Sunday, August 9, 2020

Apple-Sour Cream Crumble (The sour cream makes it deluxe)

These past few weeks we have had a lot of bananas on the counter turning brown. We've been flipping through the old books in the house and found a lot of lovely ways to use up the extra bananas that seem to be a fact of life as a result of having to get two weeks of groceries in one single sticker-shocking trip rather than going for a few items every other night depending on what we're making for dinner. Just as we had a lot of exciting plans for the bananas (Frozen custard! Pie! Gelatin mold! Whipped banana cake icing!), the bananas all disappeared and these short-lived apples landed in the kitchen.

Obviously, if we left them out in the kitchen for everyone to partake of the occasional healthy handheld snack over the next week, they would rot- and also bring in swarms of fruit flies. We considered making sticky apple man-bait, but it is difficult to try to attract men when you're avoiding people like your life depends on it. What does the wonderful world of recipes have to offer for someone who is off the dating market at least until you won't die two weeks after a mediocre dinner?

Apple-Sour Cream Crumble Deluxe
¾ c sugar
2 tbsp flour
⅛ tsp salt
1 c sour cream
½ tsp vanilla
4 c finely cut apples
1 egg
6 tbsp butter
½ c sugar
½ c flour
1½ tsp cinnamon
1 pinch salt

Heat oven to 425°. Line a 9" square pan with foil and grease it.
Thoroughly mix the flour, sugar, and salt. Whisk in the sour cream, vanilla, and egg. Fold in the apples and pour into the pan.
Bake 15 minutes. While it's baking, make the topping: Mix the butter and sugar, beating out any lumps. Stir in the cinnamon, and when all is mixed add the flour. Pat it into a layer about 1" thick and put in the freezer to make it more crumbly.
After 15 minutes have elapsed, reduce heat to 350°. Bake 40 minutes. Sprinkle with topping and bake 20 minutes more.

Adapted from a recipe by Helen Kalata (of Chicago, IL), Anniversary Slovak-American Cook Book, First Catholic Slovak Ladies' Union, 1952


 We decided to try this because we've never seen an apple pie like it. Every apple pie we've ever seen or made was some variation of apples, sugar, and spices in a pie crust. Sure, there have been some tragic intrusions like a half-pound of process American cheese, but the basics of the pie have been pretty consistent: sugar, spice, apples, pie crust (and maybe a crumb topping). We've never seen apples suspended in a sour cream custard.

You will notice that we're not cutting out any of the bruises. We used to carefully excise them with a knife, but pies and cobblers were made for squishy fruit like this. There's a farmer's market near where we used to live where they openly say that the peach cobbler contains the peaches that arrived bruised and mushy. You'd never know after the fruit gets doused in sugar and spice and then shoved into a hot oven.

The more we have economizing thrust upon us due to ever-rising grocery prices, the more we feel silly for every time in the past that we have insisted on the most perfect fruits for our pies. These apples may have been more bruise than apple on the surface, but baking them will completely hide that. And so, instead of a well-fed trash can, we have a healthy(ish) dessert!

And now this recipe veers away from anything we've ever done. I hate to say no one ever does an apple pie like this. Clearly someone did because they wrote it down and put it in a cookbook. It looks like the beginnings of a boiled custard, but nowhere in the instructions are we told to turn on a stove burner.

It's been noted that most of our attempts to avoid wasted fruit has been to put them into cakes and pies. We have occasionally contemplated whether it's economical or not to expend a lot of baking ingredients on desserts we would have otherwise not have made at all. If "I'm making pie to save our grocery budget" seems like a flimsy excuse, there's always the backup excuse of "There's a damn plague on and life is stressful enough without reducing ourselves to salad and cottage cheese."
Does the vanilla-spattered sour cream look like ice cream and syrup to anyone else?

This tiny bowl of batter-custard brings us to the first misgiving we had about altering the recipe. We've doubled the amount of apples going into this without increasing the amount of this sour cream stuff. It seemed reasonable at the time- after all, we often double the pecans in a pecan pie without any problems whatsoever. Rather than getting a parsimonious handful of pecans floating on top of a oozing pan of corn syrup glop, we get a delicious pie that is packed full of nuts that get candied while it bakes.

We saw no reason we couldn't do the same with apple cubes. In theory, we'd get a delicious pie that was crammed full of enough apples with just enough of this sour cream mixture to hold them together. We theorized that this would conveniently use up all the apples that threatened to turn into countertop compost and also make this a deliciously apple-filled apple pie. Some people like their fruit pies to be a tastefully moderate portion of fruit suspended in something, but we like ours to be absolutely stuffed with fruits.
With that said, we didn't know whether this would be enough sour cream for all the apples we had cut up and slowly browning on the counter next to us.

This kitchen doesn't seem to have any medium-sized bowls, just very tiny and very big ones. Sometimes we feel a little silly making something that only uses about a third of the space in the bowl (and still sloshing it all over the floor), but for once all the excessive space paid off. If you close your eyes, you won't notice how many of the apples are the color of an iced coffee with extra cream.

We had imagined a pie just stuffed full of delicious mostly-edible apples, but we realized that this wouldn't even fit in a pie pan. You might think we were a bit annoyed at having to cancel using a pie crust after going through all the effort of making one, but we had fortunately decided we were so lazy that this would be a be  crustless pie. I think I read in one of my mother's back issues of dieting magazines that if you leave off the crust, you cut half the calories. I could pretend I'm watching what remains of my waist after avoiding people like it will save my life, but in reality I just didn't feel like bothering.

So much of the sour cream stuck to the apples that only this tiny little puddle remained. Resisting the urge to just eat it, we dribbled it across the pan because these half-rotten apples needed all the help they could get.

Anyway, with the apples in the oven we could mix together the stuff that's supposed to grace the top of the pie.

