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I take pie seriously. Fall weather ushers in apple pie season, and I welcome baking as much as I can. The classic apple pie is hard to beat, with its sugary filling of soft, cinnamon-scented fruit nestled inside a buttery, flaky crust. But given the recent spate of ridiculously warm weather in New York, I'm caught in that funny phase in between seasons. It's not quite chilly enough to embrace autumn, and the markets are still spilling over with corn and zucchini and peaches.
There's a perfect solution! Instead of unpacking your flannel shirts and baking an apple pie, make a dessert that bridges the seasonal gap perfectly: zucchini pie.
I know, I know. This sounds weird, but bear with me. Zucchini is well-loved as a staple for baking. To wit, we're inundated with zucchini bread and zucchini cakes and zucchini muffins as the summer wanes. So why not pie?
Years ago, I read about a very polarizing recipe for "mock apple pie" from the back of the Ritz cracker box. The recipe is exactly like a classic apple pie recipe, but it swaps out apples for crumbled Ritz crackers. True Ritz believers swear that it tastes exactly like an apple pie. It sort of makes sense; what we really experience when we eat apple pie is texture (soft) and flavor (cinnamon and sugar). I refuse to believe that the Ritz pie doesn't dissolve into a terrible mess upon baking, and on principle, who wants a cracker-filled pie?
But the core concept resonated with me. When baked, zucchini has a similar texture to an apple; it gets soft in the oven but retains some texture. Add the same warm, fragrant spices as an apple pie recipe (cinnamon, nutmeg, and so on), plenty of lemon juice, extra sugar to compensate for sugar in apples, and you have yourself a very similar dessert to a classic apple pie.
The point here isn't to make a "mock" apple pie. It's to make a similarly delicious pie that uses up this in-between seasonal produce. If you have a garden that's overrun with zucchini, and they're too big to taste good on their own, this is the recipe to use. Apple pie is beloved for good reason! The flavors are excellent and comforting, and I love that there's a way to get the same effect before apple season kicks in.
That being said, I gave my fiancé a slice of this pie for dessert the other night. I told him it was an apple pie, and asked him how it rated on a scale of 1 to the best apple pie he's ever had. He rated it a solid 8. I told him it was zucchini, not apple, and he swore up and down that he could not tell the difference! Try it on someone who loves pie, and see if they can.
For the crust
- 2 1/2 cups (300 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons buttermilk powder (optional)
- 1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, cold
- 1/2 cup ice water (you may need less)
For the filling
- 4 large (oversized!) zucchini (or more, depending on size)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Have you cooked zucchini in pie form before? How'd it go? Let us know in the comments!