Apple and chile pie with a cheddar crust | Ann Mah

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By Ann | November 30, 2012

The minute I saw the recipe online, I knew it was the pie I wanted to make for Thanksgiving. It had cheddar cheese worked into the crust, a savory contrast against the apples. It had a crumbly, buttery streusel topping studded with walnuts. And, wowzer of wowzers, it had chilies tossed into the fruit for a brilliant, zingy, heat-seeking high note. This was apple pie to impress, to devastate.

My dad and I made the pie together on the Wednesday before the holiday. We were cooking dinner at the same time (spaghetti bolognese with a side of garlic-chili broccoli) so we lingered over the apples, chilled the crust between swipes of the rolling pin, allowed the chilies to fully release their power before adding another, and then another. We slid the pie into the oven and ate our supper as it baked. When the timer dinged, it emerged all bubbly, golden and fragrant.

There could have been a happy ending to this story. We could have cooled the pie and then cut slices of it, my father, mother, husband and I. We could have tucked in and relished it, analyzed it, savored it. Instead we wrapped it in tin foil and left it on the sideboard overnight.

Thanksgiving day dawned bright and balmy. And harried. Six o’clock in the morning found me running around with wet hair shoving clothes into a duffle bag and duffle bags onto a luggage cart, rushing to get on the road to New York before traffic hit. The (superior) apple pie went into a bag with a couple of store-bought (inferior) pies, which we trundled towards the front door.

I heard it hit before I saw it, a sickening clunk of butter, apples, cheese and sugar followed by the shatter of the pie dish. The pie lay crumpled on the ground, embedded with shards of ceramic. Its exposed underside revealed a flaky crust streaked with cheese, the apples smelled sweetly cinnamoned, a puddle of juice seeped from its crumbs. We couldn’t even take a second to mourn its demise. A wad of paper towels and a plastic bag later, I sent the pie down the trash chute to crash four floors below into the dumpster. We flipped the lights, locked the door behind us, hurried onto the highway for the seven-hour drive north.

That evening we ate (inferior) pumpkin and pecan pies, as well as my pumpkin cheesecake, which survived to reign over all the other desserts. But the memory of the lost apple pie haunted me. I needed redemption. Back in Washington on Sunday, I bought apples, chilies and cheese to bake another pie. But when I got home, I remembered I no longer had a pie plate. I ordered one immediately, but thanks to Cyber Monday madness, it hasn’t even shipped yet. It’ll probably arrive sometime in February. In the meantime, here’s the superior apple pie recipe so you can bake your own. Please, help me find redemption vicariously through you.

Apple and chile pie with a cheddar crust
Adapted from the New York Times

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
Ice water

For the filling:
5 apples, peeled and sliced (I used a combination of Granny Smith and Honeycrisp)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1-2 chiles (I used serrano)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cornstarch

For the streusel topping:
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup pine nuts (or walnuts)
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the cubed butter and rub into the flour with clean fingertips, until the fat has been mostly combined into the flour and a few pea-sized lumps remain. Stir in the cheddar cheese. Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture just comes together in a almost-crumbly dough. Gather into a ball, flatten into a disk, wrap loosely in plastic and chill for one hour, preferably overnight.

To make the filling, in a large bowl combine the apples, lemon juice, sugar, spices and salt. Finely chop one chili and stir it in. Taste a slice or two of apple and add another minced chili if desired. Stir the cornstarch into the fruit.

Roll out the dough between two sheets of plastic into a circle, about 11 inches in diameter. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate and turn the edges under, pinching them to make a pretty zig-zagged rim. Freeze until ready to fill the pie.

Make the streusel topping by combining the flour, pine nuts (or walnuts) and sugar. Drizzle the melted butter on top and stir into the dry ingredients until crumbly.

With a slotted spoon or kitchen tongs, lift the apple slices from their released juices and pile them into the pie crust. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the apple liquid on top of the fruit. Sprinkle the streusel on top. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 30 minutes, until the juices bubble and the crust is golden. Cool slightly and eat as soon as possible, before pie-tastrophe strikes.

Topics: A year in a French market: Autumn, Recettes, Recipes gone wrong | 15 Comments »

15 Responses to “Pie-tastrophe”

  1. Tammy Says:
    November 30th, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    Oh my … reading this made my heart break just like your pie dish! Yes, that would be a devastating event … I’m so sorry, but glad you had a happy thanksgiving anyway. I hope your new pie dish arrives soon. If you’re like me, when you get an idea to taste something, it’s hard to wait, huh?

