This week comes as a huge sigh of relief. Why? Because it’s the first full week that one can officially embrace all things Fall and not have to suffer from the burns of judge-y stares from others. Yes, that’s right. Despite feeling the itch to do so since the beginning of August, I can now say the following, LOUD AND PROUD:
- “Make that an extra large pumpkin spice latte please…”
- “Should I wear my dark brown leather boots, or my black knock-off Payless ones?”
- “I’m sure glad this flannel matches my favorite fluffy scarf…”
- “Why yes, I have been saving my appetite for a month to go to the Big E’s Maine house this week.”
The list goes on.
Another beautiful thing that goes hand in hand with Fall, in this particular part of the state anyway, is the Southington Apple Harvest. For about two weeks time, in the beginning of October, one can smell the aroma of fried apple fritters, just about anywhere in town. In addition to being the home of a great craft fair, rides and plenty of vendors, the Harvest fair is essentially an opportunity to eat apples in every baked, fried and raw form.
In every effort to embrace the coming of Fall (and my newfound addiction to competitive baking), I decided to enter the Apple Pie Contest. Unlike other competitions I’ve competed in so far, bakers create a pie using their own original recipe. Really…the only rule is that the main players in the pie, are apples. What’s better, is that after judging, slices of entered pies are sold to fair goers so that profits can be donated to local charities!
Now, when I think of apple pie, I think classic…with a twist. For example, in the past, I’ve made apple galettes, apple pie bars, apple and berry cobblers, etc. For this occasion, I wanted to stick to a similar theme: a traditional apple pie with a salted caramel kick. After sorting through my recent recipe experiments, I found that I had kind of made most of the components of this bad boy before! And since they had been delicious by themselves previously, they had to be even better together…right? Well….it seems like the judges agreed because… this guy won! Boom!
It all starts with the crust…arguably the most important part of the pie. Yeah, I know…the filling is the star child, but the supportive crust is really the under-appreciated bedrock that holds it all together! Therefore, a winning crust has got to be sturdy, but flaky.
Despite it’s importance, the crust is actually quite simple to make, and is only comprised of a few ingredients: flour, sugar, a little salt, butter and water. After combining the dry ingredients in a bowl, you’ll be dumping that mixture out on to your counter and rolling the butter into it. This will result in thin layers of butter throughout. Then, you’ll be using ice cold water to bring it all together. The key to doing this is keeping it cold. Real cold. Every time you make the effort to refrigerate the crust, you’re solidifying the butter inside. If the butter is solid as the crust bakes, it will release moisture as it melts. That moisture then results in tiny little air pockets…AKA dem coveted flakes.
While you’re at it, whip up your salted caramel. Again, this tasty concoction is actually made up of very few ingredients: sugar, butter, heavy cream, vanilla and salt. It involves melting the sugar into liquid form, adding the butter and letting it turn the liquid into a deep golden brown color. Then, the heavy cream will come in and thicken it all up! Add the vanilla and salt, and that’s it! It can hang out in your refrigerator for up to a week or so!
The next day (since you’re obviously going to let your crust dough refrigerate over night…), you’ll work on the filling. Two things you’ll have to keep in mind: taste and texture. As far as taste goes, you’ll want to go with apples that create a balance of flavors, both tart and sweet. Texture wise, not all baking apples are equal. Some are more appropriate for pies, while other, softer apples, are more appropriate for sauces. I ended up going with half Granny Smith and half Golden Delicious.
When you’re cutting your slices, try to make them all uniformly sized and shaped. This will lend itself to even baking and a more compact fit in the pie overall. Aim for about 10-12 cups of cut apples, or about 6 large pieces of fruit.
Onto your apples, throw in your cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, flour, salt, lemon juice and zest, and mix. Those spices will make for a sweet, warm fall feeling, while the flour will thicken it all up so that you don’t have a soupy pie.
Time to assemble!
Go ahead and roll out one of your pie crusts, while leaving the other in the fridge to keep the butter solid. Once its rolled out and in your pan, sprinkle some sugar and flour onto the surface. This will prevent the crust from becoming soggy once the apples are added.
Now, this is where it gets tasty. We’re going for a layered effect here, so that the salted caramel flavor will be distributed into every scrumptious bite. To do this, uniformly layer on a third of your apple mix to the bottom of the crust. Try to avoid gaps! Next, drizzle on a quarter cup of your caramel sauce over the top of that. Repeat twice for three layers. Don’t worry if your pie seems over-full, the apples will shrink when you bake them.
When it’s time to roll out your second crust, put your pie in the refrigerator. Seeing a trend here? Feel free to be creative with your top crust! You can keep it simple by crimping the entire crust on top, or you can do a lattice design. You can even make a top layer by cutting your crust with cookie cutters and placing those pieces in a design on the pie. Finally, for a glossy finish, brush your pie with an egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
To bake, you’ll start with an oven set to 400 degrees. This high temperature will help brown the crust. Then, you’ll decrease the temperature to 375 degrees to cook the filling through. After the pie is cooked entirely and removed from the oven…you’ll need to cool it for at least three hours. I know, I know. It seems like an eternity, but the filling needs to bind together so that it doesn’t all flow out when you cut it!
Well folks, there she is. An award winning twist on a classic. It’s one to make for Thanksgiving, Christmas, to celebrate it being a Saturday? You get it. Next week, we’re going back to where it all started…donuts.
Until then, stay tuned and stay hungry!
- 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons butter, chilled, cut in cubes
- ½ cup ice cold water
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- 5 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 large apples, peeled and sliced uniformly (Use a mix of tart and sweet apples for best results.)
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- ¼ cup flour
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter and toss to coat.
- Turn the mixture out on to a floured surface, and use a floured rolling pin to flatten the butter into sheets in the flour. Continue until butter is well distributed in dry ingredients.
- Put mixture back into bowl and freeze for 10 minutes.
- Remove bowl from freezer and add in water. Using your hand, clump the dough together until a ball forms. If still crumbly, add a teaspoon of water at a time until a ball forms.
- Divide the dough into two even disks.
- Wrap the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- Add sugar to sauce pan, over medium heat. Constantly stir until the sugar completely melts down to liquid form.
- Add butter and stir until completely melted, close to 3 minutes.
- Once mixture is melted, slowly drizzle in heavy cream. Continue to stir the mixture until all of the cream is added.
- Let the caramel boil for 1 minute.
- Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla and salt.
- Cut apples uniformly and place in a medium bowl.
- Mix in juice, zest, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, and sugar.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator and roll out until it reaches a 12-inch diameter. Place in well-greased pie pan.
- On to the bottom of your rolled crust, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar and flour each.
- Layer a third of the apples tightly in the crust.
- Cover with ¼ cup of the salted caramel sauce.
- Repeat this process twice for a total of three layers.
- Place pie in the refrigerator while rolling out the top crust.
- Top the pie with the second crust, using any decorating method you prefer**
- Place pie in the refrigerator while making an egg wash by whisking together the heavy cream and egg yolk.
- Brush the top of the pie using the egg wash, and sprinkle last tablespoon of sugar over the top.
- Place pie on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until the crust slightly brown.
- Reduce the temperature to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes.
- After removing pie from the oven, allow it to cool for at least 3 hours.
- Bakers can top their pie with a lattice crust or a crust with vents cut in. You can also use the trimmed edges to cut out shapes to place on top crust before baking for additional decorations.