Caramel apple crumb pie

Caramel apple crumb pie

It’s 5 o’clock in the morning and The National pandora station is playing much louder than it should at this hour. I’m hunched over the dining room table, crying because I can’t sleep again. Crying because I wish I had a better relationship with my mother. Crying because my hormones are so out of whack that I can’t do anything but cry. Hands in my hair, tears on the table; I wipe the snot from my nose with the sleeve of my robe, and make a mental note to throw it into the wash because it’s been used as a hankey far too many times this week.

Ha, I just said hankey. My Oma would be proud.

In typical hormonal lady fashion, I got up from the table and started frantically looking through the kitchen for something to consume. Chocolate? Too early for chocolate. Gin? It’s definitely too early for gin. Vanilla almond butter? There isn’t any. So after five minutes of going back and forth between the pantry and refrigerator, I came out with a bag of trail mix, a can of coconut milk, and my mind set on making caramel sauce. Which probably wasn’t the best idea because I stood over the pot of caramel feeling sorry for myself, picking salty raisins from the trail mix and cursing the person who decided to add milk chocolate morsels to a perfectly good bag of nuts and raisins. So to make up for not being able to eat the milk chocolate morsels, I licked the whisk each time I gave the caramel a good stir. I thought I deserved it. Maybe I did.

Making spelt doughCaramel applesCaramel apple crumb pie in the making

When the caramel finished cooking I transferred it to one of those pretty weck jars and let it cool on the counter while I continued picking through the trail mix. Every once in a while I’d scoop a fingerful into my mouth, but enough was enough so I topped it and put it in the fridge. Out of sight, out of mind – until I opened the refrigerator to retrieve my coffee creamer and noticed droplets of condensation forming along the bottom of the lid. And so I removed it; quickly and carefully to ensure none of the droplets contaminated my perfectly golden sauce. Except you and I both know a little bit of water isn’t going to do a bit of harm to a jar of caramel sauce. But try telling that to an overly emotional basket case at 6AM. Then again, don’t. She’ll probably bite your head off.

The caramel sat on the counter for a good 45 minutes while I went back and forth, trying to decide what I was going to do with it. And since eating it from the jar with my finger wasn’t an acceptable option, I dove head first into making apple pie. Without hesitation I started cutting butter into flour, apples into slices, and more butter into equal amounts of flour and brown sugar. I had everything jamming at once and, although I was completely out of my element, it kind of felt good to get everything a little bit messier than usual. That, and now my unkempt kitchen resembled the way I felt on the inside; we were one in the same, me and the little kitchen.

I continued laboring over the pie; channelling all of my sadness into the crust, frustration into the filling, and shame into the topping. And wouldn’t you know? One hour later my oven gave birth to the most beautiful apple pie I had ever seen in my almost 25 years on this planet. The kind of pie you want to put on display at a county fair. But also the kind of pie you want to take into the closet and stuff into your face.

Caramel apple crumb pie

Notes: If you’re looking at this pie, thinking it seems rather pretentious with its spelt crust and caramel innards and crunchy crumb topping – I assure you, it’s not. In fact, I’d venture to say caramel is the best thing to happen to an apple pie. And crumb topping? Second best thing. The spelt flour was my effort to balance out the sugar content, but feel free to substitute unbleached flour or whole wheat flour. I know the long ingredient list and novel of instructions probably makes you think this recipe is a lot of work, but it’s not. And even if you feel like it is, the reward is more than worth it. This pie is out of this world good, and the only downside is that it’s best within two days. But aren’t most pies?


1 1/2 cups whole spelt flour
1 tbsp whole cane sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
10 tbsp vegan butter, cold
4-6 tbsp water, ice cold

Crumb topping
3/4 cup whole spelt flour
1/2 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup sucanat
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
6 tbsp vegan butter, room temperature
1/2 cup rolled oats

6-8 medium apples, a variety is best
Juice from half a lemon
1/4 cup evaporated cane juice
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup caramel sauce

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Place bowl in the freezer and chill for 15 minutes. Do not skip this step. Once the flour mixture is chilled, use a pastry cutter, or two knives, to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stick the bowl in the freezer for another 15 minutes to get the ingredients nice and cold. Once chilled, add water 1 tablespoon at a time and mix the dough using your fingertips. Your goal is a dough that’s firm but slightly sticky – and adding too much water will result in a tough dough (I added 4 tablespoons). Knead the dough for a minute then pat it into a disc, wrap with plastic, and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to two days.

While the dough is resting, prepare the crumb topping. Whisk together the flour, sugars, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter, or two knives, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix in the oats then cover mixture with a damp cloth (or paper towel) and set aside.

