Friday, October 14, 2016

Caramel Apple Pie

Longtime readers of this blog will recall how last year the whole family worked together to perfect an apple pie recipe to enter into the biggest apple pie contest in the state. We braved the wind, rain, and freezing cold temperatures to be awarded 3rd place. After enduring the awful weather (it was really quite the ordeal), I was just happy we won anything at all! After tasting the pie (we had made two) back at home afterwards, Paul and I were very, very displeased with the flavor of the cinnamon we used. It tasted very strange...almost dusty. I had ran out of my good cinnamon during our baking experimentation and just used the cheap 99 cent bottle I had in the back of my cupboard. Big, big mistake. It really kind of ruined the pie for me. Paul was convinced that if we had used a decent cinnamon, we would have won the pie contest. Maybe we're just cinnamon snobs, but I don't think so because that cheap, stale cinnamon really was incredibly nasty. So, this year we were determined to tweak the recipe some more, use a decent batch of fresh cinnamon, and enter it again.

Well, things got busy and hectic and the skies were looking dark and stormy on the day of the festival so we decided against going. I had already made my pie dough and had it chilling in the fridge but agreed with Paul that I did not want to get all wet and muddy like we did the previous year. So, I let the dough continue chilling and we just did some chores around the house.

By the early afternoon, the skies cleared and the temperatures began to rise. Of course. The kids were very antsy, so we decided to pack everyone up and head down to the festival anyway. Without our pie.

Who can turn down free face painting? Matthew got a ninja turtle...

...and Emma got her favorite Paw Patrol character Skye!

We were all disappointed about not entering the pie contest this year, but we did have fun enjoying the beautiful fall weather and all the wonderful sights, sounds, and entertainment the festival had to offer. The highlight for the kids was stumbling upon a vendor that made cute old-fashioned wooden toys for the kids. For only a couple dollars, we purchased these wooden push toys that featured a hand-painted animal of choice mounted on rolling wheels with rubber feet that flap against the ground as it is propelled forward. At first, Paul was all prepared to purchase just one of these toys for Emma and Matthew to share but I intervened and reminded him about how well their sharing works out on a daily basis. So, Matthew chose an alligator and Emma chose a frog and the two of them pushed their toys all over the streets of the cute little Victorian town while we enjoyed the rest of the festival.

Poor Lucy wanted one of those toys too!

While we were all worried about Matthew and Emma not being able to share, we had completely forgotten about poor baby Lucy. I should probably preface this by saying that Lucy has been in full-blown "brat mode" for a month or so where everything in sight automatically and unabashedly hers. As soon as she saw those toys, her eyes lit up and she immediately wanted to be let down so she could have a turn. We let her down and she immediately ran over to Emma, who was happily walking along with her little frog, and grabbed the stick from her while barking: "MINE!" Lucy then took off with Emma's frog, running as she propelled the amphibian and its wildly flapping feet forward, with Emma running after her sobbing. When Emma caught up to her, Lucy promptly dropped Emma's toy and went after Matthew's alligator instead and another fight ensued. Lucy has been fighting with her two older siblings over these toys ever since. Maybe we should have purchased three of them. They really are the cutest little things. The kids have been walking with them everywhere. I think Emma is convinced that her wooden frog is an actual pet that she is in charge of "walking" on a daily basis. She likes to talk to it as she walks around the neighborhood and has named it "Eleeyah." She comes up with some weird names for her toys.

Even though we didn't enter the contest, I still made apple pie and changed a few things up to make what I think is one incredibly awesome pie. This is the recipe I would have entered this year and I'm pretty sure it would have won a blue ribbon. We'll see what happens next year. In the meantime, I couldn't wait an entire year to share it with y'all! It's amazing what a little caramel and a streusel topping can do to put a little "wow" factor in the already much-beloved classic apple pie.

Caramel Apple Pie

For the pie dough:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or pastry flour (I prefer pastry flour for pie dough)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
10 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
6-10 tablespoons ice water

For the Filling:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 cups of peeled, cored, and sliced apples - A good, tart apple that won't break down completely
2 tablespoons caramel apple dip/sauce or homemade caramel sauce (I've used both with excellent results)

2 tablespoons cream

For the Topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
A couple generous pinches of salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

To make the pie dough, whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the shortening, working it in until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Be sure to work the shortening in really well. You don't want large clumps of it in your dough. Add the butter to the flour mixture, and work it in roughly with your fingers, a pastry cutter, or a mixer. Don't be too thorough! The mixture should be very uneven, with big chunks of butter in among the smaller ones.

Add 4 tablespoons of water, and toss to combine.Toss with enough additional water to make a chunky, fairly cohesive mixture. It should hold together when you gather it up and squeeze it in your hand. Divide the dough in half, and gather each half into a rough disk. Smooth the disks but don't be alarmed if you have a few cracks on the surface. Smooth the disks' edges by running them along a floured surface like a wheel then wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight.

To make the filling, combine the sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Stir in the apples. Combine the caramel with the milk or cream and whisk well to combine. Toss with the apples.

To make the struesel topping, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Using your fingers, rub in the butter until perfectly combined. The mixture should be crumbly. Put into the fridge until ready to bake.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Roll our one portion of dough into a 12-inch circle (save the second piece of dough for another pie!). Gently fit into a pie pan and trim/flute the edges. I like to stick my pie crust into the freezer for a couple minutes before baking to chill, but that's really completely optional.

Brush a little bit of melted butter on the bottom of the crust in the dough pan. This helps create a barrier between the filling and the dough so that you don't end up with a soggy crust after baking. Mound the apple filling into the pie crust. Be sure to use a spatula to ensure every juicy bits makes it in there! Then, carefully top with the crumb mixture. Press firmly a bit with your hands to ensure that it adheres well to the apple filling. Place on a baking sheet and slide into the oven.

Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the top is browned and the pie juices are bubbling.

Let cool completely - and I mean COMPLETELY - on a wire rack before serving. Drizzle individual pieces with leftover, warmed caramel sauce, if desired.

1 comment:

  1. I have a bunch of apples to use up...if they can last until we finish our apple cake I think I'll make this!