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.
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!
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!