caramel apple pie

November 9th, 2012

As soon as the first sign of cool weather arrived this year I had a craving for caramel apples. I wanted one—no, it was more dire than that—I needed one. I mean, who doesn’t love that contrast of juicy apple and sweet, gooey caramel. Fall really seems to be the only appropriate time to indulge in them—so it’s time to sieze the day, err season, right?! Well, I never got around to actually making a caramel apple—I totally cheated and bought one, okay maybe more than one, at the farmers’ market. It was delicious and totally hit the spot, but even afterwards I couldn’t shake the thought of those damn caramel apples—let’s just blame it on the pregnancy.

Fast forward to thinking about Thanksgiving pie time, another thing that’s occupying way too much of my brain space. After last year’s magical bourbon pecan pie success from RQ Issue 7, I was feeling good about my pie-making skills. What could possibly top last year’s pie? A caramel apple pie, that’s what! Of course I had to test this theory out before the big day, so I went ahead and did a trial run. Oh. My. Goodness. Get ready for a sweet, buttery caramel apple pie lovefest.

Did I ever tell you about the time I forgot to put the sugar in the pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving? Yeah, that tasted horrible. Watching people pretend that it was good— “No really, it’s not that bad”—was even worse than the taste. So while I had success with pie last year, I’ve had my share of embarrassing moments when it comes to pies. Which is yet another reason why I wanted to test this baby out.

Now, it’s a pie, so there is some level of difficulty, but overall I felt like it was pretty easy to make. There are a few steps involved which all compliment each other well. For instance, you’ll make the dough first, which then needs to chill for at least a half hour. While it’s chilling, you can busy yourself with making the streusel, slicing the apples, and making the caramel. Ohhh, the caramel. This was my only hiccup in the recipe. I will share my mistake with you so you don’t have to go through it. This wasn’t the first time this happened to me either, but now I’ve learned my lesson—don’t stir the caramel while it’s boiling. You can swirl it by moving the pot, but if you stir it, it turns into a dry, white sugary mess—basically the opposite of caramel. The second time around, I used the swirl-method and with a bit of patience got a lovely amber liquid that, after adding butter and water, turned into an even lovelier caramel. By this time, your dough is cold enough and you can go ahead an assemble the pie.

As with most treats that are baked, the sweet scent of this pie slowly spread through our house, taunting us until it was done. Even then, when it was perfectly golden and bubbly, it had to cool for an hour—an hour?! But trust me, it’s worth the wait. The caramel hugs the apples as the crumble coats the entire shebang, making for perfectly cut slices, rather than the gooey mess you’d get if you didn’t let it cool.

The caramel mingles perfectly with the apples, which in the process of baking have become soft pillows of flavor. The crust brings just the amount of butter and crunch that you want, while the streusel adds even more sweetness to the whole affair. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side of this and you have a match made in heaven. Needless to say, I’ll be sharing this pie at our table this Thanksgiving.

caramel apple pie

Adapted from Bon Appetit, November 1998

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, frozen
4 tablespoons (about) ice water

Make the crust:

1. Mix 1 1/2 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt in processor.

2. Add butter and cut in using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. Blend in enough ice water by tablespoonfuls to form large moist clumps.

3. Transfer dough to work surface. Gather dough into ball. Flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic. Chill dough 30 minutes.

For the streusel:

3/4 cup all purpose flour
6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or 1/4 teaspoon each of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Make the streusel:

1. Mix flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice) and salt in medium bowl to blend.

2. Rub in butter with fingertips until mixture forms pea-size clumps.

(Dough and streusel can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate streusel. Keep dough chilled. Let dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.)

For the filling:

6-7 Golden Delicious or Fuji apples, peeled, cored, cut into 3/4-inch-thick wedges
1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Make filling:

1. Combine apple wedges and 1/4 cup flour in large bowl and toss to coat. Let stand while preparing caramel.

2. Stir sugar and 1/4 cup water in heavy large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves.

3. Increase heat and boil until syrup turns deep amber color, brushing pan sides with wet pastry brush and swirling pan occasionally, do not stir, about 5-10 minutes, until the liquid turns amber. This will happen very quickly, so keep a close eye on the liquid. Remove from heat.

