Recipe: Easy As Pie! Homemade Apple Pie (Vegan)
Apple pie is so comforting and so common — but what if it didn’t even exist? I read somewhere recently that apple pie, or any fruit filled pie, was not commonly made or even heard of in some places before the mid-19th century (in the US). When they did show up they were considered a vulgar way to consume fruit and resisted by the ‘upper crust’ (ironically) and those who set proper etiquette within society. Apple pie might have then vanished from the culinary landscape had it not been for rebellious home cooks and entrepreneurial bakers who saw the wonderful potential of baked fruit inside a golden, flaky crust.
Apple pie, in particular, is now not only the most popular pie, it is also considered to be a well known symbol of American culture. “As American as apple pie” used to be a commonly used phrase. This is probably because apples are perceived to be very wholesome and healthy. And it’s true –apples are among the healthiest foods you can eat, full of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Also they are plenty sweet and come in a variety of colors, shapes, sizes and wonderful tastes. Very few people on planet earth can profess they don’t like apples. So, how could you go wrong with apple pie: cinnamon dusted baked apples inside a delicate pastry that melts in the mouth?
Added Sugar is not needed!
Well, it actually did go wrong. The ubiquitous apple pie, especially those sold in stores, bakeries and restaurants, has increasingly contributed (along with other pies and confections) to the obesity and diabetes epidemic spreading throughout the world today. The culprit is not the apples, nor even the simple crusts, but the tonnage of Sugar, Sugar, Sugar that is poured into the pies and into the crust dough and then sprinkled heavily on top. What actually sits on grocery store shelves waiting to load down unwary buyers are massive sugar bombs (also full of dairy fats and salt) with the apples only being a minor ingredient in most of those “apple pies.”
But here’s the good news: You can have absolutely wonderful apple pie made at home, easily and quickly, without all the added sugar and dairy fats. If you follow the simple recipe below you will find it is so good that even your kids will eat it up and ask for more.
To Peel or Not to Peel
The main secret to a great home made apple pie really lies in the kind of apple you use (or don’t use) and in going against tradition. My mother’s generation of cooks and those before them insisted that green “Granny Smith” apples or similar mostly sour apples were the only correct kinds to be used in apple pie baking. This is mainly because once these usually green apples were peeled, they were known to have enough structure not to smush down into apple sauce during the baking process. But because they were barely sweet they had to have lots of sugar and syrups loaded on them, along with loads of melted butter in order to make them cook through and have that melty salty/sweet taste inside the pastry shell (also usually sweetened).
So here’s the Big Secret(s) for making great healthy Apple Pie:
1. Don’t use Granny Smith apples — instead use just about any other kind of strongly sweet apple.
2. Don’t peel the apples. (Sacrilege!) Just chop up the apples unpeeled and use them the same way you would use peeled apples.
There is a lot time and mess involved with peeling the apples and also a lot of pointless food waste. Apples should not be peeled because the skins not only provide the lustrous beauty of the apple, but also most of the nutrients are held within the skins. To peel an apple is like cutting the bloom off of a rose and presenting a loved one with only the leaves and thorns. It simply isn’t necessary for a tasty and perfectly nutritious apple pie.
A sweeter apple generally has thinner more delicate skin than the sour Granny Smith types. Therefore the sweeter apple skins will easily cook down to an appetizing ‘al dente’ softness inside the pie, no problem. Forget the peeling!
Never waste Apples again!
So here is the main part of this wonderful vegan apple pie — it’s just the apples. Generally you should use whatever apples that you have on hand, let’s say maybe you bought a few too many from the store. Great! That’s just a sign that’s it’s time to make an apple pie. No need to let any of them go to waste. Apples have a very long shelf life, especially if kept cool or refrigerated. But eventually, of course, they start to develop bad spots and you will tend throw them out — but don’t throw them out! Keep those! Simply cut out the bad spots and add them in with the rest of the apples that are going in to your wonderful pie.
And just to make things quick and easy — really quick and easy — I am going to advocate that you use storebought quickie pie crust such as this shown below:
I’m suggesting that at least sometimes you use readymade pie crust because making your own pie crust — though a wonderful idea — can be a little messy and time consuming. If you are short on time, but have a some apples handy, having to hunt down your rolling pin and face a lot of clean up might be a discouragement. But the pie must go on! (And besides, in this recipe, the pie crust is a minimal part, and on the bottom only. This pie is really all about the apples!) Store bought crust will do just fine.
Easy as Pie! Home Made Apple Pie
1 deep dish pie crust 9 inch (graham cracker or flour based)
For the filling:
- 3 large or 4 medium sweet apples (not green or sour)
- 1/3 cup sunflower oil (or canola, or other light oil)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
For the Topping:
- 1 3/4 cups oatmeal
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- OPTIONAL; a 1/4 cup of brown sugar can be nice here but feel free to leave it out)
- OPTIONAL: A few drops of vanilla mixed with a tablespoon of water
- At the very end: 1/2 cup sunflower or other light oil
- First, whip out your handy dandy pie crust (either one you have bought in the freezer section or one you have made yourself) and have it at the ready.
- Gather up your 3 or 4 apples, give them a wash and prepare to chop.
- Cut up each apple (unpeeled!) into large lengthwise chunks by cutting just to the side of the core (no need to mess with the core, just cut away from the cores and toss them.)
- After you’ve got your big chunks, cut them also lengthwise into long plump slices something less than an inch wide on the skin side.
- Now have fun arranging your apple slices inside your pie crust — but first dapple all the slices with drops of lemon juice, and a quick light sprinkle of salt — or do this once the slices are in the pie.
- After the pie is full of of slices, then generously douse overall with cinnamon. Follow this by drizzling with the light sunflower oil (or oil or butter as you prefer).
- Now in a small/medium bowl, quickly stir together the oatmeal topping: Remember, this just the oatmeal, the cinnamon, and brown sugar if you chose to use it. Sprinkle liberally over the top of the pie (make more topping if it doesn’t quite cover).
- Last, liberally drizzle the last 1/2 cup of oil over the oatmeal topping.
Now you are ready to bake!
- Place your pie in a hot oven, about 400 degrees on a middle rack. Watch closely and pull the pie out of the oven once the pastry edges are nicely browned (but not burned!). The pie will not be done yet!
- Get a large piece of foil and place it over the pie in ‘pillow’ type fashion, allowing for an inch or so of hot air between the foil and the pie top. Back into the hot oven.
- Let the foil covered pie cook for 30- 45 minutes, then check for doneness. If a fork or toothpick can poke into soft apples with no resistance, it’s Done!
Last But Not Least
Here’s my big suggestion for everyone who truly loves apples and apple pie, and for those who want to have the healthiest apple pie possible: Go Crustless! What the heck?! Just place your unpeeled, sliced apples in a coated pie pan, follow the recipe for filling and topping, and then bake. Simple as that! It may not slice up as neatly as a pie with crust on bottom and/or top, but it sure will taste just as good!
And that is just about as close to a ‘guilt free’ and perfectly delicious piece of apple pie as you will ever heard get.