Updated date:

Grandma's Apple Pie Recipe

Jill is an avid writer, gardener, photographer, DIYer, and cook.

This (almost) topless apple pie combines chopped tart apples, thick sour cream, and dark brown sugar for a rich desert you'll make again and again. It's one of Mamaw's best!

This apple pie recipe was one of my grandmother's best. Hope you enjoy it!

This apple pie recipe was one of my grandmother's best. Hope you enjoy it!

Mamaw Bess's (Almost) Topless Apple Pie Recipe

If you don't like making pie crust, this (almost) topless apple pie is the right recipe for you as it only requires only one crust instead of two. Mamaw Bess made her own fine dough out of shortening, flour, and ice water. A less-talented pie maker than she, I use a no-fail vinegar crust.

For the apples, be sure to select a crisp variety that will keep its shape during cooking. Because they're both crisp and tart, we choose Granny Smith apples for this recipe. Scroll down to see a list of other alternatives.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

30 min

45 min

1 hour 15 min

One 9-inch pie


  • 2 cups tart apples, chopped
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 9-inch pie shell, unbaked
With a dollop of whipped cream & a strong cup of coffee, it'll satisfy your sweet tooth.

With a dollop of whipped cream & a strong cup of coffee, it'll satisfy your sweet tooth.


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. As the oven heats, combine the first 7 ingredients.
  2. Pour the mixture into 9-inch pie shell.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the last 3 ingredients.
  5. Remove the pie from the oven and sprinkle it with brown sugar mixture.
  6. Bake an additional 15 minutes at 375°F.
  7. Let cool before serving.

Show Mamaw Bess some love.

Granny Smith apples are firm & tart, perfect for this sweet & creamy apple pie recipe.

Granny Smith apples are firm & tart, perfect for this sweet & creamy apple pie recipe.

Good, Crisp Apples for Baking

Apple TypeFlavor




slightly tart







Golden Delicious


Granny Smith










Northern Spy

slightly tart

Prairie Spy

slight sweet




slightly tart

York Imperial

slightly tart

Pie Maker, Traveler, Catbird

When Mamaw Bess was in her seventies, she and her friends started taking trips together. They had a "peck of fun," as she would say, riding donkeys in the Grand Canyon, shopping Canada's largest indoor mall ("the largest mall in world!" according to Mamaw Bess's best friend Bea) and tapping their toes to musicals at Branson.

One autumn, they even took a road trip from the east coast to the west, stopping at every roadside attraction and tourist trap along the way.

But their most unlikely trip—at least to me—was when they visited New Orleans. At Mardi Gras time no less.

My mind boggles when I try to imagine them, three stout "widow ladies," as they liked to call themselves, stalwart members of the Baptist church, the women's club and the mission society, blithely walking down Bourbon Street in their polyester shorts and white ladies' tennis shoes.

On the other hand, little that Mamaw Bess and her friends did ever surprised me. I'd grown up hearing time and time again (always from people with smiles on their faces) that my grandmother was a jaybird, a catbird, a crackerjack, a pistol or some other Appalachian term for a person with curiosity and spirit.

It wasn't too much of a surprise then when Mamaw Bess came back from her trip with a hand full of beads and a face full of mischief. Apparently, she had done her best to hit every bar on Bourbon Street.

"You shoulda seen 'em!" she said as we sat in her kitchen over cups of coffee. "Twirlin' around, dancin' on tabletops—carryin' on something awful!"

She beamed across the table at me, clearly delighted to have witnessed so much wickedness.

"And most of 'em didn't have a stitch on. Nary a stitch!" She leaned forward, eyes sparkling, and pointed a sausage-like finger at me. "Some of 'em was wearing nothin' but paint." Banging her cup on the tabletop, she grinned at me and nodded. "Believe it or not!"

Mammaw Bess in high school

Mammaw Bess in high school

To commemorate Mama Bess's trip to New Orleans, we made this apple pie recipe, which she got from her friend Myrtle and renamed (Almost) Topless Apple Pie.

Although it doesn't have a top crust made of pastry dough like so many apple pies, it does have some beads and paint to cover its nakedness—a brown sugar mixture that's sprinkled over the filling. That's right—Mamaw Bess's Apple Pie is only almost, not completely, topless. Why? Because apple pies just taste better with a little something on them. Believe it or not!



Jill Spencer (author) from United States on October 21, 2012:

Hi 2patricias! Thanks for reading and sharing. Appreciate it! --Jill

2patricias from Sussex by the Sea on October 21, 2012:

This is an interesting spin on traditional apple pie. Nice backstory too.

I am including this in my Recipe Index for HubPages - and sharing.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on September 21, 2012:

Hi dwachira. Oh yes, we all loved Bess. She was a lot of fun and was filled with the spirit of generosity. Thanks for stopping by! (: Jill

Danson Wachira from Nairobi, Kenya on September 21, 2012:

I would like to try this Apple Pie recipe, it looks delicious. You must have loved Mamaw so much to commemorate her trip. Voted up and interesting.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on July 22, 2012:

@ Farmer Rachel -- Thanks for the votes!

@ Old Roses -- Glad you like the recipe. She really was a character! And we all miss her very much. Thanks for commenting.

Caren White on July 22, 2012:

Sounds delicious! Mamaw sounds like a real character. Thanks for sharing her story and her recipe.

Rachel Koski Nielsen from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on July 22, 2012:

This looks great, thanks for sharing! Voted up and awesome :)

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on July 20, 2012:

Hey Billie. I spent a lot of time in Florida growing up & have a funny story about Mamaw Bess getting into a bit of an altercation with a roadside fruit seller because she insisted on "sampling" the freestone peaches. My dad, to cool things down, ended up buying a bushel of them. Hope you have a good weekend too. The Rome apples should do just fine. Take care! --Jill

billie-bob from south florida on July 20, 2012:

Ok its Friday! (more ways than one) printing recipe. Love the chart but... love rome. Live in south fla. so take what I get. Happy weekend


Jill Spencer (author) from United States on July 20, 2012:

@ Maren Morgan M-T -- It is a good pie! Had to make two this week. The first one was gone before I got a chance to take a picture of it!

Maren Elizabeth Morgan from Pennsylvania on July 20, 2012:


Jill Spencer (author) from United States on July 19, 2012:

Hey, billie-bob! Mama was a lot of fun--lived on her own & was active up to the end at 98. Thanks for commenting, and I hope you love the pie.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on July 19, 2012:

@ Specialk3749 -- You're welcome! And good luck with the contest. It sounds like fun. --The Dirt Farmer

billie-bob from south florida on July 19, 2012:

I can't wait. First to be paid tomorrow, buy ink for printer, print and make this pie!. I would love to have been with your Mamaw, sounds so fun. Thanks for sharing with us stay at homes. LOL

Karen Metz from Michigan on July 19, 2012:

Thank you for the recipe! Right now, I am trying out different kinds of fruit pies to decide what kind I want to enter into our annual fair contest. I'll let you know if I choose this recipe! Thanks again...

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on July 19, 2012:

Hi Sinea Pies! I felt like I had to include the apple chart. It's so important to know which apples stand up to cooking; otherwise, you end up with mush. Hope your family likes the pie! Thanks so much for sharing the recipe.

Sinea Pies from Northeastern United States on July 19, 2012:

So grateful that you included the apple chart! I am not much of an apple-eater, therefore I don't know tart from sweet when it comes to varieties. This list is so helpful and Mamaw's recipe sounds delectable! My family will LOVE it! Spreading the news with a like and a tweet and a pin!