Bramley Apple Crumble Pie
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.
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.
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.
Bramley Apple Crumble Pie
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
- 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.