Sour Cream Apple Pie: A PA Dutch Recipe

I cannot believe it’s been 7 months since my last blog post.  Yikes.

Not much of a post here, but I did want to get the recipe down quickly for a friend who requested it.  If you love apple pie, I would highly encourage you to try this recipe.  It’s an adaptation of a Pennsylvania Dutch recipe and the sour cream makes it irresistible.  I doubt I will ever make a “plain” apple pie again.  It’s that good.  I added cranberries because husband likes sour, and you could easily add raisins or other berries or just use straight up apples.  I used half Granny Smith and half Hidden Rose apples.  Since we moved to Washington in August, it’s been Appletopia.  I’ve never seen so many varieties and so readily available . . . meaning even on the side of the road.


Here’s the recipe:


I almost always use the a recipe for my pie crusts I adapted from Allison Kave’s  book “First Prize Pies.”  The crust tastes so good sometimes I’ll underbake it and make a double or 1.5 batch to have a thicker chewier crust.  Not normal or traditional, but tasty.  For one double-crust 9 – inch (23 cm) pie, use 225 g unsalted COLD COLD COLD butter , 1/2 cup COLD buttermilk (you can use milk plus 1 Tbsp cider vinegar and let milk sit for half an hour), 340 g all purpose CHILLED flour, 1 Tbsp. cornstarch, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1 1/2 tsp salt.

  • Cut your butter up into small 1/2 inch cubes, and return to freezer or fridge.
  • Toss flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt together.  Cut in butter with tool of choice but try not to use hands as they will heat up the butter.  But you can also use a Cuisinart.  Just don’t overmix.  You want small, pea-sized chunks.  Be light and quick.
  • Spread mixture out onto a flat COLD surface (such as a chilled cutting board).  You want a lot of surface area.  Then drizzle half of your liquid over the flour mixture , lightly toss with bench scraper or fork, and repeat with second half of liquid.  When dough will come together with still visible little pieces of butter against the side of a bowl, gather into a ball and chill in fridge for at least 1 hour.


You’ll need 5 cups sliced apples.  I don’t peel any more, mostly out of laziness.  But I do core them.  I also added 1/2 cup stewed cranberries that I sweetened with orange zest & juice and about 1/4 cup sugar.  Also 2 Tbsp apple cider, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 Tbsp all purpose flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk, 1 cup sour cream, 1/3 cup half and half or heavy whipping cream, and 2 tsp vanilla extract.

  • First you want to steam the apples in the cider vinegar over medium heat, just for a few minutes.  You may have to do in batches.  You don’t want applesauce, you just want to remove the rawness of the apples and prevent undercooked apples in your pie.  Let them cool after steaming.  I do this because I like bigger chunks of apples instead of thin slices, but I don’t like them undercooked.
  • In a bowl, combine sugar, flour and salt.  Whisk.  Add egg and yolk, sour cream, half and half or cream, and vanilla.  Stir in apples.  Pour mix into chilled pie shell.
  • Bake pie at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
  • Reduce temperature to 350 degrees for 15 minutes while you make the crumb topping.


  • For crumb topping, combine 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp salt, 3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional), and 6 tablespoons unsalted chilled butter cut into chunks.  Mix together with fork or hands.
  • After the pie has baked 30 minutes, remove it from the oven and spread topping over pie.  Return pie to oven for 20 – 25 minutes. Cool and serve!img_2399Also submitted in eager anticipation of Fiesta Friday #147.




Heirloom Cottage Cheese Pie

“This is the worst pie I’ve ever tasted.”  -my Dad.

How’s that for an enticement?  Do keep in mind that my Dad said this after eating a bite of my mother’s pumpkin pie which is always sublime, and keep in mind that my Dad is a little bit set in his ways.  I’m thinking if he sees a white pie, he’s thinking cheesecake, and that’s not what he got here.

My husband, however, ate his whole piece and proclaimed it delicious.  He is the best Santa’s elf ever!  Always such a good sport, will try any crazy thing I cook up.

This pie is an heirloom Pennsylvania Dutch recipe, with German, Quaker and Mennonite roots.  It is a very simple recipe and, I think, makes for a very delicious pie.  It sort of reminds me of a ricotta cheesecake but with more texture and without the graham crust.  You have to be prepared to taste a little bit of savory/sour, along with the sweet, and I think it’s best eaten on its own and not after a bite of pumpkin pie.

