I’ll be the first to admit that serving apple pie with a slice of cheddar cheese is not necessarily a common thing to do and it certainly wasn’t a family tradition. In fact, I was a young adult when Uncle first told me about it. Since then, I’ve enjoyed apple pie with cheddar cheese several times although, to be honest, I’ll take vanilla ice cream before cheddar cheese any day. (I am my Mother’s son, after all.) Still, I was happy with my apple pie adorned with the occasional slice of cheddar until one day a few months ago. I was busy doing whatever and, in the background, there was a Food Network program on the TV. It was one of those shows I’ve grown to dislike, with people talking about how great some dish is at this diner or that restaurant without ever telling how it’s made. Well, I watch these programs to learn new techniques, to get recipes, to see a dish prepared. If I want to hear people talk about how good a dish is, I’ll go to a diner and survey the people eating at the counter. Anyway, a restaurant was mentioned that was known for its pie and which featured an apple pie with cheddar cheese in the crust. Aside from that comment and seeing some grated cheddar dumped into a commercial mixer, the actual recipe was left a mystery. Did I mention how much I dislike these shows? Anyway, my quest began that very day …
In the weeks that followed, I baked a number of test pies. I varied the amount of grated cheddar cheese in the crust from 2 to 6 ounces per crust. I adjusted the amount of fat in the crusts and even swapped spices in the filling. And left in my wake was a trail of apple pies that stretched from the shores of Lake Michigan to those of Lake Huron, not to mention devoted taste testers in both locales. In the end, I settled on using 4 ounces of grated, sharp cheddar cheese and 7 tbsp of fat per crust while, in the pie filling, I replaced nutmeg with cardamom. The result was a pie with a crust that was manageable when raw and, when baked, was relatively light with the distinctive — but not overpowering — taste of cheddar. Success!
With the cheddar question out of the way, let’s talk filling. Just like with our Thingamajig, I use both tart and sweet apples. For the sweet, I find that Fuji work best because they, like Granny Smiths, hold up well during baking. I prefer the apples in my pie filling to be in chunks rather than thinly sliced and that way they remain somewhat firm when baked. Once the apples are peeled, cored, and chopped, I heat them in a saucepan with some butter. All I’m doing is heating them through; I take them off the heat when their juices first begin to appear in the pan. I’ve found that this helps to prevent a finished pie that has a gap of over an inch between the apple pie filling and the crust “dome” above it. It’s important, though, to pull the apples off of the heat as soon as they start to render their juices and to cool them completely before assembling the pie. Cook them too long or fill the pie while they’re still hot and your apples will not be at all crisp when the pie has finished baking.
* * *
* * *
The Apple with a Cheddar Cheese Crust Recipe
- For Apple Pie Filling
- 6 Granny Smiths (or similar, tart apples) peeled, cored, and sliced evenly
- 2 Fuji (or similar, sweet apple) peeled, cored, and sliced evenly
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup raisins, soaked in hot water and drained (optional)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup AP flour
- 3/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp cardamom (or nutmeg)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg, beaten
- For Each of 2 Pie Crusts
- 1 1/2 cups AP flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp vegetable shortening, cut into cubes and well-chilled
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into cubes and well-chilled
- 4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 3 tbsp ice water, plus 1 tbsp, if needed
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar
- For apple pie filling
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the apple slices and lemon juice. Stir to coat the apples.
- In a sauce pan large enough to hold the apples, melt the butter over medium heat.
- Add the apples and sauté just until the apples begin to give up their liquid. Do not cook until the apples grow soft.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt.
- Return heated apple pieces to large mixing bowl.
- Add the raisins, if using, and spice mixture to the apples and gently stir until the apples are coated evenly.
- Set aside to cool completely and until the pie crusts are ready.
- For Pie Crust – Best if each crust is made individually in the food processor.
- Add flour, cheddar cheese, and salt to the processor. Pulse it a few times to combine the 3 ingredients.
- Add the very cold butter & shortening cubes.
- Pulse the machine 3 times, with each pulse lasting a 3-count. Your ingredients will now be lightly mixed. If need be, pulse again.
- With the machine running, add the vinegar and then slowly add the ice water. Do not add so much that a ball of dough forms. Remove the lid and, with your hands, test the dough to see if a ball of dough can be formed.
- If so, turn the dough until a very lightly floured service, form a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- If a dough ball will not form, add a little more water, pulse the machine a couple of times, and test it again. When you can form a ball of dough, follow step A above.
- While the dough rests in the fridge, prepare the 2nd crust.
- Assembly, to occur only after filling is cooled completely and pie crusts rested
- Pre-heat oven to 400.
- After 30 minutes, remove the dough from the fridge and roll it until large enough to completely cover the bottom of a 9 inch pie pan. Place the dough into the pan, trim any access, and return the crust and pan to the fridge until needed further.
- Roll out the 2nd crust, though slightly smaller, it must be large enough to cover the pie with a little excess.
- Retrieve the pie’s bottom crust from the fridge, fill it with the apple pie mixture, and cover it with the 2nd pie crust.
- Seal the pie by gently lifting the bottom crust’s edge while placing the top crust’s edge behind it. Work you way around the entire pie.
- Again, working your way around the pie, crimp the edge to further seal the pie.
- Use the egg to coat the top crust. Sprinkle with sugar. Use a sharp knife to create steam vents in the pie’s upper crust.
- Bake in a pre-heated 400* oven for 15 minutes. Without opening the door, lower the heat to 375* and continue baking for 40 – 45 minutes.
- After a total time of 30 minutes, and 15 minutes thereafter, check to see if the crust’s edge is too dark. If so, cover with aluminum foil and continue baking.
- When top is golden brown, remove pie from oven and place on a cooling rack. I always allow my apple pie to cool at least 2 hours before serving.
* * *
* * *
This recipe is more concerned about the crust than it is the pie filling. So, if you prefer sweet apples, walnuts, or currants, use them. If you hate raisins, ditch them. If you don’t like or haven’t any cardamom, use nutmeg. In short, change the filling to suit your tastes. The same goes with the crust. If you find that adding cheddar to your favorite pie crust recipe makes a better pie, then please come back here and tell us about it.
* * *
One last thing about the crust. Add too little cheddar and you won’t taste it; too much and the pastry dough is rendered unmanageable. And even under the best of circumstances, the cheddar cheese will affect the crust’s flakiness. So, it’s basically a trade-off. The trick is to add as much cheddar cheese flavor as you can without sacrificing too many of the crust’s better qualities. My taste testers and I agree that this recipe “works.” If you try it, I hope you feel the same way.
* * *