apple streusel with a shortbread crust

I worked at Clear Flour Bakery in Brookline for a few months this winter. If you haven’t been there, and you live anywhere at all close to Brookline, I encourage you to go ASAP. Gorgeous hearth baked bread and European style pastry. It’s like walking into what you always imagined France would be. (Honestly, it’s better than a lot of what France really is.) It was inspiring to work at Clear Flour not only because they’ve been in business for 27 years in a little hole in the wall location and they’ve never franchised or vastly expanded, but also just because the food is so damn good. I would come home from work and all I wanted to do was head straight for kitchen and start baking.

This recipe is my attempt to copy Clear Flour’s German Apfel Streusel. “Streusel” I learned, does not equal “Strudel.” The former refers to the crumbly butter-sugar-flour topping you would use for a fruit crisp or any cake or pastry topped with streusel, and the latter to something wrapped in philo. The magic of this streusel is some moistened bread crumbs which, instead flour, hold together the apple layer. You need a spring form pan, ring mold, or deep tart pan with a removable bottom. The idea is to stack the apples on top of the shortbread crust and then top them with the streusel and, after baking, carefully remove the whole thing from the pan so the apple layer is visible around the sides of the streusel. I will warn you: with butter, lemon zest, vanilla, and a little cinnamon, this is about the best smelling thing to come out of my kitchen this year. My maiden streusel voyage, we were literally tripping over each other to dig into the first slice.

This recipe is in grams. See here for information on scales and conversion. Makes one 7-8 inch Streusel, serves 8-10

For the Shortbread Crust

300g all purpose flour
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g confectioners sugar
1 egg yolk

This recipe makes enough for two streusel crusts. You can freeze one, well wrapped, for up to 2 weeks and use it either to make another streusel or as a dough for any kind of sweet tart. Alternatively, half the recipe – I kept it whole here just to avoid calling for half an egg yolk.  In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together the butter and the sugar. Add the egg yolk and mix until well incorporated. Add the flour and mix until a dough is formed. Dump out the dough on the counter and divide it equally into two pieces. Shape each piece into a round disc. Wrap one disc and freeze for future use. Press the other disc into the bottom of a 7-8 inch spring form pan or deep tart pan with a removable bottom. Alternatively, place a 7-8 inch ring mold on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and press the disc onto the sheetpan inside the ring mold.

For the Apples
500g peeled, thinly sliced apples (about 4 large) Use a firm apple, like granny smith, so the apples will keep their form after baking.
30g bread crumbs (preferably high quality or homemade by toasting some stale bread for 10-15 min in a 300 degree oven and then crumbling it in a food processor)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
30 g plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
The zest of one small lemon
½ tbsp vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Melt the butter in a small skillet and briefly sautee the bread crumbs with 1 tbsp of sugar until they are toasted and slightly moist, being careful not to burn them. Remove from the heat and combine the apples, the bread crumbs, and the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Pile the apple mixture on top of the shortbread crust.

For the Topping and Assembly
100g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
100g all purpose flour
100g granulated sugar
50 g toasted chopped walnuts
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix together with your hands until the mixture looks crumbly. Spread the streusel evenly on top of the apples. Bake for 1 hour. Allow the streusel to cool at room temperature for at least 1 hour and then carefully remove the sides of the spring form pan or push the streusel out of the tart pan or ring mold.

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  5. Years ago…and I’m talking three decades…a Halifax love of mine introduced me to a recipe. ‘Ann’s Apple Streusel’. I baked it regularly over the years…until I lost amidst almost all my belongings in a trans-Atlantic move. Recently, I’ve been trying to replicate the recipe. The best thing about the dessert was that it was simple. There was no ‘pie pastry’ to deal with. It was simply ‘cut the apples…mix the dry…toss in the wet…lay down the ‘bottom layer’…apply the apples…sprinkle on the remaining 1/3 of the flour mixture for the ‘top layer’…’ Done. Your recipe is the closest I’ve seen to ‘Ann’s’…except that as I say, the ‘crust’ is all from the same mix. Oh, well. I’m getting closer, anyway… And I LOVE your site! So big greetings from The Great White North.

  6. Thanks for the comment! I’m curious where that trans-Atlantic move took you?? The silver lining with lost recipes is the fun you have finding them :)

  7. The move was from England back to Canada.

    I’m getting flashes of the original recipe involving mixing the vegetable oil (no butter, no yolk)…and milk. Oh, well; time for another go-round…

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