I made this pie for Christmas Eve dinner, and also to bring to Fiesta Friday #100.  Stay tuned because I’ll be bringing more!  Happy Anniversary to everybody who’s been a part of Fiesta Friday and as always I send my gratitude and thanks to Angie for making this all possible.

christmas eve (3 of 5)

christmas eve (4 of 5)

christmas eve 2 (3 of 3)

christmas eve 2 (2 of 3)

christmas eve 4 (3 of 7)

christmas eve 4 (4 of 7)

christmas eve 4 (6 of 7)

christmas eve 4 (7 of 7)

Pie Filling: Adapted from Shockingly Delicious

  • 1.5 cartons cottage cheese (1 16-ounce regular size carton and half of another 16 oz carton)
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • ¾-1 cup sugar
  • 2 well beaten eggs
  • Grated rind and juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Unbaked pie crust (see recipe below)
  • pinch nutmeg, either freshly grated or prepared ground

Read More

Monastery Jam (Armenian Rose Petal: Varnatush)

There is a tiny Armenian Benedictine Monastery off the coast of Venice, Italy where the monks tend roses and make small batch Rose petal Jam.

Originally a leper colony run in the 12th century by Italian monks, The Monastero di San Lazzaro deli Armeni has been an Armenian monastery since the 18th century and it is now a treasure trove of Armenian history. The name San Lazzaro comes from Saint Lazarus, the Patron Saint of lepers.

In 1717 an Armenian monk, Manug de Pietro, known as Mechitar (the Consoler) was forced to flee from the Turks and upon his request, the rulers of Venice gave him the island as a place for shelter and refuge. Mechitar founded an order of Armenian monks which was separate from both the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. The order he founded built the monastery, church, library, study, living and communal rooms and planted the gardens and orchard. It became a center to which young Armenians would come to study. Today the monastery lies amid gardens with flowers, cypress trees, and peacocks. Its residents include 10 monks, 10 seminarians, and 15 Armenian students who study Italian language and culture.

The Monastero di San Lazzaro degli Armeni has an extraordinary collection of treasures, including:

A 150,000-volume library.

More than 4,000 Armenian manuscripts, some nearly 1,300 years old.

A Koran created after the death of Mohammed.

An Indian papyrus from the 13th Century.

A Egyptian sarcophagus and mummy from the 15th Century B.C.

Thrones, tables, statues, paintings, tapestries, gold, silver, jewels, and other items that the monks either bought or received as gifts over the centuries.

I have long been a student of monasteries and California missions.  There is something enchanting to me about the history of ancient religious and other historical buildings, even abandoned and decrepit ones.  My imagination wanders with curiosity and longing into the past.

I am also drawn to all things Benedictine, since my husband and I are members of the Camaldolese Benedictine Lay Order (“oblates” — translates as “friends” of the monastery), connected to the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California.  We took our vows 2 years ago of (1) Stability (the importance of community and commitment in life; stability of the heart and mind; the vow of stability also speaks to our current environmental crisis—being good stewards of the gift of life and nature); (2) Conversion (openness and dedication to change); and, (3) Obedience (commitment to a disciplined, intentional life) two years ago atop one of the most stunning pieces of land in the Country.  Oblates follow the Benedictine Rule which offers a plan for living a balanced, simple and prayerful life, and as laypersons we do our best to organize our lives around five practices: Prayer, Work, Study, Hospitality and Renewal.  For more on these practices, read here.

One of the marked traits of a Benedictine Monastery is Hospitality, which is why at Benedictine monasteries all over the world you can take a private retreat for the fraction of the price of a hotel room, and stay up to a month or longer, depending upon your needs.  Most often two very simple meals are provided, and they are taken in silence.  In order to earn a livelihood for their needs, many of the monasteries make foods like jams, preserves, fruitcakes, cheese, beer, syrup, breads and other goods and sell them to visitors or even online.  Our Big Sur monastery makes an exquisite date-based fruitcake, both a non-alcoholic one and one soaked in brandy.

The monks at San Lazzaro make a Rose Petal Jam which allegedly is almost always sold out.  I found a recipe for it from the lovely Emiko Davies who writes for Food52 and spent a brief time living at the monastery while she was student and restoring art.  I have adapted her recipe by substituting half of the sugar with honey and adding 3 black peppercorns.


150 g sugar

150 g raw honey

100 g of rose petals, preferably red or dark pink with a strong perfume

300 ml water

The juice of one lemon

3 black peppercorns

Very gently rinse and drain the rose petals and place them in a large bowl with 50 g each of sugar and honey grams and the lemon juice. Lightly massage the rose petals with this mixture until you reduce the petals to a sort of “paste.” The petals should remain whole, not torn, but with the sugar and lemon they will release colour, perfume and wilt.

In the meantime, add the rest of the sugar and honey to the water and peppercorns and heat in a large saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Add the rose petals and bring to the boil. Allow to boil until the syrup thickens and the petals no longer float (about 30 minutes).


This jam is not thick, but more like a viscous syrup, and it is very sweet.  It is best stirred into yoghurt or atop cottage cheese, goat cheese or even some nice cheddar or parmesan shavings.