November 18th, 2011
What’s that, you say?
You’re still looking for a Thanksgiving pie recipe?
You want something familiar, but not boring?
Something different, but not so crazy that you’ll leave a holiday craving unchecked?
Hmmmm. That’s a tall oder—not sure I can help.
Unless, of course, SALTED-CARAMEL APPLE PIE sounds good!
Ah—you made it across the jump. I guess it does sounds good after all. In that case, let me fill you in.
While in Portland, Oregon this summer, I visited Random Order Coffeehouse and Bakery. I wish I could report that I found this gem on my own, the food sleuth that I am, but, alas, the folks at a little publication called Travel + Leisure beat me to it by nearly a year. In fall 2010, the mag published their list of America’s Best Pies and on it was a vanilla salted-caramel apple pie from Random Order. I circled the picture of the pie, dog eared the page and added Random Order to my Must-Try-In-Portland list. I would not miss out.
My resolve was well worth it. The pie, like all of the pies at Random Order, was specdonkular. And you know what that means, right?
Specdonkular [speck-donk-u-lar] (adjective): So divine that One Hungry Mama must try to recreate the flavors at home so that she may enjoy them whenever she pleases.
I won’t bore you with all of the details of my recipe testing, but let me tell you that I attempted this pie using a simple caramel sauce and it came out way too juicy. Making caramel candy, which calls for butter, corn syrup and slightly different ratios than a caramel sauce, worked much better.
So much better. Let’s take another look, shall we?!
Nom. NOm. NOM.
I digress. Back to the caramel. The fact that caramel candy works better than caramel sauce means that you can probably use melted store-bought caramels (with added salt) to achieve the same results, but I urge you not to. A little corn syrup may not be ideal, but it’s way better than the high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and/or color that you may find in the store-bought variety.
Making caramel candy is super easy and only adds a total of 10-15 extra minutes to your pie making time. Once you make it, pour the still-liquid candy into a tall glass or ceramic container, like a 2 or 4 cup measuring cup. It may begin to firm up once you set it aside to work your dough or prep the apples, so you’ll need to be able to pop the caramel in the microwave or place the container in a hot water bath to liquify again.
Other than that, this is a surprisingly straight forward recipe. Know that the caramel will begin to harden when it hits the cool apple slices. It’ll look something like this caramel-covered apple goodness:
And like this:
How can that be wrong? Exactly. It can’t. The caramel will melt again in the oven and it’ll all work itself out. Believe me. Or take a look for yourself:
See how nicely the apple juice and caramel come together in perfect apple pie consistency? It’s all good.
So, there you go. A sophisticated candy twist on a traditional Thanksgiving pie inspired by one of the best in our country. You will give thanks, indeed.
Salted-Caramel Apple Pie
makes one 9″ pie, serves 6-8 adults
(can be shared with kids 12+ mos)*
For the pie:
your favorite pie dough, chilled, enough for a 9″ double crust pie (I use Martha Stewart’s Pate Brise)
6 large apples (mixed variety, if possible), peeled, cored and very thinly sliced
1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling (optional)
2 tablespoons flour
1 egg, beaten
For the caramel (adapted from Gourmet; makes 1 cup):
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel, plus more for sprinkling (optional)
3/4 cup granualted sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. On a floured work surface, roll dough into two circles with a diameter slightly larger than 9-inches. Press one of the circles into a pie plate. Place the other one on parchment or wax paper and cover with plastic wrap. Place both in the refrigerator to chill until ready to use.
2. In a large bowl, toss apple slices with sugar and flour. Set aside.
3. Make the caramel: bring cream, butter and fleur de sel to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside. In a separate heavy saucepan, bring sugar, corn syrup and water to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel color. Carefully stir in cream mixture (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 248°F on thermometer. Take off heat, pour into a tall glass or ceramic container and set aside.
4. Drain any liquid that may have accumulated in the apple bowl. Remove pie plate with crust from the refrigerator. Add about a quarter of the prepped apples and drizzle about a quarter of the caramel sauce on top. (Note: if the caramel has set to the point where it will not pour, place the glass or ceramic container in the microwave for just a few seconds or place in a hot water bath to liquify the caramel.) Repeat three more times, adding a quarter of the apples and a quarter of the caramel each time, until all of both are done. Be sure to finish with the caramel.
5. Remove the top crust from the refrigerator and use it to cover the pie. Crimp around the edges and make several slits or cut out holes for venting. Lightly brush the top of the crust with egg and sprinkle with granulated sugar and, if you like your sweet-and-salty treats on the saltier side, just a little fleur de sel.
6. Line a baking sheet large enough to hold the pie plate with aluminum foil. Place pie plate on the sheet and bake uncovered until the crust turns a light golden brown, about 35 minutes. Cover loosely with tin foil and continue baking until the pie is bubbling and the crust is the perfect golden brown, another 15-25 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.
*Note: Though there is nothing in this pie that is unsafe for early eaters, I recommend this for kids 12+ months due to the high sugar content. Regardless of kiddo’s age, be sure to serve age-appropriate portions. A little bit of this sweet treat goes a long way with little ones!