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!

blueberry slab pie

We’re back after taking a week off with our 35th bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person. This latest recipe from the Pies and Tarts chapter is the epic Blueberry Slab Pie.

Lauren’s Take

Hello and happy weekend everyone! Despite the intense heat and humidity in the air right now, there is also that quintessential August feeling of the summer being almost over. And with that, the end of fresh fruit and warm days, so it was nice to be able to bake a very summer-y dessert to commemorate that! And what says end of summer like a nice slice of blueberry pie?

This pie is a beast. When you first glance at the recipe, it doesn’t seem to be that big of a task but then there are a few hints that really allude to the monstrosity… namely that it “feeds 24” and the casual “1.6kg of blueberries” listed in the ingredients. I mean, 1.6kg?! Just wild. I was really praying that this bake would turn out because I would have to give a lot away and wanted it to be worth people’s while. Initially, I was a bit nervous because Claire classifies this bake with a difficulty level of 4, but in all honesty, it truly isn’t that difficult. The hardest part is ensuring you have a large enough work space to roll out these monster pieces of dough, but otherwise, it was fairly simple to put together (as long as you can find 1.6kg of blueberries—clearly I’m still not over that).

The first part of the bake is to make two batches of the pie dough. The dough for this recipe is essentially the same as her other pie dough recipe, just a lot more of it and A LOT of butter. You think 1.6kg of blueberries is a lot, well try 6 sticks of butter…which is what this recipe calls for. You combine the flour, sugar, salt, and butter together in a food processor and then slowly add water and mix with a fork/by hand until the dough holds together. This step is repeated twice (because even a large food processor can’t handle this much dough at once!), and then you are left with two large pieces of dough, which are wrapped and chilled in the fridge for at least two hours.

Once the pie dough has chilled, the real fun of rolling begins. No word of a lie, I had my ruler out and was meticulously measuring to make sure I got these pieces of dough to the appropriate size! One piece of dough you roll out to about 18 by 15 inches and cut it into 1.5inch wide strips that are about 15 inches long. I got about 12-13 strips from my dough. Once the strips are cut, you place them back in the fridge to keep chilled. Then you roll out the other piece of dough, which will be for the bottom of the slab pie. This piece is rolled even larger, I believe I did it to about 21 by 16 inches or so. You then carefully place it in your sheet pan, which should be 18 by 13 inches, leaving an inch or so of the dough overhanging.

The oven needs to be pre-heated to 425 degrees, and Claire recommends baking this pie on the lowest rack in the oven. I lined my oven rack with aluminum foil as suggested in the book to prevent any burning from spillage while baking. A tip that Claire gives is to put ANOTHER 18 by 13 pan in the oven while it is pre-heating, and then places your sheet pan with the pie INSIDE the sheet pan in the oven. Now, I do believe this is a great tip, but lord knows it was hard enough for me to find one massive sheet pan, never mind two! So I just baked my pie directly on the oven rack and it worked out fine! No soggy bottoms here friends.

After the pie dough is rolled out, you mix your filling, which was very simple. In a LARGE bowl (and it needs to be large because, remember, you got pounds on pounds of blueberries), you mix your berries with sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, and the spices. In this recipe, Claire uses cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger. I was intrigued by this blend, since it is very much gives me a pumpkin-pie vibe, but I followed the recipe.

You pour the filling into the sheet pan and even it out all over. Then you brush the overhang of the pie dough with egg wash, and press your chilled strips of pie dough across the filling and into the border. Claire describes placing them on a diagonal in a zig-zag pattern, but you could really do whatever you want, as long as it’s covered. I made sure to place the strips fairly close together but still had spots where you could see the filling pop through. I did end up having two strips left over as well. Once the strips are placed and pressed, you cut off the extra dough and fold the overhang back overtop and press down again. Then the whole pie is brushed with egg wash and covered with Demerara sugar (I was generous here, but not as generous as Julia usually is with Demerara sugar 😉). Then, you bake! One of the hardest parts of this bake was lifting this beast into the oven, so take your time and be careful!

The pie bakes on 425 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes, and then the oven is reduced to 375 degrees for the remainder. I baked the pie for another hour and 35 minutes after turning the oven down to ensure a nice golden crust and bubbly filling. I didn’t end up having any spillage in the oven from the filling which was nice. The crust baked beautifully and the design with the sugar on top made it beautiful to look at.

