I bet you thought you’d see a healthy, cleansing, post-holiday detoxifying recipe here today. Sorry, I’m just not ready for that yet. Don’t worry, it will come in due time. But first, pie. Because 2012 should start with something beautiful and homey and good. The new year should start with pie.
Learning to make the Perfect Pie Crust is a skill I sought early on in my quest for a delicious life. Flaky, buttery, and tender, perfect pie crust is the kind of thing that never fails to bring joy into a room.
My go-to recipe is Martha Stewart’s all butter crust (pate brisee). Here are a few tips for a successful pie crust I’ve picked up along the way:
Cold ingredients are key. Freeze your cubed butter the night before (or at least 15 minutes prior to using).
Measure out and chill your dry ingredients — 15 minutes in the freezer will do.
Let the dough rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour before rolling it out.
Planning ahead and making the pie crust in advance will make your life much easier. The pie dough can be made ahead of time, wrapped plastic wrap, and kept in the fridge for up to five days. Or it can be made way in advance, frozen, and then placed in the fridge to defrost five days before using.
That way, when the urge to make a Salted Caramel Apple Pie strikes you, you can focus on lovely things like salted caramel and crisp apples.
Now I won’t sugar coat it…this pie is a bit time consuming, but not so bad if the pie crust and the caramel sauce are made in advance. Here’s the run through:
Roll out the pie crust (tip: I do this between two sheets of parchment paper to minimize sticking). Flute the edges of the bottom crust using the pointer finger of one hand and the thumb and pointer of the other hand. Roll out the top crust and cut into 1-inch strips. Chill while you prepare the filling.
If you haven’t made it already, now is the time to whip together this heavenly salted caramel sauce. Set this aside while you prep the apples.
For the apple filling, I like to use a mixture of different types of apples so that you get a nice variety of flavor and the best characteristics of each type. I thoroughly enjoyed my mixture of Gala, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, and McIntosh…but use what you have access to. Crispin? Sure. Cortland? Join the party. Whatever you use, slice them nice and thin, and toss them with sugar and spice and everything nice. A few squeezes of lemon juice keeps the flavor bright.
Now it’s time to layer. Grab that crust and layer the apples and caramel until you have three layers of each.
For the top crust, I went with a classic Woven Lattice Crust. It’s not as complicated as it looks. Here’s the play-by-play:
- Lay down 5 strips vertically
- Peel back Vertical 1, 3, 5. Lay down Horizontal 1 along center equator.
- Place V1, 3, 5 back over H1. Peel back V2, 4. Lay down H2.
- Place V2, 4 back over H2. Peel back V1, 3, 5.
- Lay down H3. Place V1, 3, 5 back over H3. Now move on to lower half.
- Peel back V2, 4.
- Lay down H4. Place V2, 4 back over H4. Peel back V1, 3, 5.
- Lay down H5. Place V1, 3, 5 back over H5.
Now, isn’t she prettie?
Brush the top with an egg wash (one yolk + one tablespoon cream) and a light sprinkle of raw sugar and sea salt. When the pie is done baking, the final touch is a drizzle of caramel over the whole thing.
Yep, this is a Pie o’ Love. A pie for new beginnings, big dreams. A pie for 2012.
Salted Caramel Apple Pie
Apple pie all decked out.
(Recipe adapted from Four and Twenty Blackbirds’ Melissa and Emily Elsen)
Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 25 min
Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie
2-crust Pie Crust
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
6 medium to large apples (I did a mixture of 1 Granny Smith, 1 Gala, 2 Honeycrisp, 2 McIntosh)
1/3 cup raw sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon cream
1 large pinch raw sugar for garnish
1 small pinch sea salt (Maldon or fleur de sel is nice) for garnish
Make the pie crust:
- Prepare one 2-crust batch of all-butter pie crust.
- Roll the bottom crust to fit a 9-inch pan, and cut the top crust as a lattice, approximately 1-inch in width. Chill the rolled crust while you prepare the salted caramel and apple filling.
Make the salted caramel:
- Prepare salted caramel sauce. Set aside while you prepare the apple filling.
Make the apple filling:
- Core, peel, and thinly slice the apples, and place in a large mixing bowl. Add zest and juice of the lemon.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Sprinkle this mixture over the apples. Use your hands to gently mix and coat the apple slices.
Assemble the pie:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Gather your rolled pie crust, salted caramel, and apple mixture. Begin by layering 1/3 of the apples in the bottom of the crust so that there are minimal gaps. Pour 1/3 of the caramel over the apples. Add 1/3 of the apples and caramel for a second layer, and then add a third layer of apples, and then the caramel again. Save a small portion of the caramel for garnishing.
- Assemble the lattice crust and flute the edges of the crust. Mix together the yolk and cream. Brush the crust with this egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar and sea salt.
- Bake the pie on a baking sheet larger than the pie pan for 20 minutes (otherwise the caramel will bubble over and burn on the bottom of your oven). Reduce the oven temperature to 350 and bake for another 25 to 35 minutes. You can test the apples for doneness with a small knife. The apples should be just soft.
- Let the pie cool. Drizzle the entire top lattice with caramel sauce. Slice and enjoy.
Perfect Pie Crust
All butter classic pate brisee.
(Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart.)
Prep Time: 10 minutes + at least 15 minutes for freezing ingredients + at least 1 hour for chilling dough
Bake Time: Depends on your recipe
Yield: Makes enough for one double-crust 9-inch pie, one 9-inch lattice-topped tart, or two 9-inch pies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup chilled (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 to 6 tablespoons ice water
- Make sure all your ingredients are thoroughly chilled before you begin. I freeze my cubes of butter the night before if I know I plan on making pie crust the next day. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl, and stir to combine.
- In a food processor, pulse together the cold butter and flour mixture until it is the texture of cornmeal. A few pea-size pieces of butter is ok. (If using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the cold butter into the flour mixture by pressing down quickly, using as few strokes as possible.)
- Add 4 tablespoons of ice water and pulse again until the dough forms a ball. (If doing by hand, gather the dough and gently press into a ball.) It should come together loosely; if not, add water 1 tablespoon at a time. Divide dough in half; place each on plastic wrap. Flatten into disks. Wrap tightly; refrigerate 1 hour or overnight. ***Make-Ahead Note: The pie dough can be made ahead of time, wrapped plastic wrap, and kept in the fridge for up to five days. Or it can be made way in advance, frozen, and then placed in the fridge to defrost five days before using.
- Remove disks from refrigerator. Between two sheets of lightly floured parchment paper, press rolling pin gently all over dough to flatten it slightly. Working from the center to the edge in all directions, roll out dough into a round about 3 inches larger than the pie plate.
- Wrap the dough around the rolling pin; lift and center it over the pie plate. Gently unroll the dough over the plate, leaving an even amount of overhang around the perimeter. Fill pie, assemble top crust, and cut away the excess overhang. Flute the edge of the crust using the pointer finger of one hand and the thumb and pointer of the other hand.
- Bake according to your recipe.
Update (7/9/12): I recently discovered the wonders of Melissa Clark’s Twice Baked Fruit Pies, and couldn’t help but think this method of blind baking the bottom crust before finishing the rest of the pie would be yet another great tip for achieving the perfect pie crust here. Try it!