Once the dough has rested for an hour, line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Roll the dough out into a large circle, about 1/4″ thick and fit it into a floured 8-10″ pie pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

While the crust is chilling, prepare the filling. Peel the apples and cut them into 1/2″ thick slices, then into chunks. Drizzle with lemon juice; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the sugar, tapioca starch (use an extra tablespoon if your apples are super juicy), and cinnamon. Add apples and toss to combine. Pour the caramel over the apples then mix to evenly coat; set aside. Remove the crust from the fridge and sprinkle the bottom with about one tablespoon of flour (to ensure it doesn’t absorb too much of the liquid from the filling). Fill with caramel apples (there are a lot, but they settle during baking) then spread the crumb topping evenly over in two layers; press the first layer firmly to pack, then sprinkle the remaining crumbs. Trim the edges and decorate crust with finish of your choice. Bake at 375˚F for 15 minutes, then remove pie from the oven and carefully cover the crust with foil. Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, until the crumb topping is golden brown. If you’re not anywhere near the 20 minute mark and the crumb topping starts to brown too much, simply place a piece of foil on top of it; do not seal it, just sit it on top. Transfer pie to a wire rack and allow it to cool for at least 6 hours. Refrigerate in a not-so-air-tight container for up to two days. Crumb topping may soften, but will return to its previously crunchy state after a few minutes under the broiler (make sure you cover the crust with foil).

Yield: 12 slices


  • Reply erin 7 March 2013 at 3:49 PM

    You are a far better woman- I would’ve went for the gin. (although, had I had the potential for a pie like this, it might have been a toss-up…)

  • Reply 7 March 2013 at 3:50 PM

    Wow that looks good

  • Reply Little Kitchie 7 March 2013 at 3:54 PM

    I am DYING. This looks so incredibly good, and you’re spot on that this looks like it belongs at a county fair! I’m going to TRY to make this this weekend, but if it doesn’t get done then, it’s definitely on my short list of things to bake!

  • Reply Angry Asian 7 March 2013 at 4:02 PM

    i find your brand honest truth to be refreshing, this is the kind of authenticity that i want to read, where one can talk about mommy issues and poop in the same post without coming off as pretentious. thank you for sharing.

  • Reply Mary Claire Cook 7 March 2013 at 4:20 PM

    wow this is gorgeous. what kind of camera/lens do you use to shoot your food pictures? I love your work :)

  • Reply Ashley 7 March 2013 at 4:43 PM

    I can tell this is the best apple pie EVER, because it’s not gooey + limp, spreading out all over the plate. It looks SO incredibly thick, and I love that about apple pie. I rarely find an apple pie I enjoy but know that this is IT. The crust pinching is perrrfect, the topping, the caramel, your story. Just stop. Okay, don’t. More of this. Please.

  • Reply leafparade 7 March 2013 at 4:43 PM

    It’s never too early for chocolate — but this is a very lovely alternative! Cheer up. Things are never so bad if there is pie.

  • Reply Ruby 7 March 2013 at 4:46 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Reply Ruby 7 March 2013 at 4:49 PM

    Oh boy I have so been there. Trying to figure out to do with yourself and your hormones at 5am. I tend to turn to chocolate, but this pie looks even better! Perfect self-therapy :)

  • Reply Megan 7 March 2013 at 4:49 PM

    Oh. My. Goodness. This pie sounds so beyond good. I’m sorry for your sleepless troubles, but I am not sorry they resulted in you creating this amazing goodness. I can’t wait to make it!

  • Reply Tartlet Sweets 7 March 2013 at 4:52 PM

    Ah! I saw this on Instagram and was hoping you’d post it. I love a good crumble topped pie, and anything with caramel is a winner. Not pretentious at all–just delicious.

  • Reply Holly 7 March 2013 at 6:40 PM

    lovely, lovely post. lovely, lovely pie. lovely, lovely YOU!

  • Reply ami@naivecookcooks 7 March 2013 at 8:00 PM

    Such a lovely way of telling story!

  • Reply Courtney 7 March 2013 at 8:42 PM

    I always find that baking seems to help me out in tear-soaked situations. I’m really digging the coconut caramel & the crumb topping on the pie. I’ll have to devour, oops, I mean make it soon :)

  • Reply Anonymous 7 March 2013 at 8:48 PM

    What is whole cane sugar? Sucanat?

  • Reply Erika 7 March 2013 at 9:11 PM

    My eyes lit up at the mention of “Oma”–I never hear that word these days. Are you Dutch? My dad immigrated from Indonesia and I grew up calling his parents Oma and Opa. Anywayyy I adore your writing. This makes me feel like it would be justifiable to get up tomorrow morning and make yet another coffeecake (an obsession!) before work, just because I’m hormonal and I want to.

  • Reply the cake hunter 7 March 2013 at 11:56 PM

    Wow, this looks like an absolute dream. I’m just off to bed and I’m pretty sure this is what I will see when I close my eyes. Whenever I feel lousy I bake, it’s the perfect way to forget about everything that sucks.

  • Reply Shannon 8 March 2013 at 1:15 AM

    I am so overwhelmingly hormonal. I can feel the crazy the coming out, but I just can’t reel it in.
    Yesterday I trudged home in the snow, tearing up, and consumed a whole chocolate bar mere moments after opening the cabinet door.

