Apple Pie with Oat Pecan Topping

A few weeks ago we officially hit winter, yet I can honestly say I’m not ready. From as far back as October, the weather here in central Florida has been all over the place. It has either been too hot, too cold, or even rainy for days in a row, despite it supposedly being the dry season. There was honestly never a day where I could enjoy the flavors of autumn and have it feel like it was actually autumn outside. But since fall happens to be my favorite season, I decided to celebrate it today with my ultimate fall comfort dessert, apple pie. Apple’s seasonality may peak in fall, but thankfully you can always find this fruit’s warm, inviting colors year round in practically every store. This means, no matter the time of the year, you can always serve a delicious apple pie. To free me from the guilt associated with possible year round pie consumption, I’ve spent the past two months cleaning up and testing this recipe so that it can fit into any healthy lifestyle.

While apple pie is certainly not the worst dessert for your health, there is definitely a lot of room for improvement. So to begin the process of making this pie healthier, I had to first look at what makes it so desired and how those elements affect nutrition. This would then give me a foundation of what I could cut and what I needed to retain in order to improve the nutrition content without sacrificing taste. A traditional apple pie aims to please with a rich, flaky pastry crust on both the bottom and the top to encase the filling. This may taste delicious, but it also translates to a lot of fat (typically from shortening), and empty calories from heavily processed white flour. To avoid the downsides of a typical crust while also saving time, I opted for a frozen whole-wheat crust from my local organic market. The crust is made from whole wheat pastry flour and safflower oil, which boosts nutritional content, adds a bit of extra flavor, and contains less protein than regular flour, thus preventing the crust from getting tough and chewy. Since a lot of the calories in an apple pie come from the crust, I chose to ax the top layer altogether and go with a Dutch-style blend of oats, pecans, and cinnamon. This adds a nice texture to the pie, removes unnecessary calories/fat, and eliminates any stress that dealing with pie dough creates.

Once the pie crust was in order it was time to tackle the filling. Since apples are the star of the recipe, choosing the right variety is key. In my eyes, the definition of the perfect apple is crisp yet soft while also having a proper balance of sweet and tart. The Golden Delicious variety fits all of this criteria, providing the familiar, comforting taste we all know and love while also being easy to find in any supermarket. As a bonus, since Golden Delicious apples are not overly tart, I was able to cut the amount of added sugar this recipe needed significantly without sacrificing a pleasantly sweet filling. I opted for raw cane sugar as my added sweetener over a liquid sweetener like honey or a non-cane source such as maple sugar. The reason for this is due to the role sugar plays in fruit pies. Sugar influences how the juices in the pie thicken, making raw, organic cane sugar the better option. In addition to the type of sugar, I also relied on the help of tapioca flour and the natural thickening agent in apples, pectin, to ensure that my filling was neither too jelly-like or watery. To prevent some of the other common issues apple pies often face, like burnt crust or raw apples, I made sure to keep the apple slices thin, only about 1/8 of an inch thick. This step ensures that the crust gets cooked properly and the apples get tender, yet still offer some resistance when pierced (we aren’t making apple sauce here). To put the final touch on the filling I needed to add depth of flavor. I kept it simple and added just a bit of spice with cinnamon. The result was a delicious, healthy new take on a classic.

Making an apple pie can be intimidating, especially one that is designed to be healthier, but it is really not as difficult as it seems. Like anything else in life, take your time and enjoy the process. This apple pie is worth every bit of effort, as it tastes just as good as a traditional recipe but slashes calories, fat, carbs, sodium, and cholesterol in half, greatly reduces sugar, and increases the fiber content of each slice. Pie making is very much a labor of love and your body will love you for treating it with this healthier take on apple pie!

Apple Pie with Oat Pecan Topping


Ingredients

  • 1 Prepared Whole-Wheat Pie Crust; fresh or frozen
  • 6 Golden Delicious Apples; peeled, cored, & thinly sliced (1/8 in. thick)
  • ½ cup Raw Cane Sugar
  • ¼ cup Tapioca Flour
  • 1 tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1¼ tsp. Ground Cinnamon; divided
  • ¼ tsp. Sea Salt
  • 1 oz. Unsalted Raw Pecans; chopped
  • ¼ cup Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Place prepared pie crust on a rimmed baking sheet. If using a roll-out variety of prepared pie crust, mist a 9 inch pie dish with cooking spray and then roll out dough into pie dish. Crimp sides down with a fork. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the apples, cane sugar, tapioca flour, vinegar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and salt until combined.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together pecans, oats, and remaining ¼ tsp. cinnamon. Set aside.
  4. Spoon apple mixture into crust and spread evenly. Sprinkle pecan mixture over the top of the apple mixture. Cover top of pie loosely with foil. Bake in the center of the oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350° and continue baking until liquid is bubbling, crust is golden brown, and apples offer only slight resistance when pierced, about 45 to 55 minutes. Remove foil and cool on a wire rack. To serve warm, cool at least 20 minutes. For a cleaner slice, wait at least 2 hours before serving.

