No fancy latticework needed for this crowd-pleasing browned butter apple crumb pie! This classic apple pie, with a little modern twist, is a perfect way to end a meal!
Did you know making pies from scratch felt so intimidating for the longest time because of the top crust? I’d see perfect lattices atop a beautifully arranged pile of fruit and sigh. My pies never looked like that. It’s funny, now, because I’ve learned a few things. First, a pretty pie top is a bonus. Nobody cares if you replicated a small forest on your pie or just rolled and crimped the top crust on with a few slits for ventilation. And second, not every double-crust pie needs a crust topping. Enter the crumb pie! With an easy homemade struesel topping, you end up with a beautiful pie ready to grace any table!
I tried my first apple crumb pie years ago. I think we purchased a little mini pie from a vendor at a farmer’s market. It was delicious, satisfying, and the little bit of crumble added a very nice texture! Even though we loved it, I only ever made berry pies with crumble topping. That is, until this year.
Now that we live near an apple orchard again, we took the kids apple picking and picked *way* too many apples, as is tradition. I ordered some small pie dishes on Amazon with the intention of making apple pies to freeze and bake as needed over the holidays. Apple pies are a favorite around here.
It just so happened that a double recipe of my flaky pie crust was perfect for 3 smaller pies plus enough for a single-crust pie. With literally no other pie-appropriate fruit on hand, and not wanting to make a custard, I finally got to making my apple crumb pie. Of course, it only felt right to make the flavors a little richer than I would for a fruit pie, so a browned butter apple crumb pie was created!
Darlings, the recipe was a hit! And you know when an impromptu recipe gets serious approval, we make again and blog. The decision was greeted by cheers.
So with that, let’s get to chatting about this recipe!
Do you have to make the pie crust from scratch?
No. My pie crust is homemade. I like to make a few batches of my homemade all-butter pie crust recipe to store in the freezer to use as needed. BUT, if I hadn’t already had pie crust on hand, and I wanted to assemble this pie in a flash, I would TOTALLY buy a crust. Use one from the freezer section that’s already in a pan, or roll out a refrigerator crust. Whatever works for you is perfect.
Of course, if you really wanted to play up the browned butter flavor, make the crust. Take half the measurement of butter needed for the crust and brown it. Refrigerate until very cold and solid. Use in the recipe. So you would use a 50/50 split of browned butter and “regular” butter. Then you have browned butter crust and a browned butter crumble. See what we did there? Extra fancy.
What kind of apples are best for making apple pie?
With so many varieties of apples available, picking one for baking apple pies can feel intimidating! Thankfully, you have plenty of great options. What you’re looking for is an apple that has a crisp texture. A firm-textured apple will hold its shape better during baking and not get mushy. In my experience, texture is really the number one thing to look for. You can always adjust the amount of sugar in the pie filling to get your preferred level of sweetness.
For a more tart flavor, you can’t go wrong with a green apple, like Granny Smith. I’m very partial to Granny Smith apples for my apple and lemon pie (another great one!). It’s a classic. BUT, there are so many other options! If you’re looking for a more balanced flavor – a middle ground between sweet and tart – try Braeburn apples. Other good options are Jonagold or MacIntosh. Or try a mix!
When we go to an apple orchard, we always pick a variety of apples and never separate them or even remember what they are. So don’t stress too much about it! As long as you have mostly crisp varieties of apples for your pie, you’ll get an amazing texture and delicious flavor.
A few recipe notes for this browned butter apple crumb pie…
The filling for this recipe should have a moderate sweetness. You don’t want it to be super sweet so the nutty flavor of the browned butter crumb topping shines through. The recipe calls for 1/3 cup of brown sugar, as this is the measurement I like best for the apples we use. I look for apples that already have a slight natural sweetness to them. If you find your apples are very sweet, you may want to start with 1/4 cup of sugar and then adjust as needed. If your apples are particularly tart, add a little more sugar. An additional tablespoon should be plenty.
The flour in the recipe helps to absorb any liquid released by the apples during the baking process. There is no need to cook the apple pie filling before baking for this recipe. Crumb topping pies are so easy to assemble and right now we are all about simple!
When cutting your apples, the best two options are small cubes or even slices. The key is consistency with either. A consistent shape will allow the apples to bake evenly and give the best texture to your apple pie. Whether you choose small cubes or slices though is personal preference. If you like chunks of apple in your apple pie, the cubes are great.
When I’m peeling and slicing by hand, I cut my apples into cubes because it’s easier than making consistent slices. To keep assembly quick, I’ve been using my apple peeler and slicer though, which already creates an even spiral slice through each apple. I’ll then cut the apple into 4 or 5 sections depending on its size. Don’t cut too small or the apples will lose some of their texture in baking. You want a nice soft bite.
During baking, if you find that your outer crust is browning a little faster than you’d like, use a pie protector or ring of aluminum foil to slow the browning process.
Can I assemble this pie and advance and freeze it?
YES! As with most apple pies, you can assemble the pie (crumb topping too), wrap well, and freeze for up to 30 days. Bake straight from the freezer and add a few extra minutes to the baking time.
If you’d just like to assemble the day before baking, keep the crumb topping separately. Cover the pie and refrigerate overnight with the crumb topping in a separate, airtight container. Add the topping just before baking. But you can also just bake the pie the day before you intend to serve. Tent loosely with aluminum foil and warm for 12-18 minutes in a 350 F oven until warmed through.
I hope you love this recipe for browned butter apple pie, darlings! Happy baking!
- 1 9-inch pie crust, store-bought or homemade
- 5 cups peeled and sliced apples (3-4 medium apples)
- 1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons browned butter
- Preheat the oven to 375 F.
- Peel and slice the apples. Small cubes are great or use an apple peeler and slicer if you have one. Place the apples in a mixing bowl and toss with the brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour.
- Pour the apple mixture into your pie crust, arranging evenly. If you used slightly larger apples and the pile comes slightly over the pie crust, arrange the apples so there's a slight dome in the center.
- Wipe down the mixing bowl where you had the apples with a clean paper towel. In that bowl, whisk together the 1 cup of flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, and cinnamon.
- Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Continue to cook 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it's very fragrant and brown specks appear. When the butter has browned, immediately pour it into the crumb topping mixture. Using a fork, stir until large clumps form. Spoon the crumb topping over the pie evenly.
- Place the pie on a lined baking sheet (or use an oven liner in case of an accidental spill) and bake for 45-55 minutes until the crumb topping and crust are a light golden brown and baked through.
- Allow the pie to cool 30 minutes before slicing. It's especially delicious served slightly warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!
- Leftover pie can be stored covered at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- If you aren't using a store-bought or pre-made homemade pie crust, you can really punch up the browned butter flavor by making your pie crust with browned butter too! Brown half the amount of butter called for in your pie crust recipe, then chill until firm and use in your recipe. I've found a 50/50 split of browned butter versus not-browned butter provides a good amount of browned butter flavor while still allowing for maximum crust flakiness.
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