Around twenty five years ago, I acquired the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. I loved that book and her next book, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. The books look like they are written by hand and Mollie illustrated the cute drawings herself. The recipes are simple, easy to make, homey, comforting and delicious. The recipes are also quite healthy, relying on fruits, vegetables, grains, eggs and dairy. Armed with these cookbooks, I had no problem sticking to a healthy diet back then. But something happened to me. I found other cookbooks I loved. Magazines also provided me with inspiration for cooking and then the Internet happened. My beloved old cookbooks began to seriously gather dust.
Earlier this week, I initiated a conversation on a friend’s blog that resulted in scanning and emailing him a couple of recipes from these early Katzen books. While I was at it, I started paging through the books. There are so many recipes I never tried! To be honest, some of them just never looked appealing to me back then. The recipe I am about to tell you about is something I passed over time and time again. It did not look special. Who knew that as written, it was probably amazing. With a special crust and some honey and spices added to the apple filling it is sublime!
Mollie wrote this about the recipe: “ ~ easy and wonderful”. I’ve made it a tiny bit more complicated. You could use a store bought frozen pie crust for this, but trust me, the variation on Best All Purpose Pie crust in the Moosewood Book of Desserts is what you need here (you really do and it is worth the extra effort). The crust is called sweet lemon crust. I love this crust whenever I want to give a pie extra zing and richness. This time I used a little maple syrup for the granulated sugar (Bloggers beware: Do not print controversial posts like the sugar is bad for you post if you know that family members such as boyfriends are reading your blog, you’ll never be able to get away with murder again!). I also wanted the apples to have a good apple pie sort of flavor so I rolled them around in honey and spices. It worked! Each bite of apple is so flavorful! Mollie highly recommended walnuts or almonds for the optional nuts. I’m sorry, walnuts are mandatory and I am talking to you Miss I live in Oregon and hazelnuts are local! I know your native California roots and I won’t stand for it!! Mollie says you can replace the apples with cherries or peach slices. I may try that this summer but first, I’ll have to have this version of the pie a hundred more times.
I don’t feel like my pictures did this pie justice. The custard made a gorgeous golden crust on the top with apples and walnuts poking through the surface. The pie crust turned out rustic and pretty. Sliced, the pie was layered with crust, fruit and custard. At room temperature, after baking, it was delicious. The next day when it was chilled, the pie was outrageously delicious! This is an elegant pie that you will be proud to serve to dinner guests. Which came as such a surprise, since I had ignored this recipe for two and a half decades because I couldn’t imagine it being special. I’m happy I gave this recipe the chance that it deserves. I’m equally happy to encourage you to make one for yourself, and soon.
Apple – Honey Custard Pie
Crust adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts, Pie Adapted from The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
1 ½ cups unbleached white flour
½ tsp kosher salt
Zest from one lemon
½ cup chilled unsalted butter
1 tbsp grade B maple syrup
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 – 4 tbsp ice water
2 cups peeled, cored and sliced apples
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
4 large eggs
¾ cup honey
1 cup plain yogurt (I used nonfat with good results)
1 tsp vanilla
½ heaping tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
2 generous handfuls raw walnuts
Preheat oven to 375 degrees, F.
Make crust: Butter a nine inch pie pan, set aside. Combine flour, zest and salt in a large bowl. Work butter into flour with a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add maple syrup, lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons ice water. Push the flour into the wet ingredients, mixing until combined, if it is too dry to form a ball, keep adding ice water a tablespoon at a time until you can form a ball, being careful not to over work the dough or make it too wet. Transfer the dough ball to a floured surface. Roll it out into a round large enough to overhang a nine inch pie pan by at least an inch. Carefully transfer dough to pie pan. Fold overhanging dough under itself to form a crust. Pinch the crust to form a slight fluted shape to the crust. Store dough in the fridge until ready.
Make filling: Place apple slices in a bowl. Add honey and spices. Mix until all ingredients are well combined. Place apple mixture in the pie crust, making sure it covers the bottom of the crust evenly.
Make custard: Place eggs, honey, yogurt, vanilla, cinnamon and salt into a blender. Run the blender on a high speed (puree) for several seconds until the ingredients are well blended. Be careful not to overdo it. Pour custard into pie crust. Toss in walnuts evenly over the custard, they’ll sink into the custard which is fine, you don’t want them to burn! Bake the pie for 40 – 45 minutes or until it is solid when you jiggle it.
Cool the pie to at least room temperature before cutting into it. If eaten at room temperature, the custard will have an odd texture, like ricotta cheese. I recommend chilling the pie, the texture was much better cold. It was sinfully delicious either way.