – And: keep on smiling & cooking sweet lady!

  14. Hi, We’ve recently launched the website It’s a search engine that aims to gather all the best recipes from UK and Irish websites and blogs. We’ve noticed that you have a lot of great looking recipes on your blog that we would love to feature on our site. To read more about how it all works and to sign up with your blog, please visit: or send us an email on We look forward to hearing from you!Kind regards,Senka

  15. Wow – way to channel your emotions into some seriously good eats! I find that when I'm frustrated or upset, cooking usually leads to one of two things… either an incredible revelation, or a complete and utter disaster. Sometimes I have to stop myself and think, is it worth the risk? But you've convinced me, it is. It is always worth the risk! Besides, cooking or baking can be so therapeutic to a tired mind. That apple pie looks absolutely incredible, and I have no doubt that it is, indeed, delicious!

  16. I so admire the way you turn the crazy into something constructive – like pie. You are a far, far, far better woman than I am. And this pie? Seriously everything I could want in a plate of food.

  17. we have a saying in our house… there are only two ingredients in trail mix: M&Ms and disappointment. and this pie looks tasty. and I'm sorry you're bummed (those two are not part of the saying).

  18. Love your writing, your ridiculously delicious looking pie, and how you're able to pull off talking about poop in a food blog post. Talent, lady! 🙂

  19. Hormones can be such a bitch sometimes! Glad you made it out of the funk with this beautiful pie. I also love that your fingernails are the most perfect shade of candy apple red.

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