from My Ackee Tree
My mum’s strong hands on top of mine. I’m eight years old, and she’s showing me how to press a mixture of flour and butter onto warm apples. I can smell cinnamon and nutmeg. Feel the soft skin of her inner arm against mine as the indentations of my fingers appear on the crust. It’s a beautiful memory of our kitchen on a Sunday afternoon. Sunday night dinner always included dessert when I was a kid, and this was one of my favourites.
Mum always used the store-bought graham cracker shells. She was a working mum, six days a week. Office job. Then cleaning offices. Then cleaning and cooking at home. Our mothers, bless them, truly. This recipe takes me right back home.
I made my mum’s apple pie when I first met Suzanne Hancock, and it started this whole project. Got me thinking about Nicey, my journey, got Suzanne thinking about her own losses and how sharing them can be healing. I hadn’t talked about my mum’s death much before that, and it made me want to celebrate her life.
Makes 1 pie
6 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored 2 tablespoons (30 mL) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 mL) orange zest
½ cup (125 mL) water
1½ cups (375 mL) salted butter
3 cups (750 mL) all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup (250 mL) firmly packed brown sugar 2 teaspoons (10 mL) cinnamon
1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon (2 mL) sea salt Pinch of ground allspice
Store-bought 9-inch (23 cm) graham cracker pie shell
Vanilla ice cream, to serve
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Cut the apples into half-moon-shaped slices, about ¼ inch (5 mm) thick, and place them in a medium saucepan. Add the granulated sugar and orange zest. Toss until the apples are evenly coated. Add the water and cover. Place the saucepan over medium-low heat and cook for about 8 minutes, until the apples start to soften, making sure they do not turn mushy.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Continue to cook for about 12 minutes, until the butter browns slightly and begins to develop some flavour. Let cool for 1 minute.
In a medium bowl, add the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and allspice. Stir to combine. Add the melted butter to the bowl with dry ingredients. Use a wooden spoon to stir until the mixture resembles the texture of coarse sand, with lumps of sugar, butter, and salt.
Transfer the apples and any liquid in the saucepan to the graham cracker pie shell and level off the top. Use your hands to pile the flour and butter mixture on top of the apples, patting the flour mixture down with each addition and making sure to round the top of the mound. Don’t worry if it looks dry or it cracks.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until the top of the pie looks golden brown and you can see the apple filling bubbling on the edges. Let cool before serving each slice of pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Nada’s Tips & Tricks: Everyone has their favourite apple pie recipe and this one will become one of yours as soon as you try it. I made these into small tarts using more flour and less brown sugar to give it an upper crust instead of a crumble – wonderful morsels of yumminess!
Excerpted from My Ackee Tree by Suzanne Barr and Suzanne Hancock. Copyright © 2022 Suzanne Barr and Suzanne Hancock. Published by Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved. https://www.penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/622183/my-ackee-tree-by-suzanne-barr-with-suzanne-hancock/9780735239500