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Szarlotka (Polish Apple Pie)

 This Szarlotka recipe combines a thick layer of apples with a dense, cake-like crust and a crumble topping, to create a Polish apple pie that is sure to be a fall favorite.

This Szarlotka recipe combines a thick layer of apples with a dense, cake-like crust and a crumble topping, to create a Polish apple pie that is sure to be a fall favorite. | www.CuriousCuisiniere.comAs American as Apple Pie?

Think again.

Maybe if you’re thinking of a classic double crusted apple pie, like our Brandied Apple Pie, then we can claim the American title, but Polish cuisine gives American apple pie a good run for its money.

While in Poland, we ate the most unique apple cake we have ever tasted. (The one on the left below.)

Towards the end of our trip, we searched for another taste of that Polish apple cake, and only came close with the version on the right.

Polish Apple Cake with Curious Cuisiniere Polish Apple Cake with Curious Cuisiniere

Even in Poland, szarlotka varies tremendously from one baker to another.

Some have a filling that is just apples and spices, while others include raisins and still others feature almonds.

Some have a meringue topping, while others boast a crumble on top, and others have a whole second layer of cake!

When searching for recipes to make our Polish apple pie, the number of ways to make Polish apple cakes and Polish apple pies left us with a lot of options to sort through.

This Szarlotka recipe combines a thick layer of apples with a dense, cake-like crust and a crumble topping, to create a Polish apple pie that is sure to be a fall favorite. | www.CuriousCuisiniere.com

Polish Apple Cake or Polish Apple Pie?

Technically, you won’t find ‘pie’ in Poland the way we think of it in the States

However, we’re calling this apple dessert a pie, because it has a layer of apple filling, simiar to what you would find in a pie.

As you can see from the pictures, the “pie” itself is more of  a layered cake or crumble with an apple pie filling. 

Translating from Polish to English can be a bit tricky to land on the correct word, and the variations on szarlotka are so vast that one may not even look like another.

But, there is a whole different category of Polish desserts devoted to actual apple cake, called Placek z Jablka. Which is more of a slicing cake studded with apples. (More similar in style to this German apple cake.) 

Hopefully, one day we’ll tackle this treat too!

While there are a lot of variations of Szarlotka (pronounced shar-LOT-ka), a few things remain the same.

The apple filling of this dessert is definitely less sweet than what Americans think of as ‘apple pie filling’. It is typically just apples and spices. And, if any sugar is added in, it is only in small amounts.

The cake also isn’t overly sweet, which really lets the flavor of the apples and the contrasting textures shine through. 

This Szarlotka recipe combines a thick layer of apples with a dense, cake-like crust and a crumble topping, to create a Polish apple pie that is sure to be a fall favorite. | www.CuriousCuisiniere.com

Our Szarlotka Recipe

We tried to mirror our Polish apple pie after the first pie we tasted while in Poland: the one with the dense, cakey bottom crust and the crumbly top.

This means that, for our szarlotka recipe, the bottom “crust” is a cross between a dense cake and a thick shortbread. It is only lightly sweet to really let the sweetness of the apples shine through. And it’s consistency adds a wonderful, hearty texture to the pie.

To make the pie, the bottom crust is baked alone first and then topped with a warm apple and cinnamon mixture.

The top “crust” is a second layer of the same dough as the bottom crust that is crumbled or grated over top of the cake to give it a fun texture.

The double crust creates a wonderful combination soft and crisp textures to surround the ample center of spiced apple goodness.

This pie is a serious slice of apple heaven!

This Szarlotka recipe combines a thick layer of apples with a dense, cake-like crust and a crumble topping, to create a Polish apple pie that is sure to be a fall favorite. | www.CuriousCuisiniere.com

Serving Szarlotka

You will want to let this dessert cool completely before serving. 

The apple mixture firms up as it cools, giving the pie more structure so that it holds up nicely when sliced.

You can make this apple pie in the morning to serve with dinner, but we find it best if szarlotka is made a day ahead of time.

Overnight, the moisture from the apples steeps into the crust, softening it and infusing it with a sweet, cinnamon apple flavor.

This Szarlotka recipe combines a thick layer of apples with a dense, cake-like crust and a crumble topping, to create a Polish apple pie that is sure to be a fall favorite. | www.CuriousCuisiniere.com

 

Yield: 1 (9 inch) round pie)

Szarlotka (Polish Apple Pie)

This Szarlotka recipe combines a thick layer of apples with a dense, cake-like crust and a crumble topping, to create a Polish apple pie that is sure to be a fall favorite. | www.CuriousCuisiniere.com

This Szarlotka recipe combines a thick layer of apples with a dense, cake-like crust and a crumble topping, to create a Polish apple pie that is sure to be a fall favorite.

Bake this apple pie in a 9" round spring-form pan for great presentation and easy serving. No spring-form pans laying around? Try it in a 9x9 baking dish or 9" diameter casserole dish with at least 3 inch high sides.

