What Separates Swedish Apple Pie From The Rest Of The Bushel?

Swedish apple pie
Swedish apple pie - natalia bulatova/Shutterstock

You may have taken the phrase, "As American as apple pie" to mean the dessert is synonymous with American culture, but many countries have their takes on the treat, and most actually outdate the American-style one. One such recipe is called the Swedish apple pie or äppelsmulpaj, which translates to "apple crumble pie." Though perhaps less popular than the typical lattice-topped American apple pies or spiraling French tarte tatins, Swedish apple pie is a delicious and classic dessert that shares many of the same ingredients as these other international variations.

But unlike these other ones, Swedish apple pie doesn't use shortcrust or puff pastry. Instead, it is more like a hybrid between a crumbly cake and streusel, which makes for a lovely and unique dessert. And thanks to this crusty difference, it's much less fussy to make than other pies, so even amateur bakers can whip one up to enjoy alongside an afternoon cup of tea. Gooey, cakey, and wonderful are just a few words to describe Swedish apple pie.

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The Basics Of Swedish Apple Pie

Sprinkling cinnamon on apples
Sprinkling cinnamon on apples - Just A Pinch Recipes/YouTube

Swedish apple pie is sometimes considered "crustless" because it doesn't have a distinct top and bottom layer of pastry like many other apple pies do. Instead, the crust is part pie, cake, and crumble, made from sugar, flour, melted butter, egg, and a bit of salt. Some recipes also call for chopped walnuts or pecans, which make for a pleasant crunch, but are totally optional. After the pie crust has been formed, it's heaped onto the sliced apples and then baked all together in the oven. The result is a delicious, crumbly, dessert that has a combination of filling and crust in each bite.

The filling consists of apples, spices, and sugar. Cinnamon is in nearly all Swedish apple pie recipes, but cloves, nutmeg, and other sweet spices would pair beautifully with it. The type of apple used in this recipe varies — some traditional ones simply call for "Swedish apples," which could refer to a variety of species such as Ingrid Marie or Akero. But in general, you want an apple that is tart, firm, and not too sweet. Varieties that would work well would include baking apples such as Granny Smiths, Honey Crisps, and Braeburns.

In general, Swedish apple pie isn't often served on its own. Vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or vanilla sauce (a Swedish dessert sauce) are usually scooped or drizzled on top. This treat could be served as an afternoon tea snack or as a warming dessert after dinner.

Perhaps It's Really 'As Swedish As Apple Pie'

Spreading cake mix on apples
Spreading cake mix on apples - Fredriks Fika/YouTube

Baked goods are a huge part of Swedish food culture. In Sweden, there is a daily break period observed in workplaces, schools, and at home known as fika. Fika is an afternoon ritual that functions as more than a coffee break but less than a full meal like lunch. At fika, it is typical to enjoy a hot beverage, whether it's coffee or tea, and a sweet baked good. Swedish apple pie is an excellent candidate for fika because it can be made by home cooks without much baking expertise.

Because Sweden is so far north and in a particularly cold climate, you won't see a lot of lemons and oranges in Swedish dessert recipes because they are next to impossible to cultivate there. But apples do grow there, as these hearty fruits can withstand cold Scandinavian winters. So sliced apples with sugar, flour, butter, and aromatic spices make for a quintessential Swedish dish.

Regional Variations Of Swedish Apple Pies

Äppelsmulpaj with vanilla ice cream
Äppelsmulpaj with vanilla ice cream - breimebakar/Instagram

Sweden is an incredibly small country, only spanning a total of 173,860 square miles, which is just a few thousand miles more than the state of California. As a result of this, recipes for Swedish apple pie are relatively ubiquitous because the country's various regions aren't separated by hundreds of miles. This makes for more homogenous culinary traditions. However, there are always small variations between family recipes.

Some recipes call for a mixture of apple varieties to create more depth of flavor in the pie. For instance, to balance Granny Smith's tartness, a recipe might also include a sweeter variety like Honey Crisp. Oats are also sometimes added to Swedish apple pie crusts to give it a more chewy, hearty texture. Some recipes may call for another fruit altogether such as berries, which are also popular in Swedish desserts. Lastly, the spice mixture would also likely vary from recipe to recipe. Cinnamon is commonly included, just like American-style apple pie, but don't be surprised if you see cardamom in the ingredient list as well. Cardamom is a favorite spice amongst Swedes; it is a lightly peppery but sweet flavor with a stunning aroma that would pair beautifully with the apples and crumble mixture.

Read the original article on Mashed.