When I have to choose a dessert, nine times out of ten, I’ll pick something other than a fruit pie. I’m a cake person, through and through. There’s something about fall, though, that brings out the pie baker in me. It’s really the only time of year that I ever get a hankering for pie, and this thrills my husband. As into cake and chocolate as I am, he loves a good fruit pie. My husband’s mom and dad are visiting this week and they are pie people, too. So, in honor of it being fall and having three pie loving people in my house at one time, I baked a pie yesterday.
Salted Caramel everything is popping up all over. I’ve seen it in candies, coffee shops, cupcake bakeries and more. It’s like the salty-sweet combination that I’ve loved for years has finally broken into the mainstream and I’m loving it! I ran across a recipe last week for a Salted Caramel Apple Pie in Food Network Magazine and I knew at once that I had to try it.
First, I peeled and sliced up 3 pounds of Gala and Granny Smith apples for the filling. You could use whatever apples you choose, but these are my two go-to baking apples. They don’t turn into mush as they bake and they compliment each other really well. I tossed them with just a bit of lemon juice so they wouldn’t brown as I got the caramel ready.
Next, it was onto the caramel. I’ve made caramel in the past, but never this way before, so I was curious to see what happened. The first thing the recipe said to do was put just a bit of plain old sugar in a large pan.
Over high heat, I stirred the sugar until it began to melt.
Eventually, it all melted and I had a beautiful, amber-colored sugar syrup in the pan. Then, things got a bit dicey for a minute. Sugar is tricky to work with and the next part of the recipe just didn’t sound right to me, but I followed the directions and removed the sugar from the heat and added some butter and just a tablespoon of cream.
Think back to your most basic chemistry lesson in school. What do you think happens when you take warm, liquid sugar off the heat and add something cold to it? Yep. It immediately hardened up. This made the next part of the recipe, “Stir the butter and cream into the caramel sauce” a little tough. I put the caramel back on the stove, over medium-low heat to warm it back up and, eventually, I was able to work the cream and the butter into the caramel sauce. My suggestion? Never remove it from the heat. Lower the heat after the sugar melts, but add that cream and butter right on the stove top and stir it in.
Anyway, after the caramel seize-up incident was taken care of, I added my sliced apples to the sauce and cooked them for just a couple of minutes until they had softened a bit.
Once softened, I stirred in just a bit of flour as a thickener and removed them from the heat. After the apples had cooled, I added 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. If you don’t have sea salt on hand, try Kosher salt. The difference in salts is mainly a texture issue. I use Kosher salt in almost every recipe. It’s a larger grain than regular table salt and I just find it easier to cook with. I have a salt box next to my stove and can just grab a pinch any time I need it. Sea Salt is a larger grain, too, but a little pricier. Some cooks swear by it. I happened to have some (thanks to my dear friend, Carrie! Thank you!) so I used it here, but you could substitute table or Kosher salt.
Once cooled, I assembled my pie. I’m probably going to upset the pie baking gods right now, but I’ll admit it. I used a store-bought pie crust! Like I said, I’m not an avid pie baker and I can count on one hand how many times I’ve made homemade crust. I know it’s not terribly difficult, but I just didn’t feel like dealing with it that morning, so I used the refrigerated stuff. In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with store-bought pie crusts. In fact, I’ve baked with them before and had people ask for my crust recipe! I have found that the store-bought crusts don’t fit my pie plate perfectly unless I roll them out just a little bit more, so that’s what I did, and it worked out perfectly. I fluted my crust, brushed it with some beaten egg, sprinkled it with some coarse sugar and cut a few slits in the top to let the steam escape.
Before baking, this pie needs to hang out in the fridge for a little while. The recipe suggests an hour, but I didn’t have that kind of time that day, so mine was in the fridge for about 30 minutes while I preheated my oven. I stuck a cookie sheet on the bottom rack of the oven to heat up with the oven as it preheated. This assured that the bottom of my crust would cook up nicely.
After an hour in the oven, I had a beautiful pie!
That night, we all enjoyed a delicious pie that’s just a bit out of the norm. I hadn’t told my husband what kind of pie it was, other than apple, and when he took a bite he said, “It doesn’t taste like regular apple pie, kind of like a caramel apple.” Mission accomplished! The caramel isn’t thick and gooey, but it’s there and enough to make this a great twist on an old fashioned apple pie. Thanks to the salt, it’s not overly sweet. You can really appreciate the apples as it’s not overpowered by sugar and cinnamon. Even this “I’ll take the cake” person will fully admit that she really enjoyed it. In fact, I enjoyed it enough that I know that I’ll make it again for dessert sometime, instead of a cake.
SALTED CARAMEL APPLE PIE
Adapted from Food Network Magazine
- 3 lbs. mixed apples (I used Gala and Granny Smith, 3 of each), peeled, cored and sliced
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1 Tbsp. cream
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- Pie crusts for a 2 crust pie
- 1 egg, beaten
- coarse sugar (optional)
- Toss the apple slices in a large bowl with the lemon juice. Set aside.
- In a Dutch oven, cook 2/3 cup sugar over high heat until melted and amber in color. Lower the heat and add the butter and cream. Stir until combined. Add the apples and cook until softened. Stir in the 2 Tbsp. flour; let cool. Add the 1/2 tsp. sea salt.
- Line your pie plate with one of the prepared crusts. Fill with the apple filling and top with the second crust. Press the edges of the crusts together, fold the overhang under itself and crimp to seal. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Cut a few slits in the top crust. Chill 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- While the pie is chilling, place a baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 425*. Preheat the oven for 30 minutes. Place the pie on the hot baking sheet, lower the oven temperature to 375* and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, until golden brown. If the edges look like they are browning too quickly, cover them with foil.
- Cool on a rack.