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours

Ingredients

For the Crust

For the Filling

  • 2 lbs firm baking apple, (Gala, McIntosh, or Pink Lady), peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 2 lbs soft baking apple, (Braeburn, Red Delicious, or Fuji), peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

For the Crust

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Cut in the butter, using a pastry blender or a fork, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. Mix in the eggs and vanilla extract until the mixture is evenly moist.
  4. Add the milk, 1 Tbsp at a time, mixing with your hands after each addition until a firm but slightly sticky dough forms. (Add extra milk if necessary.)
  5. Turn the dough onto the counter and knead a few times, quickly (it may stick to the counter a bit) to finish bringing the dough together.
  6. Divide the dough into two pieces, roughly 2/3 and 1/3 of the dough. Wrap the smaller section in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 30 minutes, while you continue working. Press the larger section into a greased 9” spring form pan.
  7. Bake the bottom crust in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, until it is puffy and starting to turn golden around the edges. When the crust is done, remove it from the oven to a cooling rack.

For the Filling

  1. While the bottom crust is baking, mix the apples and cinnamon in a large sauté pan or large pot. Heat the apples over medium-high heat and sauté for 5-7 minutes, until the apples soften slightly and the mixture becomes fragrant. Remove the mixture from the heat.

Putting It All Together

  1. Spread the warm filling over the warm crust. (It will look like you have A LOT of apples. Don’t worry; they cook down.)
  2. Take the last 1/3 of the crust out of the freezer and grate it over the apple filling using a cheese grater (or crumble it over top of the apples using your fingers).
  3. Place an aluminum foil lined baking sheet in the oven on the rack below where the pie will go, to catch any dripping from the spring form pan.
  4. Return the pie to the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, until the top is golden.

Cooling and Serving

  1. Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool completely on a cooling rack.
  2. Once the pie is cool it can be served or covered lightly with plastic wrap and left on the counter overnight, to be served the following day. (This pie is great when made a day ahead of time, because the flavors develop and the crust softens overnight.)

Notes

This pie can be stored, covered, on the counter for up to 2 days. After 2 days, store any leftovers in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

This recipe was updated it in October 2016. We made a few tweaks to make the pie even better. Enjoy!

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1 slice

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 127

 

This is one of the recipes from the early days of Curious Cuisiniere. We’ve updated our pictures since we first shared it, but we’ve left some originals here, in case you’ve found us in the past and are looking for that old, familiar image.

Szarlotka (Polish Apple Pie) from Curious Cuisiniere

Szarlotka (Polish Apple Pie) from Curious Cuisiniere

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fred

Friday 26th of November 2021

Made this dessert last week using apples donated from a neighbor's tree. Came out as a soggy mess. Too many apples and too moist of an apple. Also, messy to cut for serving. Freezing didn't help.. Trashed it.

Sarah Ozimek

Sunday 28th of November 2021

Hi Fred. You do need a firm baking apple for this, like we specify in the recipe, or you will end up with applesauce in the center of your pie, which I assume is what happened in your case. I'm sure it would have made a decent trifle though if simply spooned into bowls for serving. I hope you get a chance to try the recipe again using firm baking apples.

Our Polish cuisine night – Cuisine Night

Wednesday 3rd of March 2021

[…] Apple szarlotka with cinnamon cream […]

Theresa

Sunday 28th of February 2021

Placek kartoflany- potato pancake Naleśniki- crêpes/ thin pancakes Placek when referring to cake means traybake!!! For Hunters Stew/ Bigos have freezer bag which is used solely for leftover roast beef or pork or duck ( not lamb as overwhelms flavour). This is brilliant for Bigos with some pork ribs for stripping after cooking.

Sarah Ozimek

Thursday 4th of March 2021

Thanks for the tips Theresa!

Barbara Cimorosi

Saturday 20th of February 2021

I have made this recipe many times and always get rave reviews. When I was growing up there was a bakery in our neighborhood that made Szarlotka but instead of the pie crust type of base they used more of a cake like base. My brother (he is the cook in his family) and I have tried to duplicate it, and have come close but not quite perfect...sometimes too much base sometimes not enough...we will keep trying. Perhaps if anyone has the secret they can share

Sarah Ozimek

Saturday 20th of February 2021

We have been working on something like this, and have yet to get it just right they way we ate it in Poland. Maybe another reader will have some tips! (You may also want to take a look at the comment below from Donna S. also. As she gave some tips for a lighter cake base.)

Dorota

Wednesday 25th of November 2020

Hi Sarah! Adding to your question about the “placki” confusion. If you say “placki z jabłkami” a Pole would most probably imagine something like pancakes with apple pieces. We usually use sour milk or kefir (kind of fermented yoghurt) in the dough to make it fluffy. “Racuchy” on the other hand are usually made with yeast. “Pie” is a concept we only know from American movies and for most people “szarlotka” will be classified as “ciasto” as a general term for all kinds of cakes that you cut into pieces to serve. “Placek” can be used to refer to a flatter, easier cake, but it’s rather regional and on its own usually refers rather to the fried potato pancake served with goulash (look up “placek po węgiersku” it’s quite amazing 😉). Hope this helps! PS. My grandma adds some sour cream to the szarlotka dough instead of milk. Makes it wonderfully fluffy 😀

Sarah Ozimek

Wednesday 25th of November 2020

Thank you so much Dorota. This helps a lot!

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