caramel apple pie
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
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
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 1/4 cups sugar
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.