Fall makes me feel so happy, refreshed, and ready to bake. Fall also marks one of the most wonderful times of the year; apple season. I love to gather up a group of friends for a day of apple picking and cider sipping at one of the many orchards in upstate New York where I invariably pick too many apples and am forced to get creative with apple recipes. I usually start working through my harvest with a big batch of apple butter to give away as holiday gifts, then I move on to a cake or two, and last, but not least, I always make at least one apple pie.
Apple pie comes in many variations, but this version with a hefty pour of salty caramel is my absolute favorite. The classic combination of sweet tart apples and creamy caramel sauce with a hint of warm spices is the perfect fall treat. For best results use firm tart apples for this pie. I like ginger gold, mutsu, and jonathan apples for baking, but ask around at your local farmer’s market and see what’s best in your area.
For the Crust
2 1/2c all purpose flour
1c cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/4-1/2c ice water
1t apple cider vinegar
1. Pulse the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor.
2. Add butter and pulse until the butter is the size of large peas.
3. Combine the ice water and vinegar in a measuring cup and while pulsing, slowly drizzle the liquid down the feed tube. Pulse until the dough starts to hold together a bit, there should still be visible hunks of butter in the dough
4. Dump the contents of the food processor onto a piece of plastic wrap and use the wrap to press the dough together. Separate dough into 2 pieces, formy into disks, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 30min before rolling.
For the Filling
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon salt
4-5 large apples (about 3 lbs) I like mutsus, jonathans, and cortlands
1/4 cup all purpose flour
zest and juice of one small lemon
zest and juice of half of an orange
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
To make the caramel sauce: place the sugar and water in a small pot and cook, without stirring, over medium-low heat until the sugar has melted and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the burner and add the cream slowly. It may bubble and spit, so be careful. When the sauce has calmed down, return it to the flame and heat slowly, until smooth and continue to slowly cook until reduced by half. Remove from the heat, add the salt and cool until thickened.
Peel the apples and cut them into 1/2’’ chunks. Place the apples in a large bowl then add lemon and orange juices and zests, stir gently to combine. Add the spices, flour and salt and stir gently to combine.
For the Topping
1 egg, beaten
A few teaspoons of coarse sugar like turbinado or light demerara
To Assemble and Bake
Preheat oven to 400º
1. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of the dough into a 12’’ circle 1/4’’-1/8’’ thick and place it into a 9 or 10 inch pie pan. Place in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the pie.
2. Roll out the other piece of dough into a 12’’ circle about 1/4’’-1/8’’ thick and place it in the fridge to chill while you prepare the filling.
3. Fill the prepared pie shell with half of the apple mixture, pour the caramel on top, then add the rest of the apples and top with the second crust, Trim the edges so there is about 1/2’’ of overhang then crimp the edges and cut a few vents in the top. Or, if you are feeling fancy, you can weave a lattice top for your pie.
4. If the crust seems soft or warm, slide the whole pie into the fridge or freezer for about 15min before you bake it. When you are ready to bake brush the top of the pie with a beaten egg and sprinkle with a healthy dose of coarse sugar.
5. Put the pie on a baking sheet to catch any drips and bake for 15 minutes on the lowest rack of your oven, then lower the oven temp to 350º and bake for 40-50 minutes or until the crust is deep golden brown and the apple juices bubble. For extra shine, glaze the pie with another coat of egg wash 10 minutes before you take it out of the oven, but keep a close eye on it to prevent burning.