Recipe: Cheddar-Crusted Apple + Thyme Pie—one of chef's favorites!

I’m a big fan of pie. For as long as I can remember, I’ve insisted on pie instead of cake for my birthday, and I can’t imagine a better way to start the day than a slice for breakfast. I’m all about eating pie, of course, but I also love making it. The whole process is just so tactile and calming, so ultimately rewarding and delicious. I really appreciate taking the time out of my day to slow down, make a bit of a mess, fill the house with incredible smells, and end up with something wonderful to treat my family.

My pie-making varies with the seasons and the availability of fruit, and I’m always trying new recipes out, but one I return to year after year is our Cheddar-Crusted Apple + Thyme Pie. The aroma of fresh thyme really highlights the clean apple flavor of the lightly-sweetened filling, and the buttery crust, laced with sharp cheddar cheese, adds an intoxicatingly savory undertone to the whole thing. It might sound strange on paper, but I challenge you to give it a try—I promise this pie will win you over!

And the cheddar in that crust? We’re lucky to get a wonderful, aged sharp variety from our friends at Golden Glen Creamery in the beautiful Skagit Valley. It’s slightly crumbly and just a little funky, with a salty and savory bite that’s perfect for this pie. All the cheeses Golden Glen produces are made from milk from their small herd of Holstein, Guernsey, and Jersey cattle, and you can taste the small-batch goodness in every bite. Thanks Golden Glen!

Here's the recipe!

Cheddar Pie Crust Baking Mix
3 cups ap flour
1 tbsp sugar
0.5 tsp salt
1 tsp dry mustard
pinch cayenne pepper

Cheddar Crusted Apple Pie Sugar + Starch
⅓ cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch

2 sticks (8oz) unsalted butter, cut into
1-inch cubes
4 oz sharp cheddar, grated
1/3 cup ice water + more if needed
3 1/2 lb apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp thyme leaves
flour for rolling

1. First, make the pie crust. Empty the baking mix in the work bowl of a food processor and add the butter. Pulse until the butter is broken up into pea-sized pieces, about 6-8 short pulses - irregularly sized little chunks of butter are the secret to flaky crust - then transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Run your fingers through the mixture, pinching any very large pieces of butter flat, then add the cheese, tossing to distribute.

2. Sprinkle the ice water over the mixture, then stir, fold, and press with a spatula until the flour is hydrated and a loose dough comes together - if the dough seems too dry and crumbly, add and incorporate another 1-2 tbsp ice water. Turn the dough out onto the counter and divide into two equal portions. Press each into a disc, then wrap the dough and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling.

3. Preheat oven to 425F.

4. While the dough is chilling and the oven is heating, prepare the filling. Toss the apples with the sugar + starch, lemon juice, and thyme leaves in a large bowl and set aside.

5. Flour a large work surface and roll out the first round of dough into a circle about 12-13 inches in diameter. Carefully transfer the dough to a 9 inch pie pan. Roll out the second round of dough.

6. Give the filling another stir and scrape it and all of the accumulated juices into the pie pan. Drape the second pie dough over the filling. With scissors or a sharp paring knife, trim the two layers of dough, leaving about an inch outside the rim of the pan. Tuck the the top layer of dough under the bottom and press together to create a rim. Crimp to seal the dough, either pressing with the tines of a fork, or make a decorative crimp with your fingers.

7. Place the pie on a baking sheet to catch drips. Cut a few vents into the surface of the pie with a sharp paring knife, then slide the pan into the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350F and continue baking until the filling is bubbling up through the vents and the crust is golden brown, another 35-45 minutes. If the crust darkens too quickly, drape a piece of foil over the top of the pie.

8. Transfer the pie to a rack and allow to cool for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight, to allow the filling to firm up.

9. Serve slices of the pie, at room temperature or warmed briefly, topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.