As Swiss as Apple Pie, Redux

This blog was originally posted on October 13, 2014

My cousin Mark, now a professional photographer, took this photo years ago as Grammie happily crocheted in the lobby of my Aunt Myrta and Uncle Bob’s lodge in Aspen.

Throughout my life, people have said things to me like, “I’ll bet your dad baked a lot at home,” or “I’ll bet you had a lot of desserts in your life since your dad is/was a baker.”

The fact of the matter is my dad NEVER baked at home. He was undoubtedly thoroughly sick of baking by time he got home mid-afternoon after having baked for the past 10 hours. Plus, his recipes were for massive amounts of baked goods, and it would have been difficult to cut them down to home baking size.Throughout my life, people have said things to me like, “I’ll bet your dad baked a lot at home,” or “I’ll bet you had a lot of desserts in your life since your dad is/was a baker.”

Minimal desserts at the Gloor house, and absolutely NONE provided by my father – at least not any he baked at home.

The same really is true of my grandmother as well. Though she did love sweets (you could always find cookies from the bakery tucked into her knitting basket or bars of Swiss chocolate hidden among her handkerchiefs in the top drawer of her dresser), she rarely baked. While we ate many a meal at Grammie’s house, I rarely recall her providing dessert. No need, since they lived in an apartment just above the bakery, and if we wanted something sweet after dinner, we went down to the bakery and found a tasty treat.

I say rarely, because there was one thing she occasionally made. She called it her Swiss Apple Pie.

We called it that as well, of course, but I don’t think I ever thought that was actually its name. I just thought that she made an apple pie and called it Swiss because she was – Swiss, that is.

Out of curiosity, the other day I Googled “Swiss Apple Pie.” Much to my surprise, many options appeared. There really is such a thing, and it really comes from Switzerland. The Swiss call it Apfelwahe. Basically, it is a one-crust apple pie or apple tart in a custard base.

Wahe is the Swiss name for this type of tart. In Germany or Austria, it would be called by a different name. Apparently wahen come in both sweet and savory versions. A typical on-the-run lunch in Switzerland would include a stop at a bakery where you would get a slice of a savory wahe and a slice of a sweet fruit wahe. I’m pretty sure my grandmother would just have skipped the savory and gone straight to the sweet.

Anyway, most of the recipes I found featured apples that had either been sliced very thin or chopped. Grammie grated the apples for her pie. When I made the pie this past week, I used my food processor, and it took about two seconds. Her process took considerably longer and likely included a scraped knuckle or two.

Before I get to the recipe, I want to go back to the chocolate candy hidden in Grammie’s top dresser drawer.

Back in those days, you couldn’t easily find Swiss chocolate, at least not in Columbus, Nebraska. Grammie’s sisters would send her boxes of candy, including Toblerone. I think you can buy Toblerone almost everywhere these days, including the grocery store. Back then, Toblerone was our own little secret.

While we all knew about Grammie’s stash of chocolate, none of us would have dared to take any without her permission. But I promise you it was easy to get permission. I can still taste that yummy milk chocolate filled with raspberry or strawberry jelly, or best of all, caramel. And when we got some Toblerone, well, life was good. We always got some for Christmas in our stocking. Apparently Santa Claus is Swiss.

Grammie was very proud of her Swiss heritage, though she full-out adopted American habits. She had a ring of Swiss lady friends with whom she drank coffee and knitted and crocheted. I remember her standing at the counter at the end of the hall, leaning on her elbow with the telephone at one ear, talking in Swiss with one of her girlfriends. I love that memory.

When I was a senior in high school, I was awarded the illustrious crown of Queen of the Sweetheart Dance. She would have been proud of me in my own right, but the best news of all for her was that my king was the son of one of her best friends — Swiss of course!

Grammie Gloor’s Swiss Apple Pie

Swiss Apple Pie

4-5 Delicious apples, peeled and grated

Fill an unbaked pie crust with the grated apples.

Pour over the apples the following mixture:

1 egg

¾ c. half and half

¾ c. granulated sugar

Cinnamon to taste

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, or until custard is set and crust is brown.

Nana’s Notes: Forgive me Grammie, but I made some changes. I think Delicious apples aren’t – delicious, that is. I find them mealy and flavorless. So I used a mixture of apples such as Honey Crisp, Granny Smith, and Fuji and grated them in my food processor. Also, instead of half and half, I used heavy cream, because, well, do I really have to explain? Cream never made anything taste worse, right?

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