Apple Cider Pie with Cheddar Streusel

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If I had to choose one pie to eat over and over it would surely be an Apple Pie.  That said there are so many ways to make an apple pie.

Some apple pies have a glossy, transparent filling of diced apples that still have some crunch.  Those aren’t my kind of pies.  No judgement, it’s just that I’m after something else.

I want a pie where the crust is as important a part of the whole as the filling.  It is flaky/tender and buttery with a hint of lift.  The apples inside the crust are just barely sweet with a hint of cinnamon.  The apples are tender yet still hold their shape.  The flour-thickened juices barely bind the apples together.

Pie is simple, yet each decision takes you down a different path.

For example, each type of thickener you choose to hold the cooked juices together lends the pie a different character.  In a conversation I had with LA Times Food Editor Russ Parsons he spoke of how using flour as a thickener vs. cornstarch creates more of a pastry feel to a pie.  I agree.  That nearly savory sensation of eating a slice of pie for breakfast is often what I’m after with an apple pie.  Juices thiickened with cornstarch or tapioca are transparent, allowing the fruit to be seen through a shiny, bright lens.  That has its place, in a Berry Pie for example.

And let’s talk about the texture of the filling of a cooked apple pie.  I like the apples to be soft.  If I want a crunchy apple I eat an apple.  I don’t believe crunchy apples have any place in a pie.

But, a problem with using flour as a thickener is that it can dull down the flavor of the fruit.  I’ve tried a few techniques to brighten the flavor of an apple pie.  I’ve used apple juice concentrate in the crust instead of water (an Alton Brown trick).  But I wanted to add something directly to the fruit to brighten the flavor without adding addtiional sweetness.  I happened to see an ad in a magazine for a dry alcoholic apple cider and it clicked.  Why not try.  So I took my usual recipe for apple pie, and added in the maceration of sliced apples in cider.

To Make the Pie

Your favorite crust recipe.
Substitute frozen apple juice concentrate for the water in the recipe
10 apples of mixed variety (granny smith and golden delicious pair well)
Sugar to Taste (3 to 6 tablespoons)
1 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
Small pinch of salt
3 tablespoons flour

Peel, core and slice apples.  Don’t make the slices beautiful and thin like for a fancy tart.  They should be as thick as your thumb.  Place the apple slices in a bowl.  Pour cider over the apples and set them aside for an hour, then drain.  Add sugar to taste.  That means that after adding a tablespoon of sugar and mixing it into the apples you taste the fruit.  If it isn’t sweet enough add another tablespoon, mix and taste again.  Continue until the fruit is sweetened to your taste.

Remember that a pie isn’t candy. Add cinnamon and mix.  Add flour a tablespoon at a time until the juices are “caught” by the starch in the flour.  Add a tiny pinch of salt.

Roll out the bottom crust and situate it in the pie pan.  Add the prepared apples to the crust filled pie pan.  If you like roll out a top crust, crimp and make slits and cook for 20 minutes at 425² then turn oven down to 375 and cook for another 20 to 30 minutes or until thickened juices bubble up out of the slits and the apples feel tender when poked with a paring knife

Or, you can top the apples with a Cheddar Cheese Streusel.  Cider and Cheese, get it?

Cheddar Streusel:

1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup cold butter
3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Put flour and sugar in bowl of food processor with steel blade.  Pulse to mix.  Add the butter and cheese.  Pulse several times until mixture comes together.