Fall is when I miss New England the most. Seattle has great things too, but people back east know how to make cold weather look good, and a certain old-timey, Christmas-like spirit falls over the region that’s hard to resist—the air becomes crisper, cooler, and the bright and warm colored leaves contrast starkly against clear blue skies. Each October, my friends and I used to go to a local orchard and pick apples by the pound. We’d then return to campus and savor the rest of the weekend by baking pies and drinking mulled wine.
But alas, autumn has arrived across the Northern Hemisphere and I am far away from those cozy falls in Massachusetts that make even the town of Norton look beautiful. However, though Washington is known as the Evergreen state, its official fruit is the apple. So foliage or not, at least there are plenty of apples to be turned into pies and bring a popular remnant of American colonialism to my kitchen in the Pacific Northwest.
In order to satisfy a case of New England nostalgia and take advantage of the fact that Washington State produces 42% of the country’s apples, I picked up some local granny smith apples to recreate the recipe used back at school. This classic incorporates cheddar cheese and the result is New England in pie form–sweet but not too sweet, so good you’ll be back for more. (Also, in case you didn’t already know, adding cheese to things usually tends to be magical.)
Apple Pie with Sharp Cheddar
Adapted from my friend Emma’s Legendary Westbrook Family Pie recipe
9 inch pie crust:
1 ¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces
2-4 tablespoons ice water
4 large apples
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons water
1 cup flour
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (white)
½ cup butter
Construction and assembly:
To make the crust, start by pulsing the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor several times to combine. Then add the pieces of butter and pulse until mixture is coarse. Add 2 tablespoons of water, more if necessary. The dough should stick together when pinched. Do not over-process and pulse as little as possible. Place dough on floured surface, shape gently into a disc, then cover with plastic wrap and let chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove pie dough from fridge and roll into 13-inch circle and carefully transfer into pie dish. Make little folds with your thumb or a fork and trim excess dough from the edges (I sometimes like to save these extras for decoration after). For the filling, peel and slice the apples and place inside crust. Sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon, then water. Use plenty of apples to create a heaping mound (and your best judgment since apple sizes vary) and remember the apples will cook down.
To make the cheese topping, combine and mix all ingredients in a bowl until well crumbled. Crumbling consistency is best achieved when butter is still slightly hard from the refrigerator. Spread over pie then bake for 45 minutes. This pie tends to get juicy so place a cookie sheet under the pie dish while it’s in the oven. Garnish with a little more cheese once pie has finished baking.
Then as Emma says: Eat. Enjoy. Repeat!