Sunday, December 2, 2012

Salted Caramel Apple Pie

I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner this year.  Sure, there were only 5 of us, so I didn't have to worry about things like a big giant turkey or whether or not we had enough booze, but there's still a lot to get done when you host Thanksgiving, so I wanted to be sure to have one thing ready to go before the big day:  the pie.

It's just not Thanksgiving without pie, and I had an abundance of apples to use up, thanks to a co-worker with an apple tree.  While searching for a new apple pie recipe to try, I came across one that used two of my favorite words: salted caramel.  Salted caramel's gained a lot of popularity lately, which I find kind of funny, because when you think about it, it's such a simple flavor:  cooked sugar and salt.  There's really not much else to it.  But maybe that's what makes it so ridiculously good, like the ultimate of the sweet/savory combo.

The magic of salted caramel makes this one of my favorite pies to date - like a caramel apple in pie form.  I made this on Wednesday night, and on Thursday morning, as I ran around looking for the instant read thermometer for the turkey breast and getting the table set, I could look over at my pie and know that at least one thing was already in the bag.

Salted Caramel Apple Pie (adapted from a cozy kitchen)

Pie Crust:
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter
2 1/2 cups flour
1 Tblsp sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup ice water

Salted Caramel:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup white granulated sugar
5 Tblsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 tsp. flaky sea salt

5-6 medium sizes apples, mixture of tart and sweet
1 lemon
4 Tblsp. of all-purpose flour
1 tsp. whisky
3 Tblsp. white granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice

1 egg, beaten
turbinado sugar
flaky sea salt

For the Crust:
Mix the dry ingredients together in the bowl of a food processor or regular bowl.  Cube the butter, and put the water in an easy-to-pour cup.  Put all ingredients in the freezer for about 15 minutes.
Mix butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or a few pulses on the food processor until it resembles course meal.  Mix in the ice water slowly until the dough holds together when you pinch it.  Dump onto a lighly floured surface and form the dough into two 1" disks.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour or up to 2 days.

For the Salted Caramel:
Heat the heavy cream until it's warm to the touch. Set it aside.

In a medium to large pot, add the sugar and place it over medium heat. Cook the sugar until the bottom starts to turn a light golden brown, about 3 minutes. Stir the sugar, if needed, so that it all cooks evenly.  Keep cooking the sugar until it turns a medium brown (this can happen quickly, so keep your eye on it).  Remove from heat and whisk the sugar until it's smooth and a dark brown color.  If the sugar is not dark brown, continue to heat in 30 second increments, whisking constantly, until it is.

Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter. It will bubble up - keep whisking until the melted butter fully incorporates into the cooked sugar. Next, add the warm cream, whisking it in until it's fully incorporated. The texture will be very thin, but it will thicken as it cools. Add the salt and whisk. Transfer it to a glass container and set aside.

For the Pie:
Remove one of your disks from the fridge and roll out until you can cover the bottom of a 9" pie plate.  Place the dough in the plate, removing any excess over-hang (leave some, as the pie will shrink in the oven), and place back in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Juice the lemon into a large bowl.  Peel, core and slice the apples to a 1/4-inch thickness. Transfer the apples slices to the bowl with the lemon juice to prevent browning as you cut. Add the flour, whiskey, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice to the apples and, using your hands, toss the apples until they're evenly coated.

Take the pie crust out of the fridge. Transfer the apples to the pie crust in a single layer until they cover the bottom of the pie. Pour about 1/4 of the caramel over the apples. Add another layer of apples, and another 1/4 of the caramel.  Add the rest of the apples and another 1/4 of the caramel.  Save the rest of the caramel for topping.

Roll out the second pie dough and arrange on top in whatever design you like - I made a simple lattice crust.  Crimp the edges with a fork or your fingers, then brush the egg over the top crust and sprinkle with sugar and salt.

Transfer the pie to a foil-lined baking sheet (caramel may bubble over the top, and you don't want that getting all over your oven) and place it in the preheated oven. Bake at 300°F for 25 minutes, until the pie crust is a very lightly golden brown. Turn the heat up to 350°F and bake for an additional 35-40 minutes. It's done when the pie crust is a golden brown color and the caramel looks bubbly.

Allow the pie to cool completely (several hours), or you'll have a delicious, but goopy mess on your hands.  Serve slightly warmed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of salted caramel sauce.  Mmmmm.

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