apple and concord grape crumble pie

Happy Sunday everyone! Another week and another recipe from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person in the books. This week was bake number 36 and our second last one from the Pies and Tarts chapter. We bring you Claire’s Apple and Concord Grape Crumble Pie.

Lauren’s Take

Hi again friends! Can you believe we’ve hit over 2000 followers on our Instagram this week?! Just two simple girls and a cookbook—who knew! Very happy to have everyone here! This week we went back a tad to return to one we had skipped previously—Apple and Concord Grape Crumble Pie! An interesting concept for a pie if you ask me… many components and flavours that I wouldn’t normally consider to put together.

The main challenge this time was finding Concord grapes. Fortunately, it seemed that almost every other lawn in Ottawa had a vine filled with grapes; unfortunately, stealing is illegal. Julia was visiting Ottawa last weekend and we went to a local market that had baskets and baskets of beautiful Concord grapes! My grandma used to have some in her garden and I hadn’t tasted them since I was a kid, so the flavour brought back lots of happy memories.

The actual assembly of this pie was not too complicated but a tad time consuming to prep the fruit as outlined in the book. You need to make and parbake the all-butter pie crust and the crumble. I used the buckwheat variation as recommended in the book (tip for any Canadian bakers, Bulk Barn is your stop for all your buckwheat needs). My pie was still flaky and delicious by man oh man did it sink significantly. The only reason I can find for this was the extreme humidity I was living in all week. Luckily this pie had the crumble topping, so it didn’t matter too much that the sides of my pie crust were virtually nonexistent.

Once your crust is parbaked, you create the filling. The first aspect of the filling is the thin apple slices mixed with cinnamon, lemon juice, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Make sure all the apples are coated evenly and then let this mixture sit in order to let the apples absorb the flavours.

Then you make the Concord grape mixture. For this part, you have to peel each Concord grape, saving the peeled skins for later. I thought this was going to be more time-consuming then it was—and don’t get me wrong, it was still totally tedious, but didn’t take as long as I thought. And I know you may want to skip this part, but you really shouldn’t if you want to get a good amount of Concord grape flavour.

You put all of the grape flesh into a sauce pan and simmer, breaking down the grapes. You then strain this mixture into a bowl with your reserved skins and sugar. You also add any juice that has collected in your bowl with the apple slices. Then this whole mixture goes back on the stove to reduce down. Once it’s gotten thicker and more syrupy, you remove from heat and combine 3 tablespoons of the mixture with cornstarch in a separate bowl. This makes this beautifully coloured and extremely thick slurry, which you add back into the saucepan with everything else to thicken your grape mixture even further.

This completed grape mixture gets poured over the apples and everything is mixed together to make your filling. Then it’s easy: filling goes into the pie crust, crumble goes on top of the filling, and the pie goes into the oven. Really make sure to pack down your crumble topping so it becomes more of a layer of the pie rather than just a sparse crumble on top.

 

 

The pie bakes first for 30 minutes with foil on top, and then another 40-50 minutes without the foil on to brown the crumble. In total, I needed to bake mine for about an hour and a half to get the mixture bubbling and the crumble browned.

So this a definitely a hefty pie; cutting a slice is no small feat because there are just tons of layers. But the cross section of this pie is beautiful! Such a bright, pink-y colour, and the layer of apple slices is so aesthetically pleasing. And the taste? This pie is a masterclass in texture for sure. You get the crunch of the crumble mixed in with the softness of the filling, and then the crispness of the apple comes in with the flakiness of the pastry. It really hits every note. And the balance of the tartness of grapes with the sweetness of the apples is also delicious. Definitely an excellent pie! 4 stars from this baker!

Julia’s Take

It felt like it had been aaaaages since I’d done a bake from the book when I went to go make this pie. I’d made the Blueberry Slab Pie over two weeks ago, purposely making it at the very start of the week since I was going to be heading out of town to see friends, only for us to then skip a post that weekend due to hectic schedules. Cue two more weeks going by after that before I finally got into the kitchen yesterday morning and brought out my copy of Dessert Person. It was a gloomy Saturday after a long night the night before—the perfect day to make a pie in my opinion!