4. Add butter and remaining 2 tablespoons water (mixture will bubble vigorously). Return to heat and stir until smooth.

5. Pour caramel over apples; toss to coat. Let stand until apples release juices, tossing occasionally, about 10 minutes.

6. Position rack in bottom third of oven, with another rack below it and preheat to 375°F. Position a large sided-baking sheet on the bottom rack just in case the pie has any overflow.

7. Roll out dough on floured work surface to 14-inch round. Transfer to 9 1/2-inch-diameter glass pie dish with 1 3/4-inch-high sides. Crimp edges decoratively.

8. Spoon apple mixture into prepared crust. The caramel will have hardened slightly to the apples and probably to the bowl. Scrape out as much as you can and place over apples. The caramel will melt and disperse in the oven.

9. Sprinkle streusel over pie.

10. Bake pie until apples are tender and streusel is golden, covering crust edge with foil if browning too quickly, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool at least 1 hour. Serve pie warm or at room temperature with a side of vanilla ice cream.

Comments: 20 Total

  1. this is lemonade

    November 9, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Ooooh apple pies are my favourite dessert. This sounds delicious, I love all things caramelly, it works so well with apples because I find they are always just slightly tart. I still have not attempted caramel though. Thanks for the tips and sharing your mistakes. I heard that using a non-stick pan to make caramel also helps it crystalise – what pan did you use?

    • kelly

      November 9, 2012 at 11:35 am

      I used a large pot—nothing special. You can totally do it! Just be patient! And if it doesn’t work out the first time, try again.

  2. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    November 9, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    This sounds positively fabulous! What a great recipe :)

  3. Anna

    November 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Last Thanksgiving my husband made and apple pie and used cumin instead of cinnamon. I did my best to eat a slice. This pie looks amazing, I will definitely think about making this soon.

    • kelly

      November 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm

      You had me cracking up! I like cumin, but when you’re expecting cinnamon, in a pie no less, I’m not sure I could get through a whole slice. thanks for sharing!

      • this is lemonade

        November 10, 2012 at 2:43 pm

        Lol I had to butt in because I’ve just been making some flatbread with cumin in and they smell lovely but thinking about cumin with apple pie just made me smile. An innocent mistake. How about when I put cinnamon into a marinade when I meant ground coriander but got confused because I was too busy chatting and the jars are all the same? :-P

  4. little kitchie

    November 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    oh my goodness, this sounds AWESOME! great pics, too! :)

  5. sara

    November 9, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    Yum, this looks so so so delicious! :)

  6. Allison @ The Bleu Whale

    November 11, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    My favorite part of any pie (regardless of how delicious the inside is) is always the crust. There’s nothing like a crispy buttery pie crust! Must make this recipe soon!

  7. Laura

    November 14, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    I just wanted to let you know that I made this for dessert when my parents visited on Monday…and my mum declared it the best apple pie she has ever eaten. Thanks for the wonderful recipe :)

    • kelly

      November 15, 2012 at 8:20 am

      Yay! I’m glad it was such a hit!

  8. Explody Full

    November 15, 2012 at 1:31 am

    Now you’ve started the cravings! this looks great, I will give it a go – but I might go for a crumble instead of a pie with the same caramel mixture.

    This reminds me of a self saucing apple cake I haven’t made in ages – I think It uses golden syrup and a lot of sugar. Delicious!

    • kelly

      November 15, 2012 at 8:21 am

      Yum! A crumble would be easier and tasty too! I would personally miss the butter crust, but that’s just the butter-lover in me. :)

  9. Jeff @ Cheeseburger

    November 16, 2012 at 3:25 am

    This might be an excellent thanksgiving pie. I’m going to give it a try first this weekend.

  10. Gretchen

    November 17, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    My mom & dad started dating in high school, and one of their first dates was making pie together. In all the years since my mom has probably made hundreds (thousands?) of pies. A few years ago when she made one of our family favorites (strawberry-rhubarb) she forgot the sugar. And my dad will never let her forget it!

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  13. Rebecca @This Nest is Best

    November 22, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    I made this today (for Thanksgiving!) and it was FANTASTIC! Thank you for a delicious recipe!

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