Thanksgiving: Salted Caramel Apple Pie

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My first homemade apple pie! It was fun to make and it turned out beautifully. Unfortunately the first bite was disappointing. Much too tart, the caramel wasn’t as noticeable as I would have liked, and it wasn’t nearly sweet enough. That’s an easy enough fix. I took the 4 tablespoons of lemon juice down to 1 tablespoon, cut the lemon zest in half, put 1/3 cup of caramel into the pie instead of 1/4, and added an additional 2 tablespoons of brown sugar in with the turbinado sugar. I also lessened the amount of cardamom and added more cinnamon. The amended recipe? Let’s just say I had two pieces. In a row. 

adapted from: The Back In The Day Bakery Cookbook
serves: 8-10

1 box of Pillsbury piecrusts (2 pie crusts, thawed or homemade pie dough, enough for 2 nine inch pies)

for the caramel
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons heavy cream

for the apple pie filling
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
6 large apples, such as Granny Smith, Pink Lady, or Honey Crisps, or a combo, cored, peeled and thinly sliced ( a mandoline is recommended for even slices) I used 2 of each apple, sliced into rounds on the mandoline and cut in half
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4  teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar

1 egg beaten, for egg wash

Fleur de sel for sprinkling
vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)

Make the caramel

Combine the granulated sugar, fleur de sel, and 1/2 cup water in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved. Wash down any crystals from the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush. Turn the heat down to medium and cook without stirring, until the syrup becomes a medium-dark amber caramel, about 15 minutes; you can carefully swirl the pan around to check the color.

Carefully remove the pan from the heat and immediately stir in the butter and heavy cream. Be careful of hot steam when the heavy cream is added, and do not worry if the butter starts to separate-it will come together once the caramel is cooled. Transfer the caramel to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or to a medium mixing bowl, if using a handheld mixer) and beat on low speed until the caramel cools and starts to come together. Set aside.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400F.

Prepare the dough

On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch round. The premade pie dough rounds are about 10 or 11 inches, so it won’t require much rolling to get to 12 inches. Place the dough in a 9 inch pie dish and press it into the edges. Trim the excess dough with kitchen shears if needed, leaving a 1 inch overhang. Wrap and place the pie dish in the refrigerator to chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the remaining disk of dough and transfer it to a baking sheet. Chill for a bit if needed, then cut 4 to 8 vent holes in the center with a mini cookie cutter or freehand with a knife into whatever shape you like. Reserve the cutout pieces for decorating the crust. Refrigerate on the tray until needed.

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Prepare the filling

Put the lemon zest and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add the apple slices and toss gently.

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In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, turbinado sugar and brown sugar. Gently add to the apples and toss.

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Assemble the pie

Prick the bottom pie dough all over with a fork. Layer half of the apple mixture in the crust, making sure there are no gaps between the apples. To fit all of the apples in there, I had to layer them a few at a time (think traditional ratatouille). Pour half of the 1/3 cup of the caramel mixture on top of the apples. Layer the other half of the apples over top and drizzle with the remaining caramel. Reserve the remaining caramel for serving.

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With the egg wash, brush the rim of the bottom pie crust to create a seal. Place the top pie crust over the pie filling and seal and crimp the edges, trimming the excess dough. Decorate with the cutout pieces, and brush the entire crush with the egg wash. Sprinkle lightly with turbinado sugar and a pinch of fleur de sel.

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Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Turn the oven down to 375F and bake for an additional 45 to 60 minutes, until the caramel blossoms into big, thick, syrupy bubbles and the crust turns golden brown; test the apples with a small paring knife to make sure they are tender but not mushy. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 4 hours before serving to allow the juices and caramel to thicken. The pie is best served the same day, but it can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

To serve, slice the pie into wedges and top with a drizzle of the caramel sauce and, if desired, a large scoop of ice cream 🙂

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