You will never be happy with a straight-up old school apple pie after you power down a few slices of this Salted Caramel Apple Pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds.
I didn’t know that a pie could lift you completely out of a mild January depression and make you so happy that you put on your yellow and purple boxer briefs just to entertain your boyfriend by dancing up and down the hall doing your best impression of a Laker Girl. Yet, there I was, gyrating in front of the linen closet with my arm behind my head, flapping back and forth doing “the sprinkler.”
For real. This is a pie you make only for people you truly love.
Salted Caramel Apple Pie from Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book.
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 lemons
- 6-7 large baking apples (at least 2 1/2 pounds worth – better to have too many)
- 2 to 3 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1/3 cup raw sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 grind fresh black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons AP flour
- 1/3 teaspoon flake sea salt, plus more for finishing
- Egg wash (1 large egg whisked with 1 teaspoon water and a pinch of salt)
- Demerara sugar for finishing
Have ready and refrigerated your pie crust in a 9-inch pan (mine is 9 1/2 and I was glad I bought extra pie apples) and lattice strips to top.
Whisk together 1 cup of the granulated sugar and the water in a medium saucepan, and cook over medium-low heat until the sugar is just dissolved. Add the butter and bring to a slow boil. Continue cooking over medium heat until the mixture turns a deep golden brown (see pic above), almost copper. Remove from the heat and immediately, but slowly, add the heavy cream. The mixture WILL bubble and steam up so be ready for it. Whisk the final mixture together well. Congratulate yourself for finishing the caramel mixture. Set it aside and let it cook, it’s time to make the apple filling.
Juice the lemons into a large bowl (remove the seeds). Prepare the apples by peeling, coring and slicing them very thinly (if you have and trust yourself with a mandolin, by all means. I used a regular old knife). Now dredge each apple slice in the lemon juice. Sprinkle lightly with the remaining 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Set aside to let soften and release some of the juices (there will be a lot so you might want to place them on parchment paper). This should take between 20 and 30 minutes.
In a separate, small bowl, sprinkle the bitters over the raw sugar. Add the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, black pepper, kosher salt and flour. Mix well. drag each slice of apple through the sugar-spice mixture, both sides. Four and Twenty just says to “add” the apples, but how do you do that when you have so many apples and such a small bowl. I felt this was a wonky, undefined instruction. I wanted each apple slice bountifully flavored, so I did them one by one. I’ll look the other way if you choose a faster method, but I will say that my pie was an A++ when finished, so maybe it’s worth the extra time.
TIGHTLY layer the apples in the prepared pie shell so that there are minimal gaps, mounding the apples slightly higher in the center. Pour the caramel mixture over the apples. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the flake sea salt. Assemble the lattice on top. Crimp the edges as desired. Chill the pie in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, position the oven racks in the bottom and center positions, and pre-heat the oven to 400˚ F.
Once the pie crust is well-chilled, remove from the refrigerator and brush the pastry with the egg was to coat. Do your best not to drag the caramel onto the lattice or it might burn during cooking. I had to dab a bit off here and there with a small paper towel.
Sprinkle the demerara sugar and flake seat salt over the top of the pie. Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is set and beginning to brown. Lower the temperature to 375 and move to the pie to the center rack. Continue to bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling, 30-35 minutes more. If the edges of the crust are browning too fast, cover them with thin pieces of tin foil to keep them from burning.
To test the apples for doneness, Four and Twenty recommends using a skewer or sharp knife. The apples should be tender and should offer just the slightest resistance.
When the pie is finished, remove it and allow it to cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours before serving.