Nutrition

Per Serving (1 Slice): 257 Calories; 3 g Protein; 8 g Total Fat; 1 g Sat. Fat; 5 g Fiber; 146 mg Sodium; 25 g Sugar; 46 g Carbs; 19 mg Cholesterol.

RECIPE ADAPTED FROM: J. O’HARA
PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING: PETER MENDOROS

ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEES PATISSERIE 2020

Carrot Cake Oatmeal Cookies

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of chaos. I feel like summer just started, yet here we are, about to officially welcome fall. Time seemed to pass by in the blink of an eye because the past several weeks have been busier than usual for me. A few weeks ago my oldest daughter returned to school (first grade) and my youngest daughter started her first year of school (pre-K). Next up was the return of Hellenic Dance practice for my oldest and then we had family come to visit. Directly after that we spent several days bracing for a hurricane that thankfully avoided us almost entirely. The kids were off school for a few days so once they went back and schedules resumed normal operation, I quickly began work on building new workout routines/meal plans for my fitness groups, which happened to include coming up with this delicious, healthy cookie recipe.

Since my gears are still currently in the process of switching from summer to fall, I wasn’t quite ready to nose dive into everything fall flavored. I wanted to make something that used the warm spices of fall, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, but did not make apple and pumpkin the star of the show. I had a jar of organic pureed carrots that I wanted to use up before it expired so that became my starting point. This quickly led me to a craving for carrot cake, but I certainly had no ambition to make a cake with everything going on. The kids were begging for cookies so I thought, why not try making a carrot cake cookie.

To keep things plant-based and gluten-free, I started with a base of mashed bananas and oats. Rich and sweet, ripe bananas are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, like potassium. Bananas also lend a creamy texture while binding the dough together, thus avoiding the need for eggs. To add more moisture and nutrients to the dough, I used a jar of organic pureed carrots. Although you could certainly use finely shredded carrots, I prefer to use pureed. Not only does it save a step during prep and clean-up, but it also blends more smoothly into the cookie batter, which improves the texture of the final product while preventing kids and/or husbands from detecting its presence. The best part is it doesn’t even take much of the orange root veggies to add a significant nutrition boost. The relatively small amount of pureed carrots provides numerous antioxidants and nutrients, with soaring amounts of beneficial beta carotene and vitamin A.

Therefore, if you love sweets and need a clean cookie that will fit into your meal plan/macros, this recipe is for you. When consumed as part of a nutritionally balanced diet, these cookies are a treat you can feel good about eating!

Carrot Cake Oatmeal Cookies


Ingredients

  • 2 Ripe Bananas
  • 2 cups Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
  • 4 oz. Jar Organic Pureed Carrots
  • 3 tbsp. Dried Unsweetened Cranberries
  • 3 tbsp. Chopped Unsalted Walnuts
  • 2 tbsp. Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
  • 1½ tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • 1¼ tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ¼ Pumpkin Pie Spice

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Add oats, carrots, cranberries, walnuts, coconut flakes, cinnamon, vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice. Mix well to combine.
  3. Wet fingers and scoop ¼ cup of mixture into your hands. Form into a ball and place onto prepared baking sheet. Gently flatten with hand. Continue with remaining batter.
  4. Bake cookies for 18 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Place baking sheet on a rack to cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Extras can be frozen in freezer bags until ready to serve. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Per Serving: (1 Cookie): 91 Calories; 2 g Protein; 2 g Total Fat; 0.5 g Sat. Fat; 3 g Fiber; 3 mg Sodium; 3 g Sugar; 15 g Carbs; 0 mg Cholesterol

