People.com...Some musicians write songs about their family. Michelle Branch likes to bake with hers. "Once I had my daughter, Owen, I enjoyed baking that much more," Branch, 26, tells PEOPLE. "It's such a mother-daughter thing to do. It all comes down with being with family and doing something for your family. I think that's why we get an urge to bake at the holidays. We all get an urge to be close and spend time with each other over a cup of coffee and a piece of pie."
Branch, who's readying her third solo album, Everything Comes and Goes, for release next year, says she has always had a passion for baking – and it's something she shared with her 4-year-old from an early age. "There's a chef's tower that you can buy at Williams-Sonoma that you can put your kid in that has four sides, so as soon as she could stand, we had that," Branch says. "I think it's so important to get your kids involved in the kitchen. When there is a connection to your food, you are going to care where it comes from and it will become a habit for your whole life."
"She is really a great spatula-licker," Branch says, reflecting on her daughter's favorite kitchen pastime. "She gets that from her dad; he's the frosting eater."
But Owen doesn't just love sweets. "I'm really so happy that I have a daughter who is not picky," she says. "We have just fed her anything from an early age. If you ask her what her favorite food is, she'll say clams! She loves clams, she loves sushi, she loves vegetables. I think part of the reason is we've always had her involved in our food decisions."
And Branch hopes her daughter's passion for food continues to blossom – if only so she can always eat well. "[Owen]'s mentioned before, 'Mama when I grow up, I want to be a mama and a chef,' " Branch says. "Not that I'm going to push her, but I'm like, 'Please, be a chef!' When I'm old and you're taking care of me, I'll eat very well."
One of Branch's favorite recipes to make with Owen is her Apple Butter Apple Pie, a dessert she's adapted and perfected over the years.
"I love crumb-topping pies," Branch says of the dish. "So I just saw the recipe and tried it one year and from then on it just became the staple holiday pie."
Just how much does the singer adore it?
"I was thinking of tattooing the crust recipe on my arm," she says, laughing. The final product is a combination of a Gourmet crust recipe and a filling from New York's Buttercup Bake Shop. "You can't go wrong with apple pie," Branch says. "If you eat it for breakfast with ice cream, you've got fruit and dairy for the day!"
Makes: 8 servings Hands-on time:35 min. Total time: 2 hrs., 10 min.
• ½ cup sugar
• 1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
• ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• Pinch of ground nutmeg
• 4 ½ cups peeled and sliced Granny
• Smith apples (about 4 large apples)
• ¼ cup apple butter
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• Vanilla ice cream (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 425º.
2. Combine first 4 ingredients; sprinkle over apples and toss gently. Stir in apple butter and lemon juice.
3. Spoon apple mixture into prepared pastry. Sprinkle Crumb Topping over apple mixture, covering completely.
4. Bake 10 minutes at 425º. Reduce temperature to 350º and bake 25 to 35 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Cool on a wire rack 30 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.
Pastry for 9-inch pie:
• 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ cup unsalted butter, chilled
• 2 ½ to 3 tablespoons ice water
1. Pulse first 3 ingredients in a food processor 3 or 4 times or until combined.
2. Add butter, and pulse 5 or 6 times or until crumbly. With processor running, gradually add water 1 tablespoon at a time and process until dough forms a ball and leaves sides of bowl, adding more water if necessary. Cover and chill 30 minutes.
3. Roll pastry to ½-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Place in a 9-inch pie plate; trim off excess pastry along edges. Fold edges under, and crimp.
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 cup uncooked regular oats
• ½ cup light brown sugar
• ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1. Pulse all ingredients in a food processor 3 or 4 times or just until crumbly.