Why Swedish Apple Pie Is So Much Easier To Make Than American

Swedish apple pie is similar to what Americans call an apple crumble or apple crisp — but with variations in ingredients or texture, depending on particular recipes. This warm, aromatic dessert bears the name smulpaj in its home country, based on the Swedish words smula, which translates as crumb, and paj, meaning pie. It's essentially a sugary, spicy, soft, and thick apple filling with a crumbly, sometimes crisp, topping. It may sound like a traditional American apple pie, but it's way easier to make. 

For starters, a Swedish apple pie has no crust –– none on the bottom, the sides, or tumbling over the edge with a need for crimping. Instead, the texture comes from what's tossed on top. That means there's no need to make the perfect lattice pie crust or create a showcase apple-art display. You can stop worrying about whether the pie crust will be under or overcooked, or if your carefully crimped dough edges will burn as the interior mixture bubbles its way toward doneness. It pretty much all cooks evenly for the same amount of time. 

The ingredient list for a smulpaj is simple, using everyday ingredients, and the assembly is straightforward. Whether going for a cake-like, crisp, or more crumbly texture, it still only involves dropping in or spreading the ingredients for a simple, streamlined cooking experience — and a heartwarming, tummy-filling, sweet homemade dessert for your table.

What's in that Swedish apple pie

Though essentially a very simple dessert, some family recipes employ extras like brown sugar, rolled oats, cardamom, lemon juice, vanilla, or even finely chopped nuts for a more crumbly texture. Others add turbinado or raw sugar over the entire top for some extra crunch in every bite. 

But the core ingredients are pretty much the same. An apple pie smulpaj may include berries for a bit of flavor complexity, but it's the namesake apples that define the dish. Any apple variety will do the trick, but green Granny Smiths bring both tart and sweet elements to the table, and they tend to hold up well when exposed to oven heat. Other than that, the basics include sugar, flour, eggs, butter, and sometimes baking powder, depending on how cake-like you want it to be.   

Remember that this is a rustic, down-home pie. It's not a showcase dessert like many American apple pies, but rather one for digging right into the crispy, gooey goodness with a big-ole spoon.

Crispy version of Swedish apple pie

It's worth noting that not every Swedish apple pie is the same. As with any dessert in any country, variations abound, depending on tradition and personal preference. Then there's the version that earns its own designation. While the cake-like topping of any Swedish apple pie is slightly crunchy, this one is specifically created as a "Swedish crispy apple pie."

That means it's generally less crumbly and cakey, with a firm crispiness on the exterior. This comes from adding some kind of golden syrup to other ingredients, including heavy cream, and bubbling slightly on the stovetop. This creates a warm mixture that's then spooned over the apples and spices in the deep-dish pie pan. As it cooks in the oven, a crispy shell develops over the stewed cinnamon apples, one that's firm enough to tap with a spoon.

It becomes crispy with notes of butterscotch and toffee. Add a scoop of ice cream to each served slice, and you get a glorious mix of layered textures with every bite.