After letting it chill for an hour, it was time to cut into it and try it! I don’t love warm fruit pie, so initially I wasn’t a huge fan. The filling felt too soft and the spices made it taste like pumpkin pie which confused me. I did really love the pie dough, but overall wasn’t a huge fan. Then, the next day, I was getting praise about this pie from people I had given it to, so I decided to take another stab at it, and I liked it quite a bit more. The filling is more set, the spices don’t seem as overpowering, and overall, it feels well balanced and flavoured. I’m still not 100% sure I agree with the spice combo here…I think maybe just cinnamon and cardamon would have been a better choice, without adding the ginger. I also think you could add more lemon funnily enough, since I find Claire is usually too heavy-handed with the citrus, but I think when you’re making a pie large enough to feed a small village, you can be a bit freer with flavour.

So overall, not my favourite pie, but it does get better with age for sure. Definitely a really nice recipe to have if you need to bake something for a large gathering. And the pie dough is never a disappointment as per usual. 3.5 stars for me!

Julia’s Take

Welcome back everyone! It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks over here as I wrap up my summer holidays. Lots of social time and out-of-town visits means I’ve been spending very little time at home (a welcome change after pandemic lockdown life!) and very little time in my kitchen, so our Blueberry Slab Pie was put on the back-burner. But it feels good to be back in action—although I am definitely not ready to go back to work already.

This recipe was HEFTY and the amount of ingredients it called for was no joke. So many cups of flour. So many pounds of blueberries. The six sticks of butter especially left me shaken. SIX STICKS! I was surprised Claire listed this pie as a difficulty level four because other than the measuring out of ingredients (and the heavy lifting) it was actually a really simple recipe to put together. I had set aside an evening to bake this pie last week since I knew I would be out of town for the majority of the upcoming two weeks, and while I thought I’d budgeted out my time well, things didn’t exactly go according to plan. I started out by making my dough in the morning. The ingredients are exactly the same as the Flaky All-Butter Pie Dough that we all now know and love so well; the only difference was that—since there was so much of it for this recipe—it came together in two batches in the food processer (one batch for the bottom of the pie and one batch for the strips on top), and we skipped the folding step. Once I had my dough mixed up, I let them sit in the fridge for the rest of the day while I met a friend for lunch and did a bunch of running around.

By the time I got home around 4:00, my pie dough was ready and I could get started on the filling and assembly. I had promised my neighbour I’d go over for a quick glass of wine to wish her Happy Birthday. Little did I know I would not actually return home until 11:30. So when a girl gets home late and has had a few glasses of wine but a pie needs baking, she bakes the pie.

 

 

Luckily, there wasn’t too much work involved in finishing things up. My bottom layer of pie dough was rolled out and placed into the 18×13” pan; the filling came together with tons of blueberries (I used fresh ones which are in season in Ontario right now!), sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and zest, vanilla, and a spice combo of cinnamon, cardamom, and ground ginger. From my understanding, cardamom and ginger are NOT common in blueberry pie, but we all know our girl Claire LOVES her cardamom. Honestly, I’m sure some people are hit and miss on these flavours, but personally I thought it was such a unique and delicious spin and I really loved the smell of everything as it all came together.

The filling then gets poured into the bottom layer of dough. My top layer had been cut into 1” strips (not my neatest or most mathematically correct work, to be honest—see time stamp on when I started this pie and just imagine how alert I probably was…) but once I placed everything on top of the blueberries it looked fine. The slab pie ultimately has a bit of a rustic feel to it anyway, so this worked out in my favour. Note to self: don’t start croquembouche at 11:30pm after a few glasses of wine.

The whole thing probably came together in half an hour, so then the hardest part was really just trying to stay awake while the pie baked for almost two hours. Claire provides a couple of suggestions to help with the baking: first, cover the bottom oven rack with tin foil in case there’s spillage (I did do this, and my oven came out unscathed), and also put a second pan in the oven to preheat, which the pie can then sit in while it bakes to help with the crispiness of the bottom. I didn’t have a second 18×13” pan so I skipped this step and my results were still fantastic! I almost fell asleep several times, but by 1:30am I had a beautiful, bubbly, crispy blueberry pie sprinkled with demerara sugar (my new favourite thing. See: Sour Cherry Pie). My favourite part of this bake was definitely the smell of the spices that filled up the house; it was sort of like summer and fall coming together—kind of appropriate for end of August and almost-back-to-school/work vibes.

I gave away the majority of this pie: big pieces were dropped off to friends the next morning on my way out of town, and I also brought a WHOLE bunch of it to the friends I was staying with down in Southern Ontario. Everyone really loved the flavour. It wasn’t my favourite thing from this chapter; if I’d just had this pie on its own, I may have felt differently, but compared to some of the epic pies and tarts we’ve had over the last few weeks, this one felt just sort of “meh” to me. Similar to many of the loaves and single layer cakes we made, this pie did get a lot better as the temperature came down and it set a little more. Absolutely delicious, but not necessarily life-changing. It’s a 3.5 star bake from me!

Join us next week as we make the second-last recipe from the Pies and Tarts chapter—the much-anticipated Peach Melba Tart!