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Bramley Apple Crumble Pie

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Another season, another seasonal fruit – it’s one of the things I love most about living in Ireland. Gone are the days of Wexford strawberries and sun-ripened blackberries; now we’re knee-deep in Bramley apples. At home we have Galas and Granny Smiths. Bramleys, not so much. I hadn’t even heard of them before moving. Now, though, they’re my go-to baking apple – a bit tart for eating on their own, but they make the most amazing crisps, pies, tarts and turnovers.

With an almost-three-month-old to care for I don’t really have that much time to bake – or even plan to bake. I’ve been meaning to start my Christmas cakes for several weeks now – maybe I’ll get them done next week. I’ve been meaning to make jelly for over a month – however I can’t find cheesecloth anywhere (although I am told that I can get muslin in the baby section at Tesco, so maybe I’ll make some next week). I’m pretty worn out, to be honest. Luckily, pie-making can be accomplished with little to no hassle, and since I’ve got so many lovely apples to work with right now, they’re taking centre stage in my pies.

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The key to a good pie is simple. You need a good crust and a good filling (a revelation, I know). I’ve been making pies for a long time, but I’ve only been making them well since I began my career as a cook and had less time to fuss over them.

A good pie crust can be so simple – it needs very few ingredients, a tender but firm hand and time to chill and relax. People tend to be scared of shortcrust pastry, but they needn’t be. The best advice I can give is don’t listen to those who warn not to handle or overwork the dough. Why? Because you won’t work the dough enough, as a result, and it’ll be a crumbly, sandy-textured mess.

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If you’re making shortcrust for the first time, work the dough enough to bring it together into a ball. If it doesn’t come together into a ball, you need either more moisture or you need to knead it a few times on a floured surface. If you overwork it the first time, you’ll know how much to hold back the next time. It’s all about practise.

For my Bramley Apple Crumble Pie, I added a little extra something to the filling. Highbank Orchard Syrup comes from County Kilkenny. I picked up a bottle at the Ballymaloe Garden Festival last August and have been using it in my morning oatmeal ever since. It’s got a really deep, dark apple flavour and is a great substitute for molasses, honey or maple syrup when baking. It’s also great for adding some depth to an apple pie, as you’ll find out if you make this recipe.

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Bramley Apple Crumble Pie

Ingredients:

For the crust:

2 cups AP flour

1 cup cold, cubed, unsalted butter

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup ice water (or less)

For the filling:

5-6 large Bramley apples (or Granny Smiths if you’re in North America)

1/4 cup AP flour

1/4 cup brown sugar

3 Tbsp Highbank Orchard Syrup

1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the crumble topping:

1/2 cup AP flour

1/2 cup cold, cubed butter

1/2 cup white sugar

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees (190 degrees Celsius, no fan)
  • Either in a bowl or in your food processor with a dough blade, rub or cut the butter into the salt and flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Slowly add the water a bit at a time until you can form a ball with the dough. If you’re not using a food processor, mix the dough by hand, kneading it a bit, until it forms a ball – you may not need the entire 1/2 cup of water.
  • On a floured surface, knead the dough once or twice, divide it in half, shape each half into a disc and wrap in plastic. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight (or you can freeze it indefinitely at this stage).
  • Peel and thinly slice your Bramley apples. In a bowl, combine the apples with the orchard syrup, flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Toss to coat the apple slices and mix the ingredients evenly.
  • Roll out one disc of dough to roughly 1/4 inch thickness. Lay the sheet of pastry over a pie or tart pan and trim/crimp the edges. Pour the apple mixture over the pastry.
  • In a bowl, rub together the sugar, butter and flour with your fingers until you’ve achieved coarse crumbs. Spread the crumb topping evenly over the apples.
  • Put the pie pan on a cookie sheet in case the filling bubbles over the side. Place in the centre rack of the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes. The topping will be golden brown and the crust around the edges will be brown and flaky.
  • Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipping cream.

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