  2. Alison | a girl defloured Says:
    November 30th, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    Oh Ann. That very same thing has happened to me, but when I dropped the pan as I was removing it from the oven. It is crushing, isn’t it?

    My recipe wasn’t nearly as interesting as this one. I love chiles SO much. And apple pie SO much, especially one with a cheddar crust. I cannot WAIT to make this pie (gluten-free, of course).

    I hope your new pie plate comes quickly.


  3. Camille Says:
    November 30th, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Tragic! So sorry to hear about the pie disaster. I hereby vow to make this pie, although I wish you were here to share it with me!

  4. Anita Says:
    November 30th, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Reminds me of the time many years ago when I was dressed in my gorgeous ivory silk blouse and ivory wool pants,ready to go join the Thanksgiving family reunion at a relative’s house. I pulled the lasagne out of the oven at the last minute so it would be hot, lost my grip, and the Pyrex dish fell to the floor, breaking and spattering tomato sauce all over me. Arghhh!

  5. Edna Says:
    December 1st, 2012 at 2:49 am

    And no time to mourn! That’s rough. Have to say though, I love the way you told this story, Ann, had me completely hooked and then saddened over a pie :)

  6. Emma Says:
    December 1st, 2012 at 10:25 am

    Oh no :(. A casserole dish broke in the oven once because I stupidly didn’t let it come to room temperature after getting it out of the fridge before cooking it (one of those uni days cooking disasters). I’m pretty sure we ate pizza that night.

    The NY Times always has such lovely recipes! Excellent addition of chillies and cheddar I have to say.

  7. Anne Says:
    December 1st, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    You know you can actually buy a pie plate in Washington….just saying.

  8. CK Says:
    December 1st, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    I once dropped a an apple crumble on a rainy evening on West Broadway. So sad.

  9. Gillian Says:
    December 1st, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    such a tragedy! cheddar & chillis. I am in!

  10. Ann Says:
    December 1st, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    Tammy — Aw, thanks. And you hit the nail on the head — I won’t feel like I’ve made this pie until I’ve eaten a slice of it!

    Alison — Crushing, oh yes. I still feel kind of shocked over the pie, more than a week later. But there is comfort in commiseration. If you try this pie, I hope you’ll let me know how it tastes!

    Camille — Oh, me too! I’ll have to content myself with a photo… if you make the pie I would love to see your creation, Ms Pâtissière!

    Anita — And all over your beautiful ivory ensemble — the injustice of it! I sympathize completely. I hope you didn’t get injured from flying Pyrex and hot spatters of sauce :( Thanks for stopping by — I’m so glad I’m not the only one to have suffered a cooking catastrophe.

  11. Ann Says:
    December 1st, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Edna — Ha ha, thank you! It was quite a traumatic experience, though I feel a little silly saying that.

    Emma — Pizza is a good solution for any cooking mishap ;) I had a once pie plate crack right down the center — thanks to your comment, I realize it was probably abused by its direct trips from freezer to oven.

    Anne — But where would the blog post be in that? :)

    Gillian — And I put walnuts in the streusel but next time I’m going to use pine nuts for extra Southwestern flair!

  12. Bobbi Says:
    December 1st, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Merde. My husband the pie monster would have wept. He’s already drooling over this recipe.

  13. Voie de Vie Says:
    December 1st, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    Ooooh, c’est domage!!!! And I’m with Anne, blog post be damned, that’s what Dupont Circle shopping is for. Get thee to thy non-virtual pie plate like … umm … now.

  14. Shut Up & Cook | The Attainable Gourmet Says:
    December 2nd, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    Oh no…I’m sorry..this sounds tragic, but it’s also quite funny. My mother once made a beautiful cake for my birthday, all from scratch, flowers adoring the top. She hid it in the laundry room, and when it came time to present it, the cake was missing, and our puppy Midnight was no where to be find. Turned out the naughty pooch had devoured it and then snuck off to hide. Oh…so sad!

  15. Ann Says:
    December 3rd, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Bobbi — Honestly, I still kind of feel like weeping when I think about it.

    Voie de Vie — I just got notification that the pie plate shipped! It’s on its way. Apple pie coming right up!

    Shut Up and Cook — I love this story! Reading the other accounts of “lost” dishes has made me feel so much better about my own. And I bet it was hard to stay angry at Midnight for long :)

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