Every year around this time, I want nothing more than to join in on all the warm, fuzzy, fall activities that fill my Instagram feed – leaf peeping, apple picking, corn mazes, anything involving apple cider doughnuts… and every year I’m met with a roll of the eye and the suggestion that we go get a pumpkin ale at a neighborhood bar instead. But not this year. No sir. This year I had the Gus card to play, which trumps all other cards with its love, guilt, and hope for providing an idyllic childhood wrapped up in it. Yep, this year we piled in the car and headed to Long Island to pick pumpkins straight from the vine, Gus dressed in mustard cords to be color coordinated with the pumpkins – go big or go home, right? We went to Elwood Pumpkin Farm in Huntington, NY and had the best time. We went on a hay ride. Gus crawled around the patch and picked out pumpkins and gourds to bring home. He rode in a wheelbarrow. All my fall dreams came true.
No apple picking this time – I didn’t want to press my luck. Baby steps, people. But we did stop at a farm stand across from the pumpkin patch to buy a bushel of apples that I took home and used in the best damn pie I’ve ever made. A salted caramel apple pie. Believe me, it’s as good as it sounds. The recipe comes from the ladies behind Four & Twenty Blackbirds, the bakery that forever changed my opinion on pie, and custard for that matter, with a magical slice of their salty honey pie. Their salted caramel apple pie is no joke either.
There are a few things that make this pie so good. First, they use an all butter crust with a little cider vinegar added in. I’ve never used vinegar in my pie crust before. I’ve always been a 1/2 shortening 1/2 butter girl, but no longer. The butter and cider combo made for such a flavorful, flaky, and tender crust. Next, in the most brilliant step, the apples are thinly sliced on a mandoline (or with a knife if you have that kind of patience – I prefer to risk my finger tips) and layered giving the pie a wonderful texture. In between the layers of apples is the delicious salted caramel sauce… I mean… and it doesn’t stop there. The lattice top is drizzled with the last of the caramel and sprinkled with both raw sugar and flaky sea salt. It’s without a doubt the most delicious apple pie I’ve ever tasted. It’ll satisfy all your fall cravings and give you some jealousy-inducing Instagram shots to boot!
Few notes from me: First of all, by no means do I think my tweaks are better than the original recipe, these ladies are pie geniuses, but thought I’d let you know what I did. I used all Honey Crisp apples, because those are the apples I had, and skipped the bitters. I’d already gone to the grocery store and then stopped by the liquor store on my way home to buy the bitters where they informed me that these in particular are sold at the grocery store because they don’t have alcohol in them. Gus had hit his limit for running errands, so I skipped them. I’m sure they would add yet another layer of complexity, but it’s delicious without in case you have trouble finding them. Lastly, may I suggest you drain the apples of excess lemon juice before you add the apple filling seasonings. That’s all. Go forth and bake!
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 8-10 tablespoons ice water with cider vinegar, or more as needed (combine 1 cup cold water, 1/8 cup cider vinegar and ice)
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) fresh unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup fresh heavy cream
- 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (recommended: Maldon sea salt flakes)
- 4 to 6 lemons
- 5 to 6 medium to large apples (Cook’s Note: A mixture of Crispin, Granny Smith, and Cortland is nice if you can)
Apple Filling Seasoning
- 1/3 cup raw sugar (castor, unrefined, large granule sugar)
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 to 3 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 egg beaten
- Raw sugar, for sprinkling on top
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (flake)
To make the pie crust:
Whisk the dry ingredients together and blend with a hand-held pastry blender the chopped, cold butter, being careful not to overwork during this step. The butter should be in pea-sized chunks, not too big, but not completely incorporated. Slowly add the ice water and vinegar mixture and bring the dough completely together by hand, again being careful not to overwork. Aim to create a marbleized effect, so that the butter is still visible. Divide into 2 discs, wrap in plastic and chill 1 hour or more before use. Roll the bottom crust to fit a 9-inch pan, and cut the top crust as a lattice, approximately 1-inch in width or as desired. Chill the rolled crust while you prepare the salted caramel and apple filling.
To make the salted caramel:
Cook the sugar and water together over low heat until just dissolved. Add the butter and bring to a slow boil. Continue cooking at a low boil until the mixture turns a deep, golden brown color, almost copper.
Cook’s Note: This process can take awhile depending on the heat source. Keep an eye on it, if the caramel begins to smoke, you’ve burned it and you’ll have to start over.
Once the mixture has turned a copper color, remove it from the heat and immediately add the heavy cream – the mixture will bubble rapidly and steam – be cautious as the sugar will be very hot.
Whisk the final mixture together well over low heat and sprinkle in the sea salt. Set the caramel aside while you prepare the apple filling.
To make the apple filling:
Juice the lemons into a large mixing bowl. Core, peel, and thinly slice the whole apples. Cook’s Note: A mandoline works great for producing very thin slices.
Dredge all the apple slices in the freshly squeezed lemon juice to prevent browning and to add flavor. Set the prepared apples aside.
To make the apple filling seasoning:
In a large measuring cup or small mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and Angostura bitters. Sprinkle this mixture over the apples in the mixing bowl. Use your hands to gently mix and coat the apple slices.
To assemble the pie:
Preheat the oven to 375 to 400 degrees F (depending on the hotness of your oven).
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. Cook’s Note: Save a small portion of the caramel to pour on top once the lattice is assembled.
Assemble the lattice crust and flute the edges of the crust. Pour the last bit of caramel on top. Brush the crust with the beaten egg and lightly 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 325 to 350 and bake for 25 to 35 minutes. You can test the apples for doneness with a long toothpick or small knife. The apples should be just soft.
Let the pie cool, then slice and enjoy.