High Country Baking column: An apple pie with intense apple flavors | VailDaily.com

High Country Baking column: An apple pie with intense apple flavors

Vera Dawson
VAIL CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.

There is no such thing as a bad apple pie … the thought is absolutely un-American. But, depending on the apples, some pies have less fruit flavor than others. This recipe guarantees a strong apple taste. In fact, by including a sauce made from reduced apple cider, it takes the taste of apple to a new level of intensity. This dessert positively shouts “APPLE.”

The pie, alone, is an appealing one. With crystallized ginger and bourbon as well as the expected apple pie spices, the flavor is complex, though subtle. (Surprisingly, the ginger and bourbon aren’t dominant.) The texture of the soft fruit is complemented by a crisp streusel topping, though you could substitute a top crust if you prefer. The sauce provides the punch, and it’s a knock-out; even with the addition of butter, sugar and bourbon, the cider prevails.

The dessert can be made over a two-day period. I make and refrigerate the sauce and the streusel on the first day and, on the second day, I prebake the crust, fill it, and bake the pie. We like to serve the pie warm and the sauce cool, but both can also be presented at room temperature.

Apple pie, intensified

Make in a 9 inch deep-dish pie pan, preferably glass

Adjusted for altitude


Your favorite single pie crust, prebaked

Cider Sauce

5 cups of apple cider

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

3 tablespoons bourbon


1/3 cup of flour

1/3 cup of old-fashioned oats

1/3 cup of brown sugar, packed

Pinch salt

Slightly less than 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 tablespoons unsalted butter


1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

3 tablespoons flour

3 tablespoons of minced crystallized ginger

2 tablespoons of bourbon

1 teaspoon apple pie spice

5 – 6 large Golden Delicious apples

Vanilla ice cream

Make the sauce: Boil the apple cider in a heavy medium saucepan until it’s reduced to 3/4 of a cup. This takes about 40 minutes. Watch closely after it’s reduced to about one cup; it will quickly thicken slightly and darken in color as it reaches the 3/4 cup amount. Reduce heat, add butter and sugar and whisk until the butter melts. Boil for about three minutes, check for taste and add more sugar, if desired. Remove from the heat, add the bourbon, cool, cover and refrigerate. Stir well before serving. (Can be made a day ahead.)

Make the streusel: Toss/Whisk the dry ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Cut the butter into small pieces and, using your fingers, rub/pinch them into the dry ingredients until uniformly moist crumbs are formed. This can also be done in a food processor. Cover and refrigerate. (Can be made a day ahead.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Place a cookie sheet on the center rack. Make the filling: Combine the sugar, flour, crystallized ginger, bourbon and apple pie spice in a large bowl and stir to mix. Peel and core the apples and cut them into slices about a quarter inch thick. Halve the slices horizontally. You want five to six cups of apple slices. Add them to the bowl and toss until all of the slices are thoroughly and uniformly coated with the other ingredients. Spoon the filling in the prebaked pie shell, mounding it slightly in the middle (don’t make the mound too high or the streusel will slide off of it.) You may not use all of the apples, depending on the size of your pan. Sprinkle the streusel all over the apples, patting it in place where necessary, and covering the fruit well. You may not use all the streusel.

Place the pie on the cookie sheet in the oven. Bake until the apples are soft (check by poking a fork into them). This takes about 45 to 60 minutes in my oven, but check earlier. You may need to cover the crust with strips of foil to prevent it from overbaking. If the streusel gets dark golden and crisp before the apples are baked, drape a tent of foil over the whole pie. Remove the pie to a rack and let it cool for several hours, so the filling sets up, before cutting. Serve slices warm, with a scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of the cool cider sauce.

Parts of this recipe are variations of one in Bon Appetit.

Vera Dawson, a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at veradawson1@gmail.com.

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