We love this apple pie. Not only is it the simplest version of apple pie we know, just one step from a crumble, but every time we make it, it is exactly what we most want to be eating--for breakfast, for dessert, anytime. It is of Eastern European Jewish origin, and we were first taught how to make it by our friend Dina, who’d long ago learned it from her mother.
The pastry is rich with egg yolks and sour cream. It needs no rolling out, no special handling: Some is pressed into the pan to make the bottom crust, and the rest is just crumbled over the top of the filling. The little edges of the topping turn golden brown as the pie bakes. The filling starts as a huge mound of grated apples, then melts and shrinks during baking into a succulent sweet mass. Use McIntosh apples (soft tired ones are fine) so that the grated apples will melt as they cook. Serve in generous rectangular slices, from the pan.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar, plus optional extra for apples
- 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, softened
- 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons sour cream
- Scant 1 teaspoon minced lemon zest (optional)
- Up to 2 tablespoons cold water, if needed
- About 3 tablespoons fine fresh bread crumbs (see Notes)
- 8 medium-to-large McIntosh apples (nearly 4 pounds) (see headnote)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Mix the flour and ½ cup sugar in a medium bowl. In another medium bowl, break the butter up into bits with a fork or your fingertips. Add the egg yolks and sour cream and beat with a wooden spoon. Add to the flour mixture and stir. Add the lemon zest, if using. Use your fingers to break up lumps so the mixture has a coarse cornmeal texture. Add water a little at a time if needed to make the dough come together, blending it in, then pull the dough together into a mass. Place in a heavy plastic bag and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.
Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan and sprinkle the bottom generously with the bread crumbs.
Peel the apples. Using a coarse grater, grate the apples; you should have about 8 cups. Place the apples in a bowl, add the lemon juice and a little sugar if you wish, and toss well.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator, cut it in half, and set one half aside. Place the other half in the cake pan and press it evenly to cover the bottom; it will be less than ¼ inch thick. Pile on the grated apples, mounding them up in the middle; the pile will look high, but it will shrink during baking. Crumble the reserved dough over the apples to cover.
Bake for 1 hour, or until the top of the pie is touched with golden brown. Serve hot or at room temperature.
This recipe serves 8 and does not include additional sugar to sprinkle on the apples.