It’s often said that you can spot a good baker by how meticulously they measure things. Given that my other blog is called No Recipes, I’ll let you come to your own conclusions on my talents (or lack there of) as a baker. That’s why most of my baking is limited to simple stuff like cookies and crisps.
But Thanksgiving is my favorite food holiday, and its one of the few times every year that I feel like being a little more daring with my oven. A number of years ago I did a crustless pumpkin pie that was a hit with my guests. It involved hollowing out a pumpkin and filling it with a milk custard before steaming it.
It got me thinking what a crustless apple pie might be like. I got to work hollowing out some Fuji apples, and mixed the carvings with dates, cinnamon, nutmeg, butter, and a little tapioca starch. Apples stuffed back into the carved out shells, I started thinking about what to do for the topping.
My first instinct was to make a pie dough and cover the apple with a top crust, but I just couldn’t see the crust sticking to the waxy skin of the apple . Instead, I decided to add some extra sugar and oats to the crust and crumble it on top.
It turned out great. Baking the apples rendered the skins tender enough to eat, infusing the adjoining flesh with all the flavor from the skin. The inside was like a traditional apple pie with caramel notes from the dates, and the topping formed a crisp crumbly layer with a gooey inner layer. All the components of an apple pie minus the fuss of rolling out dough.
Fuji, Honeycrisp and Pink Lady are my favorite apples to bake with because they have a great balance between sweetness and acidity and a powerful apple flavor that doesn’t fade with cooking. They also tend to retain their shape much better than varieties such as Red and Golden Delicious. Granny Smiths could work for this recipe however you’re going to need to either add more dates or sugar to offset the tartness of the apple.
I used two freakishly large fuji apples that weighed close to a pound each, but you can use smaller apples, you’ll just need to use more of them (840 grams in total) and reduce the baking time a little.
Crustless Apple Pie
- 35 grams rolled oats (1/3 cup)
- 35 grams all purpose flour (1/4 cup)
- 30 grams fine raw sugar (2 tablespoons) or brown sugar
- 1 gram salt (1/4 teaspoon)
- 43 grams unsalted butter (3 tablespoons), cut into small pieces
- 1 teaspoon of ice water + more if needed
- 100 grams fresh ripe dates
- 1 teaspoon tapioca starch (sometimes called tapioca flour)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 28 grams unsalted butter (2 tablespoons) melted
- 2 very large apples (about 420 grams each)
- Put the oven rack in the middle position and preheat to 190 C (375 F).
- Add the rolled oats, flour, sugar and salt to the bowl of a small food processor and pulse a few times to break up the oats.
- Add the butter and pulse 1 second at a time until the mixture looks like a fine gravel.
- Add the ice water and pulse until the mixture looks like a coarse gravel that’s barely coming together. Add a bit more water if needed.
- Place the topping in the freezer while you work on the filling.
- Remove the pits from the dates. The dates should be the consistency of a soft caramel. If you’re using dried dates, you may need to soak them in some boiling water for a few minutes to soften them up.
- Mash the dates together with the tapioca starch, nutmeg, cinnamon, and melted butter.
- Cut the apples in half from top to bottom and use a metal measuring spoon or melon scoop to remove the core. After the apple halves are cored, continue carving pieces of apple out and add the pieces to the date mixture. You want to leave at least 1 cm (1/3-inch) of apple around the skin so that the apple holds its shape while being baked.
- Mix the date mixture and apples together until they are well combine and then divide the mixture into the apples.
- Take the topping mixture out of the freezer and top each apple with it.
- Place the stuffed apples on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake until the apples are soft and the topping is golden brown (about 35-45 minutes).
Yield: 4 apple halves
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.