Lauren and I had skipped this recipe a few weeks back since Concord grapes weren’t in season yet so I was glad to circle back to it now as we approach the end of this second chapter. I can’t remember if we mentioned it in last week’s post, but we were actually together in Ottawa last weekend; knowing that Concord grapes may be a little tricky to find here in North Bay, we figured it was a great opportunity to check out some of the markets and see what we could track down. Luckily, one of the produce stands had a TON of them so we picked up a basket each and I brought them back to North Bay with me to put them to good use. I actually have a bunch leftover after making this recipe, so it may be time to make some jam! Our grandmother grew Concord grapes in her garden, and our mom always made the most delicious jam with them every summer. It’s one of those quintessential childhood flavours that will always stand out in my mind. Like Lauren mentioned, I don’t think I’ve had this variety of grape since the days of hanging out in her backyard, and all those memories definitely came flooding back with the taste.

This was not a difficult recipe, and yet somehow it still took me literally ALL DAY to make this pie. I started off with another round of the Flaky All-Butter Pie Dough, with I think I’ve made more than a handful of times now this summer and can now make without having to look at the book. While the dough sat in the fridge for 2 hours, I started prepping the elements of the filling. I peeled, cored, and sliced my apples which then get mixed with a blend of flavourings (the classic combo of brown sugar, lemon, cinnamon, vanilla, salt) and sit aside to release juices. Then it was on to the grapes. I fully intended to skip the step of peeling each individual grape, because it seemed ludicrous to me, but after talking to Lauren—who had made the pie a few days before me—and hearing that it actually wasn’t that difficult, I decided I better not doubt Claire’s method and went for it. It is definitely time-consuming, but not as painful a process as expected. It sounds like the combination of flesh, juices, and skins is the best way to get the most out of that concord flavour, and separating/re-mixing rather than straining parts of the grape out is the best way to accomplish this. Who am I to question Claire?!

The grape flesh/juice cooks down for a while, is then strained out to remove the seeds, and then combined with the reserved skins and some sugar. This then returns to the stove and cooks down further. I thought it was strange to add skins back in to the fruit, thinking they really wouldn’t break down much and you’d be left with an odd texture, but it really does somehow blend together nicely into a beautiful looking, deep purple, jammy looking mixture. Once it’s reduced and nice and thick, some of the grape mixture is combined with cornstarch to make a very thick slurry-type substance, which is added back to the grapes to thicken the whole thing up even more. This ultimately will help your filling set nicely.

By this point, my pie dough was ready, so I took it out of the fridge, rolled it out, did the recommended fold for extra flakiness, and put it back in the fridge for half an hour to rest. This little window of time was when I prepped my crumble topping (told you there were a lot of steps and that it literally took me all day…). Claire recommends the buckwheat variation of her All-Purpose Crumble Topping recipe so I decided to go with that, figuring that the earthier flavour of the buckwheat flour would be pairing really well with the fruit. The crumble sat in the fridge while I moved on to prepping and parbaking my pie dough.

My crust parbaking and cooling was the perfect opportunity for a quick kitchen clean-up and a shower (I’d been in the kitchen for close to 4 hours by this point…). After I got out of the shower, my crust was ready to be filled. The grape mixture is combined with the reserved apple slices until everything is fully coated; I loved the vibrant pink-ish purple-ish colour that this all turns into thanks to those concord grape skins! It’s easy breezy from here: fill your crust with the filling, top with your crumble (make sure it’s really packed down well), cover with foil and bake (30 minutes with the foil and then another 45 or so without until everything is brown and crisp). The pie then sits at room temperature for 2 hours to cool and set.

I had a friend over for dinner that night (a go-to taste tester throughout this baking project), so she was over when the pie was ready to slice into. It was fun getting to try a bake for the first time with someone else and get those immediate reactions. We both really loved this recipe! The pie dough turned out perfectly flaky—the first few times I made this dough, I added too much water, making the crust too tough to cut through, but I have definitely mastered it now! The colour and layers of the filling were so pretty and the balance of flavours was amazing—who knew apple and grape could taste so good together?! And the earthiness and texture of the crumble on top was perfect. What an amazingly balanced and delicious pie. It’s a 4-star bake for me!

Next week, we wrap up the Pies & Tarts chapter with the long-awaited Peach Melba Tart!

apple tart

Happy Sunday, everyone! Since we made the Salty Nut Tart a few weeks back with our fellow Dessert People, our next bake from the Pies and Tarts chapter of the book was Claire’s Apple Tart. The base of this tart was another Foundational Recipe (the Rough Puff Pastry), which means we were able to check off recipes 23 and 24. Almost a quarter of the way through!