  • Reply sara forte 8 March 2013 at 1:19 AM

    between how you and Kelsey write, you girls make me want to move to CO. We’d be steadfast friends, I know. My hormones are WILD. Straight up, crazy lady. I cannot wait to make this!! I am going to do a dinner with friends in a couple weekends and this looks like it would be so perfect on the menu. Well, I was thinking of doing mexican-ish but still. So maybe not exactly perfect but does it matter if it makes sense with a pie this gorgeous??? It does not.

  • Reply Anna {Herbivore Triathlete} 8 March 2013 at 1:38 AM

    Amazingly perfect looking pie. I agree wholeheartedly that caramel is a wonderful addition to apple pie. I’ve made caramel apple pie before and it is out of this world good. I can’t wait to try the spelt crust.

  • Reply Kasey 8 March 2013 at 6:10 AM

    Ack – I can relate (with the insomnia and the hormones). I hope you are feeling better – baking is always therapeutic for me (and the National is strangely calming, too).

  • Reply Rebecca 8 March 2013 at 11:44 AM

    That’s such a beautiful pouring shot!

  • Reply anouk 8 March 2013 at 2:35 PM

    A good cry can take a weighth of your shoulders – at least if it wasn’t about an issue that has been continuously pressing hard on you. In that case, if it’s a family thing, well, it might get better (but remember: these things should come from both sides!! don’t just take all the blame) or you’ll have to accept it’s the way it is. Changes take time and time heals. – Take a deep breath – And: keep on smiling & cooking sweet lady!

  • Reply Senka I 8 March 2013 at 3:10 PM


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  • Reply Willow 8 March 2013 at 7:59 PM

    Wow – way to channel your emotions into some seriously good eats! I find that when I’m frustrated or upset, cooking usually leads to one of two things… either an incredible revelation, or a complete and utter disaster. Sometimes I have to stop myself and think, is it worth the risk? But you’ve convinced me, it is. It is always worth the risk! Besides, cooking or baking can be so therapeutic to a tired mind. That apple pie looks absolutely incredible, and I have no doubt that it is, indeed, delicious!

  • Reply london bakes 9 March 2013 at 4:25 PM

    I so admire the way you turn the crazy into something constructive – like pie. You are a far, far, far better woman than I am. And this pie? Seriously everything I could want in a plate of food.

  • Reply brittney 9 March 2013 at 9:04 PM

    we have a saying in our house… there are only two ingredients in trail mix: M&Ms and disappointment.

    and this pie looks tasty. and I’m sorry you’re bummed (those two are not part of the saying).

  • Reply Paula @ Vintage Kitchen 9 March 2013 at 11:20 PM

    Oh caramel is pretty much the best thing. Period. Love it. And crumb topping is another pretty perfect thing in a pie. And your apple pie is pretty much the perfect pie!

  • Reply lauren @ Breathe & Nourish 10 March 2013 at 6:31 PM

    Absolutely adore your writing as always. (How many “a”s can you fit into one sentence?)

    I definitely know that hormonal feeling you portrayed so well in this post. Sigh.

  • Reply lauren @ Breathe & Nourish 10 March 2013 at 6:31 PM

    Absolutely adore your writing as always. (How many “a”s can you fit into one sentence?)

    I definitely know that hormonal feeling you portrayed so well in this post. Sigh.

  • Reply Ruthy @ omeletta 10 March 2013 at 7:41 PM

    I love how food and emotions are so strangely intertwined… and how you perfectly captured that in this post. Gorgeous.

  • Reply Anna 10 March 2013 at 11:14 PM

    Hang in there! You know, even the worst day only has 24 hours…

    And your pie looks mouthwateringly delicious :)

  • Reply Sofia 12 March 2013 at 12:41 AM

    Love your writing, your ridiculously delicious looking pie, and how you’re able to pull off talking about poop in a food blog post. Talent, lady! :)

  • Reply Mindy 12 March 2013 at 1:01 PM

    Love everything about this pie. I cant wait to make it. would you share your vanilla almond butter recipe?

  • Reply Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe 12 March 2013 at 6:27 PM

    Yes, that most certainly looks like the best apple pie ever. Making pie scares me (mostly the crust part), but it looks like the reward is more than worth the effort.

  • Reply Sharon Clause 12 March 2013 at 11:47 PM

    apple pie is my FREAKN FAV!
    totally saving this recipe.
    hallelujer thankya jesus.

  • Reply Kathryne 14 March 2013 at 10:34 PM

    Hormones can be such a bitch sometimes! Glad you made it out of the funk with this beautiful pie. I also love that your fingernails are the most perfect shade of candy apple red.

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  • Reply Lisa R 26 November 2014 at 10:34 AM

    Made this once just to try it out .. It was one disaster after another just getting it made.. (Coconut Cream spoiled in the can.. back to the store to buy some more…).. Spelt crust fell on the floor when pulling it out of the freezer.. back to the store to buy some more spelt flour… but at the end of the day it was the BEST apple pie I had ever made… SO… guess what is on the menu for Thanksgiving Day tomorrow!

    Thank you…

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