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
- 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
- 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.
- In a large bowl, stir together the apples, cane sugar, tapioca flour, vinegar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and salt until combined.
- In a small bowl, stir together pecans, oats, and remaining ¼ tsp. cinnamon. Set aside.
- 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.