Lauren’s Take

Hello to all and happy belated Father’s Day! (And happy belated posting because yesterday a lot of babies wanted to be born). This week we made Claire’s Apple Tart with…wait for it…Rough Puff Pastry! Now, as a long-time fan of Great British Bake-Off but not a super experienced baker, I would hear the term “rough puff” said multiple times a season and watch with wonderment at the creations. Julia and I were both so excited to make our first rough puff and really start to step into the light of “real” bakers like the ones we love to watch on TV. With that excitement came some doubt, some questioning, some cheering, and a whole lot of butter.

At the core (pun intended) of this recipe, there isn’t a lot to it. You make a pastry, make a compote, slice some apples and bake. Time management is a good thing to have on your side when deciding when you’re going to do this bake because the rough puff pastry does need to be chilled a couple times before it’s ready to be shaped. The first component is to make the rough puff. This was actually easier than I thought, which was a comforting surprise. You start by freezing 1.5 sticks of butter and the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt), and then refrigerating the other 1.5 sticks of butter cut into thin slices. Once the butter from the freezer is firm, you grate it into the dry ingredients and toss together. Then you add the sliced butter for the fridge and slowly add ice water until the dough comes together. As Claire states in the recipe, this dough is meant to look and feel quite dryer than your average pie dough so I really had to restrain myself from adding more water. You then place the clumps of dough in plastic wrap, mold into a square and refrigerate for 2 hours. After that, you do the folds.

(Duh, duh, duuuuuuuh). Full honesty, this was the part I messed up. You take the chilled dough out of the fridge, let it warm up a touch, hit it with the rolling pin and then roll it out into a long rectangle, and then do the letter fold. You then rotate the dough 90 degrees and do it again. Once you’ve done that you cut the folded dough in half and should be able to see thin lines of dough throughout. After my first go, I did not. I mistakenly rolled it out too thin the first time and I think I folded it the wrong way the second? Either way, wasn’t pretty. So I let the dough chill for a bit longer and did it all over again, and this time, I had thin lines. They weren’t super distinguishable but they were there so I decided to go for it.

This recipe only calls for half of the rough puff recipe, so I put half in the fridge to chill for my apple tart and the other half in the freezer for later. While the dough was chilling, I made the compote. This was so enjoyable because it just smelt so damn good. You put brown sugar, salt, and butter in the pot on the stove, and once it thickens add some chopped Pink Lady apples. Once these apples start to caramelize, you add some apple cider and let the mixture reduce while stirring and mashing up the apples. Eventually, you start to get what looks like a chunky applesauce, that looks and smells and tastes so delicious. Tears were wept for this applesauce it was so good. Once the applesauce compote is ready, you let it chill in the fridge with the dough.

The next step is to thinly slice the apples for the top of the tart. Claire describes a very easy method in which you cut the apple in four segments around the core, which is maybe the simplest way I have been taught to core an apple (#claireforthewin). You end up with TONS of apple slices and trust, I don’t think you need this much. I sliced the remaining three apples which was dictated in the recipe, but I think you could safety get away with only using two and probably still have some left over. By the time my apples were sliced, my dough had chilled long enough. You roll it out into a roughly 13 by 9 inch rectangle, place it on a baking sheet, and then perforate holes all around the dough, leaving a one inch border all the way around. Along the border, you brush with egg wash and sprinkle with brown sugar. Inside the border, you place your cold apple sauce (mine was not cold enough and I think melted some butter in the pastry so please be more patient than me). And then on top of that, you fan out your apple slices, and brush those with some melted butter and apple cider. At this stage, the tart already looks so beautiful and each component visually compliments each other so well.

Then you bake! I was very nervous and watched like a hawk this round after burning my galette, and I found that after 40 minutes my tart was done and nicely golden brown on the outside. In retrospect, I do think I under-baked a tad but it still looked great and I could see LAYERS in the pastry! Nothing has ever brought me more joy. Except for when I tasted it. Friends, this tart was unreal. The pastry was so flaky and buttery. The compote was not too sweet or too tart, and the apples on top just really completed the whole thing. I don’t know if I can even truly describe how good this dessert tasted; you really just have to make it and experience it. I must say too, it was nice to be introduced to our first pastry dough in an otherwise fairly simple recipe, so mad ups to Claire for that. This tart was everything and I hope everyone has a chance to enjoy it someday. Definitely a 5 star from me!