The butter was a bit too rock-hard to mix with anything, so we had to get out the power tools.

Some of the more watchful people out there may have noticed that we have so far gotten out two bowls, plus the knife and board for apple-cutting, and now we're getting out a mixer with beaters that will need a good cleaning. You might think that's a lot of dirty dishes for one recipe, but that will never be a problem in this kitchen again. Since the plumbers finished replacing all the rusted and rotted pipes, a marvelous change has happened to us here at A Book of Cookrye. Behold!
I have wanted to live with one of these for such a long time.

In case you didn't know, the lack of a dishwasher in my life has long caused vexation. Anyone who has read my writings on the subject would know that I reeeeally love a machine that takes washing dishes right out of my detergent-chapped hands. And now one resides right here in the kitchen! No longer must I stare at a stinky sponge and everyone's sauce-spattered plates after dinner. No more will I scour that nasty mixture of food residue and crusted-over spit off of all the forks, one at a time, every single day. The dishwasher has magically freed me from the drudge. And to make it even better, if I just leave it open after it has done the cleaning for me, it automatically converts into a drying rack!

Incidentally, the plumbers left another thing outside the house that we've used more than expected:

Yes, we now have hot water on the outside of the house. This was not my idea, but it's also not my house. Hot water on an exterior spigot is one of those things that seems silly and useless until you have it. But now that it is installed, we've used it extensively. If you were going to clean something by taking it outside and hosing it, you should try hosing it with nearly-scalding hot water. Even the most malodorous indications of an incontinent cat come right out of the rugs, leaving only steaming-hot cleanliness.
Anyway, we were in the middle of making an apple pie. Except we decided we didn't feel like making a pie crust, so this is not a pie but an apple... cobbler? crisp? buckle? crumble? We read this article and decided that it's probably either an apple crisp or an apple crumble.

We lengthened the baking time after spearing one of the apples with a toothpick and finding that it was still rock-hard after the recipe said it should have been at least halfway done. It was barely warmed up in the center. We can't fault Helen Kalata of Chicago, Illinois for faulty recipe instructions. It's quite reasonable that the baking time should get longer when we have twice as many apples that the oven heat must penetrate.
Anyway, we wanted to get the dishwasher started (since it was nearly full), but the bowl of apple topping was still, well, full of apple topping. The oven timer told us we still had thirty minutes before the pie was ready to be dressed on top, and we were not going to delay the dish cycle for that long just because of one bowl.

When the apples were finally nearly-done, this looked like a really damn good pan of potato hash.

I thought this was meant to be a crumb topping, but it started melting onto the apples before we'd scattered the entirety of it. Perhaps if we were good at dispersing it evenly instead of in lumps, it would have melted into a crispy crust on top.

At the end of its baking time, the pie emerged looking oddly like something a preschooler would have made. The spattered-looking top makes it look like someone's parent will smile down at their child and proudly say "And little Tilsie helped make dessert!"

Interestingly, some of the apples had squirted out foam that hardened before it could evaporate away. You might think this fizzled for a bit right after we took it out of the oven and then dripped down that apple cube, but it remained there without even deflating long after the pie cooled off.

One thing I liked about this pie from the moment I cut it: it slices very cleanly. A lot of pies are too runny for that, like those cherry pies made from canned pie filling (which I like so much that I often skip the whole business of baking them and just get a can opener and a spoon). But when you cut this pie, it stays cut.

When you cut it, it looks like, well, apples suspended in a white baked custard. AND IT IS DELICIOUS. The sour-cream stuff brings out the tartness of the apples without covering up the apple flavor, and separating the cinnamon out of the pie and into an intensely-spiced crispy top layer is brilliant. One person noted that "this tastes like it should be in a pie crust," so maybe next time we'll at least press one into the bottom of the pan even if we don't feel like doing anything involving a rolling pin.

If you have extra apples from when you stocked up on fruit and didn't realize it would all go bad at the same time, or even if you just feel like making an apple pie, this is a great recipe. We at A Book of Cookrye would even go so far as to put it on the holiday baking list if that happens this year.


  1. I've been using smooshy apples to make apple cinnamon pancakes, but maybe I should try this...

    1. I definitely would. And despite my misgivings, I think it's a lot better if you drastically increase the amount of apples that go in it.

  2. I've been reading your blog for years, and when I saw you have a dishwasher now, I had to say yay!!!

  3. I'm glad to see that not only do you have working plumbing, you got some upgrades, too. I have some friends whose parents realized that the "new" wood floor they put in their kitchen some 20 years earlier had barricaded the old dishwasher firmly under their counter. When they realized that their old dishwasher needed replaced, the boards in front of the dishwasher were carefully cut loose, removed for dishwasher swap, and replaced. There is no such thing as too much work to install a dishwasher.

    1. 2 hours after I read this post, we had a massive storm with straight line winds up to 100 mph (prairie storms don't mess around). Anyway, a couple of apple trees were blown over next to my house, and I'm looking at them thinking there's some bruised fruit out there... the good news is that the people around here are fine, and the trees missed the house and the car.

    2. I agree with your parents' priorities. There really is no such thing as too much work for installing one. I have already decided that anyone who tells me a dishwasher is unnecessary has officially volunteered to do the job by hand until they see the light.
      Also, that storm was massive! I am a few states below, but it was big enough to make the news here in the northern edge of the South!

    3. I'm glad that you heard about the storm. Locally there's a lot of anger about the lack of attention and help. Today it's estimated that 80% of the residents in the county north of me are without power (down from 90%). They have a curfew in place and many roads are still not passible from the debris. No national guard, no FEMA. Gas and ice are the new toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

  4. This sounds like something I would eat on the reg.

    1. The only reason we haven't is that we haven't had an excess of apples since.