When I was a kid growing up, our holiday traditions were always a bit different from those of my friends. Holiday staples on other people’s table (such as that caramel apple crumble torte above) never seemed to make an appearance at our house for some reason.
While my friends feasted on things like roast turkey, ham, or pot roast followed by apple, pumpkin or pecan pie with ice cream, our holidays were identified by the variety of atypical desserts added to our menus (since my dad was a butcher, we already ate all of those meat dishes pretty much every day anyway).
For the holidays, we’d have cookies, bars, cakes and ice cream–but never a traditional pie. Turns out, my mom just never mastered conventional pie crust. And since I learned to bake from her, I avoided classic pie recipes, too, for many years.
One year, though, Mom found a recipe in a magazine. It was from a famous candy company (the one that makes caramels around Halloween time), for “Caramel Apple Pie.” The recipe consisted of a prepared graham crumb crust, melted caramels, canned apple pie filling, and additional sugar and cinnamon sprinkled over top. The pie was super-easy to make, and my mother ended up re-using that recipe for years; in fact, as I recall, it became the only “pie” Mom ever made.
I decided to redefine that recipe this year, developing a “clean” version that’s vegan and gluten-free, devised from whole, real ingredients instead. In my version, the caramel is drizzled liberally over the apples before they bake, so that it can sink down between the crevices and develop thick, oozing pockets of rich caramel throughout the filling.
The cinnamon-kissed apples become bathed in the caramel coating as they bake, and the pie crust serves double duty, both beneath the fruit and crumbled on top of it. The result is a totally authentic—and totally delicious—dessert.
If you’re looking to have a healthier holiday this year, give this indulgent-tasting torte a try. Everyone will appreciate it as special-occasion fare that you have only once or twice a year. And they’ll never guess that they could even eat it every day, if they chose to.
Caramel Apple Crumble Torte
This torte is easy to make and provides a really impressive presentation for special occasions. The key to ensuring fully cooked apples is to cut them really thin, then spoon into the crust without packing them in, to ensure air spaces between them. (Don’t worry–they will settle down on their own as they bake).
For the crust/topping:
2-1/4 cups (115 g) sugar-free crispy rice cereal
1/2 cup ( 60 g) sorghum flour
6 Tbsp (1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp or 40 g) finely ground flax seeds or flax meal
1 cup (105 g) walnut pieces or halves
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
1 tsp (5 ml) cinnamon
6 Tbsp (1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp or 80 ml) coconut oil
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
For the apples:
3 large apples, cored and thinly sliced (you can leave the peel on if you like)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) cinnamon
For the caramel:
1/3 cup (80 ml) coconut nectar
1/4 cup (60 ml) coconut sugar or Lakanto
2 Tbsp (30 ml) arrowroot or tapioca starch
2 Tbsp (30 ml) coconut oil
2 tsp (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp (30 ml) lucuma powder (or use 1 Tbsp/15 ml carob powder)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) unsweetened applesauce
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line an 8-inch (20 cm) round springform pan or 9” (22.5 cm) pie plate with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray.
In the bowl of a food processor, process the cereal, coconut sugar, sorghum flour, flax seeds, walnuts, salt and cinnamon until powdered. Add the coconut oil and water, and process until the mixture comes together in a moist and crumbly “dough.” Remove a heaping cup of the mixture and set aside. Scrape out the rest of the dough and pat it firmly on the bottom of the pan.
Toss apples with cinnamon and pile on top of the crust without pressing them (the apples should be tossed haphazardly, so that there are still lots of air spaces between them).
Using the same processor bowl (no need to wash it), combine all the caramel ingredients and blend to mix well. Drizzle the caramel evenly over the apples in the pan. Some will begin to ooze into the spaces between the apples; this is fine. Gently sprinkle the reserved topping evenly over the caramel layer.
Bake the torte for 1 hour to 75 minutes, rotating about halfway through baking, until the top is deeply browned and the apples are soft when tested with a thin knife. Serve warm or at room temperature, with ice cream or plain. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator up to 4 days. May be frozen. Makes 6 servings.
Suitable for: ACD Stage 3 and beyond; refined sugar-free, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, egg free, soy-free, yeast-free, vegan, low glycemic.
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