Introduction: Appleberry Pie in an Apple (Vegan)

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Apple was the first word I ever learned to spell and write, and as such, it has a special place in my heart. I usually feel that it's a crime to bake apples, but this healthy-ish dessert is soooo delicious, I made an exception ;-)

*Note: I chose to make an appleberry pie since it's summer and the berries are so yummy now, but you can make a plain apple pie or countless other variations! You can add raisins and extra cinnamon, chocolate chips, and/or nut butters to the filling too! Have fun with it!

Step 1: Ingredients and Tools

These measurements will yield two "pies" but you can scale up or down easily.

Ingredients for the crust:
1/2 cup flour (both white and whole wheat work, but I used white today)
1/6 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar (I used regular white sugar, but vegan sugar would be better)
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp nut or seed milk

Ingredients for the pie and filling:
2 apples (I used 1 granny smith and 1 gala for a nice balance of sweet and tart, preferably organic)
lemon juice (I only had grapefruit on hand, so that's what I used to prevent apple browning)
1 tbsp sugar (divided into 3 tsp, I used white but brown will also work)
1 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 small strawberries (preferably organic)
1/4 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp nut or seed milk (optional)
1 tsp grated orange zest (optional)

* Use organic apples (they're on the EWG's dirty dozen list!) and choose ones that has a good base that will stand up straight.
* Strawberries are also on the dirty dozen, so opt for organic there too!
* Orange zest gives your a pie a delightful je ne sais quoi  so I recommend including it in your pie. (Aside: I thought I had an orange, but apparently someone ate it... but otherwise I would have loved to use some orange zest in my filling, so I listed it here even though it wasn't actually in my pie.)
*You'll need the usual baking accoutrements, but it would be helpful (not absolutely required) to have the following on hand:
  • Melon baller (or use a spoon)
  • Large flower cookie cutter
  • Rolling pin (or an empty wine bottle)
  • Plastic wrap
  • Straw

Step 2: Make the Pie Crust

We'll start with the crust since it needs to be refrigerated for 15 to 20 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients (flour, salt, and sugar) together well.
Add the oil and milk and mix with a fork until it just starts to come together.

* Spoon the flour into your measuring cup/spoon and level it off to have the proper amount for the recipe.
* Do not overmix this or the crust will be tough instead of nice and flakey.

Step 3: Finish Crust and Refrigerate

Now, spead out a large square of plastic wrap on your working surface and dust it very lightly with flour (again, too much flour will produce a tough crust).
Pour the crust onto the wrap and dig in with your hands. Form it into two equal sized balls and then flatten them into disks or burger patties. Wrap each up well in the plastic wrap and stick them in the fridge.

Step 4: Prepare the Strawberries

After you wash the strawberries and pat it dry, take a paring knife to remove the top in once circular motion. Then quarter the strawberry and chop into smaller chunks.
Place the strawberries in a bowl and mix with 2 tsp of sugar.

Step 5: Optional - Juice Grapefruit or Lemon

You can skip this step if you use lemon juice from a bottle, but I try to use fresh stuff, so a-juicing we will go!

Since I didn't have a lemon, I had to use a grapefruit. And since I *love* kitchen gadgets, I have a manual juicer for extracting all the juice out of my grapefruit. If you don't have one and are using a lemon, a fork works well as a reamer too!

Step 6: Prepare the Apples

Now for the apples!
Use a larger knife to cut the top quarter to a third off. Make sure that make a fairly parallel cut to the base or your filling may be falling out the side. Brush the cut edges with some lemon juice to prevent browning while you work.
Dice up the tops for the filling (you can take the peel off if you like).
Scoop out the core and some of the apple flesh to make a nice "shell" for the filling to go into. Again, brush with some lemon juice.
Lastly, dice up the apple that you've scooped out for the filling.

A melon baller works wonders here, but you can also carefully scoop it out with a spoon.
Make sure you don't overscoop because a shell that's too thin will collapse during baking.

Step 7: Make the Filling... and Fill Away!

Add the diced apples to the strawberries/sugar mixture.
Add cornstarch, cinnamon, flour, and vanilla extract to the bowl and mix well.
Place the apples in a baking dish and spoon the filling in.

*If using a regular oven, then preheat the oven to 375 degrees now.

Step 8: Adding the Pie Crust

Take the dough out of the fridge and work quickly because it's a lot easier to do with cold dough.
Roll each disk out to about a quarter inch thickness (no need to be super exact).
Press the flower cookie cutter into the dough, and pull away the excess dough with the cutter in place.
Remove the cutter and use a straw to to poke ventilation holes in the center of the dough (if you don't have a straw, you can cut slits into the dough instead to let the steam out).
Place the flower on top of the apple. There no need to shape the dough on the apple, it will mold to the apple as it bakes.
(Optional) Now brush the crust with some nut/seed milk and sprinkle with remaining teaspoon of sugar.

Step 9: Bake Those Bad Boys!

Add about half an inch of water to the bottom of the baking dish and pop it in the oven for 35 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Rotate the dish halfway through baking.

* I use a convection toaster oven, so I didn't have to preheat the oven, and I set it at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Each oven is different, so just check on it once in a while to.

* Since I was using a toaster oven, the tops were browning too quickly, so I placed a sheet of foil on top to protect them. You may need to do so even in a regular oven, so just take a peek every 10 minutes or so.

Step 10: Dig In!

Once the tops are browned, take them out to cool for 5 to 10 minutes (if you can wait that long!) and then dig in!
I chose to eat the granny smith one and save the gala for hubby tonight =)

Hope you enjoy your appleberry pie in an apple! A nice healthy-ish treat any time of the year!

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