RECIPE ADAPTED FROM: A. VALPONE
PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING: PETER MENDOROS

ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEES PATISSERIE 2019

Cherry Apple Crisp

Cherries…Apples…Crisp… Some of my favorite words in the baking world and what’s not to love. The crisp and sweetness of apples, the tartness of cherries and the crunch of the topping all combined into heartwarming goodness. Something about traditional Apple Crisp speaks to me as a Fall/Winter baked good and cherries have always been irresistible to me since I was a kid, so I thought why not combine the two. It would create a great melody of flavors and rich colors for the eye. Little did I know, the flavors could be tart in one bite and too sweet in another and the crisp topping becomes soggy. Hmmm…how to fix such a culinary disaster. Clearly taking a traditional Apple Crisp formula wouldn’t be the trick. While contemplating how to go about things, it certainly didn’t help that my cats would not stay off the kitchen counter. Last thing you need is little kitty hairs in dessert. Not the way to end a meal lol. Once I gave them treats and sent them out of the kitchen it was back to the drawing board.

 The million dollar question of the day was how to achieve the right balance of flavors, with proper texture of the fruit and crisp topping. After coring, peeling, and chopping what felt like 30 pounds of apples I was ready to go. Did I mention how much I despise preparing apples for baking. I mean I really really really would love to find some alternate way to do such. That should be the focus of science research. I mean, we need apples in our diets which would be proper motive right… right. Well enough of my whining as most likely you all know exactly what I’m talking about having at some point experienced the pain of baking with apples so I don’t need to explain. Anyway…so I have my apples all chopped and ready and I did this so that once I get the cherries cooked down in some sugar and a little bit of water, they will be ready to be thrown in the pot. By cooking the apples for a few minutes with the cherries, it allows their excess juice to excrete, which prevents a runny mess later, allows the flavors of the cherries and apples to meld more uniformly, promotes a more even bake and last but certainly not least, a shorter cooking time. Amazing how such a simple step can save so much time and make all the difference in a product, but it certainly does. With that said be sure not to skip that step in the formula below. As the apples and cherries cook down, be sure to mix well so you get an even distribution of the red color. Not only is it your natural food color but also looks striking when plating.

Some quick notes before you delve into baking…If you don’t desire a rich cherry flavor and wish to taste more of the apple, you can omit the dried cherries. When picking the apples, a balance of sweet and tart varieties is best for this formula. Sweet helps tone down the tartness of the cherries, however a few tart apples compliments the already tart factor of the cherries. Using equal amounts of a sweet apple, such as Braeburn or Golden Delicious, along with a tart apple such as the Granny Smith will produce the finest results. The crisp is best served warm and if your anything like me, a scoop of vanilla ice cream is a perfect pairing or a dollop of homemade whipped cream. Although I’m lactose intolerance I can’t help mixing that melting scoop of ice cream with a heaping spoon of cherry apple crisp

Cherry Apple Crisp 

Ingredients:

Topping:

  • ¾ cup All-Purpose Flour
  • ½ cup Light Brown Sugar, packed
  • ½ cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 12 tbsp. (1 ½ sticks) Unsalted Butter, cut into ½ in. pieces; chilled
  • ¾ cup Old-Fashioned Oats

Filling:

  •  1 # Cherries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 ¼ cups Granulated Sugar
  • ¼ cup Water
  • 2 ½ # Granny Smith Apples; cut into ½ in. pieces
  • 2 ½ # Braeburn Apples; cut into ½ in. pieces
  • 1 cup Dried Sweetened Cherries
  • 3 tbsp. Minute Tapioca

Topping Formula:

  1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat to 400°. In a food processor, pulse flour, sugars, cinnamon, and butter until mixture has the texture of coarse crumbs.
  2. Transfer to a bowl and stir in oats. Using fingers, pinch the topping mixture with your fingers to create peanut-sized clumps.
  3. Refrigerate topping while preparing the filling.

Filling Formula:

  1. Place the fresh or frozen cherries, ¾ cup sugar, and water in a dutch oven and heat over medium-high. Cook until the cherries are softened completely and mixture has reduced and thickened, about 10 minutes. Scrape cherries into a bowl and set aside. Place apples, remaining ½ cup sugar, and dried cherries into the dutch oven and cook over medium-high heat until the apples begin to release their juices, about 5 minutes.
  2. Off heat, add the cooked cherries back into the dutch oven along with the tapioca. Mix thoroughly then pour filling into a 13×9 in. baking dish. Smooth the filling’s surface evenly with a spatula. Remove topping from the refrigerator.
  3. Scatter topping evenly over filling and bake until juices are bubbling and topping is deep golden brown in color, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool. Serve while still warm.

 Special Thanks to: Peter Mendoros (photography) & Diane Unger

 All content © Honeybee’s Patisserie 2012