Julia’s Take

Apple desserts must be one of the most comforting things in the world! Friday happened to be a super grey, rainy day here in North Bay so even though apples don’t necessarily scream summer, it felt like the perfect time to make this recipe. The photo of this tart in the book is so beautiful, and Claire’s description of her time in culinary school in Paris going to cafes and buying fancy apple pastries (I love bougey Claire) totally set the vibe to take on this bake. I had never made Rough Puff before, and have heard that homemade puff pastry is something most people opt out of, just because it’s so much work and the frozen versions you can buy are just as good, so I was a little nervous but also very excited to take it on!

The pastry itself took 3-4 hours start to finish. Everything starts off SUPER cold—flour, sugar, salt, and half the butter sit in the freezer for about 20 minutes while the other half of the butter is sliced thinly and refrigerated. The frozen butter is grated into the dry ingredients first, and then the slices are tossed in; the two textures of butter help to create extra flakiness in the dough. The buttery dough comes together slowly with some ice water; I was surprised at how dry the dough still felt and was worried I’d done something wrong, but I resisted the urge to add too much water and just wrapped the pieces of dough together tightly in plastic like Claire suggests. Once it’s all wrapped up and pressed into a square shape, it sits in the fridge for 2 hours. Once the cooled dough is unwrapped and rolled out, you can see how the butter sets and brings the shaggy dough together into something smooth and really easy to work with.

The pastry then goes through a series of “turn and folds”—roll the dough out into a long rectangle, do an envelope fold, turn it 90 degrees, roll it out again into a long rectangle, do another envelope fold, then re-wrap the square and let it set in the fridge for another hour. After this final set, which helps the gluten relax so your dough doesn’t spring back too much, the square is cut in half and is ready to use; Claire’s recipe makes enough dough for two tarts; if I was going to go through all the work of making this pastry, I figured I may as well make the full batch, and now I have one sheet frozen and ready to use for a future bake!

Cutting the block of pastry in half was such a fun moment because that’s the first time you get to see how well your turn and folds worked out. Pulling the two pieces apart and seeing all of those thin, tiny little layers built into the dough is so cool and SO satisfying. It’s amazing what you can get just by combining butter and flour together and folding it a bunch of times. As our other sister said to me when I was explaining this process: “Who figured out how to do all this stuff?” I googled it and his name was Claude Gelée; apparently he made the first laminated dough in 1645 and it was a total accident—in case anyone was curious 😉 Thanks, Claude!

I used all the fridge setting time with the pastry to prep the other components of the tart. The compote layer comes together with chunks of apple (I used Pink Lady like Claire recommends, but you could easily use any apple), brown sugar, butter, vanilla, some salt, and then—once the chunks have softened a bit—some apple cider. The mixture comes to a boil, the apple is broken down with a potato masher, and then gets cooked down until there is no moisture left. This takes a while, but what you’re left with is a really caramelized, super golden applesauce. I would make just this on its own again. My house smelled amazingggg.

When the pastry is ready to go, it’s rolled into a rectangle, the edges are trimmed and then brushed with egg wash and some sugar, and then the middle of the tart is covered with a layer of the compote. Thin slices of apple are arranged on top and brushed with melted butter and apple cider, and then the whole tart bakes for about 40 minutes. I’ve learned to really watch my oven and usually opt for the lower end of suggested cooking time in the book with these pastries (total opposite of the loaves and single layer cakes, where everything needed longer).

I took the little trimmed off edges and put those in the oven too as a tester/snack, and let me tell you, never as there been a more thrilling moment then when I pulled those little pieces out and saw how they’d puffed up and created the most amazing, flaky layers. Fast forward 40 minutes after that, and pulling out the beautiful tart and seeing the amazing results on that puff pastry was so, so rewarding. I could not believe I had made this thing!

THIS. TART. WAS. SO. GOOD. I felt like I was sitting in one of those little cafes in Paris being bougey with my girl Claire. Very few things that I’ve made in the past have made me feel as proud as this one has. The pastry was so buttery and incredibly flaky, the compote was so rich in flavour, and the layer of glazed apple broke up the richness and added a nice, fresher crunch. I would eat this tart every day for the rest of my life. 5 stars!!

Next week, we’re making another summer favourite: Caramelized Honey Pumpkin Pie 😉