Friday, November 11, 2011

Caramel Apple Pie

I drove up to my house the other day and realized I was in trouble. What started as a charming and festive sprinkling of leaves over my front lawn had turned into a carpet of red, orange, and yellow, with no grass in sight. It's sort of my goal not to become the scourge of the neighborhood, so when I compared our lawn with that of our neighbors, I knew it was time to face the music.

You should know that growing up in a beach house with no outdoor space other than the ocean means I am wholly unprepared to do any kind of yardwork. So raking for the first time with something that resembled a comb more than a rake was a bit of a challenge. I kept waiting for some tween neighbor kid to come over and offer his services in exchange for a cupcake.

But no one ever showed up. TV sitcoms have totally ruined my grasp on reality. I'd say I did a mediocre job overall, but if at least my walkway was cleared, that was good enough for me. I need to make it as easy as possible for my mailman to get to the front door since he likes to skip over us about once a week. Real life: there has been a watched DVD sitting in our mailbox for two days because the mailman hasn't come by. This is seriously hindering my Netflix addiction.

And after all that hard work of raking the leaves into piles and then... leaving them there (what, you thought I was going to go get leaf bags? I can't even take my own mail to the post office), the next morning I opened my door and found yet another blanket of newly shed leaves.

Ok, time to get Fall back on my good side before I start doing snow dances. The solution?  Pie. Sweet, tart, crispy, fruity, Caramel Apple Pie.

You know when my favorite time to dig into a fruit pie is? First thing in the morning. Seriously. Don't warm it up. Just grab a fork and dig into all that flaky pastry and tart, sweet fruit. Ok, maybe get yourself a plate but only if you're with people who will judge you for eating pie first thing in the morning. And not bagging your leaves.

This pie filling has a great balance thanks to the tart Granny Smiths and the slightly bitter, sweet caramel and I really liked the idea of slicing the apples super thinly so you get lots of them in each bite. And I absolutely loved this crust. It's the same recipe I use for all my pies, but the cinnamon-sugar on top? Oh wow. Just, wow. Crispy, crunchy, sweet- magic.

If you need me, I'll be in the kitchen, shoveling pie in my face straight from the pie plate. And ignoring my disappearing yard.

Caramel Apple Pie
Yield: 8 servings

For the crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1/2 cup ice water

For the filling:
1 cup sugar, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp apple brandy
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 lbs. granny smith apples
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon, plus more for dusting

For the egg wash:
1 egg
1 egg yolk
Pinch of salt
1 tsp water

1. First, make the crust. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the dry ingredients for the crust. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is the size of peas. With the mixer running, add the ice water. Pulse the mixture just until it starts to come together. If it seems to wet, add a little more flour. If it doesn't stick together when pressed in your hand, add a little more ice water. Turn out onto a floured board and divide into two discs. Wrap and chill at least one hour.
2.While dough chills, make the caramel. In a medium sauce pot combine the sugar and water. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Occasionally swirl the pot gently but do not stir. Use a brush dipped in cold water to wash down the sides of the pot as needed. As soon as the caramel starts to color, turn the heat down to medium. Continue to let the caramel cook until it is a nice amber color (the darker the caramel, the more bitter it will be). Use a white plate to test occasionally to better see the color.
3. Once the caramel has reached your desired color, slowly and carefully whisk in the cream. The caramel will bubble up quickly so be careful! Add the brandy and vanilla extract. Return the caramel to a medium-low heat and allow to reduce slightly, whisking occasionally. Set aside to thicken and cool.
4. Once your dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Roll out one disc of dough into a circle a few inches larger than your pie dish and about 1/4'' thick. Be sure to flour your work surface generously and turn the dough often to make sure it doesn't stick. Line pie dish with dough and trim edges. Place back in refrigerator to chill further.
5. Peel the apples and slice very thinly. Place in a large bowl and toss with the flour and cinnamon.
6. Into the chilled pie shell, start layering the apples. Place them close together, overlapping them so there are no gaps. When the entire bottom of the crust is covered, add about 1/4 cup of caramel over top. Continue to layer the apples and caramel sauce until the pie is filled and all ingredients have been used. The apples will shrink down so don't worry if your pie looks overfilled. Return to the fridge.
7. Whisk together the ingredients for the egg wash in a small bowl. Roll out the second disc of dough to the same size and thickness as the first. Brush the edge of the bottom crust with egg wash and carefully place the remaining dough over top of the pie and trim any excessive overhang. Crimp the edge of the dough together to seal them. Brush the top of the pie with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
8. Bake the pie for 35 minutes. Sprinkle the top of the pie with cinnamon and return it to the oven for another 35-40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling. Keep an eye on the crust as it bakes, and cover with foil if it begins to brown too quickly, or before the filling is fully cooked.

Recipe Notes
  • The caramel will cook a little more in the oven, so consider going a little lighter than you normally would to ensure it doesn't get too bitter.
  • It's a good idea to place a sheetpan under your pie plate as it bakes. This will make it easier to get the pie in and out of the oven and will catch any juices that might bubble over the edge.
  • If you want to make this extra special, double the caramel recipe and reserve half to re-warm and drizzle over each slice.
Crust from Martha Stewart; Filling adapted from Tyler Florence


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