Well, November passed in a blink of an eye. Browngiving, Michael's birthday, Thanksgiving, and then my birthday, all over in one quick blink of an eye. And now I'm 27, a very happy 27, thank you very much.
The advantage to having a birthday precisely 6 days after your significant other's is that the celebration doesn't really end. And given that we both have very different celebration styles, I felt like we got the best of both worlds. Michael's birthday was right after Browngiving. We celebrated surrounded by our friends - sushi buffet, karaoke, wing night, and then a cozy night at home. Mine was right after Thanksgiving, when most everyone was home with their own families. True to Chinese tradition, my mom made homemade spicy noodles for the day before my birthday. On the actual day, Michael took me to the ballet (first time ever!) followed by the most amazing and decadent dinner at Lincoln and a Carvel ice cream cake to finish. (It wouldn't be a true ice cream cake without one misspelling). It was the best, and I am very lucky.
But onto more important things - like this pie. While I'm in sharing mode, I must confess that apple pie is probably my least favorite fruit pie, mostly because the filling can be often temperamental and depends wholly on the quality and tartness of the apples. Sometimes, even delicious eating apples turn into a bland filling pie. But the whole concept of salted caramel apple pie seemed too much of an effort for something that should be quite simple.
All in all, this adds one intimidating, but actually basic step to making pie, and that is making a salted cider caramel. While going out and buying a carton of $6 cider for 1 cup's worth is pretty asinine, I implore you to not skip this ingredient. The addition of cider concentrates the apple flavor so that the caramel doesn't just add sweetness.
For the salted apple cider caramel sauce (makes approximately 1 cup):
- 1 cup fresh apple cider
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- splash of vanilla extract
- (optional) splash of bourbon
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Combine the water and sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan over high heat. Without disturbing or stirring, boil the sugar and water until it starts to turn into a deep auburn. If you need to, swirl the liquid around the pan, but do not whisk or stir. Once the sugar water turns into a deep copper-y color, whisk in the heavy cream, vanilla, bourbon, and apple cider. This will splatter and bubble a bit, but continue to stir until it's all combined. Reduce the heat to medium, and continue to cook until the mixture becomes viscous (around 5 minutes). Pour into a glass jar or measuring cup and set aside.
For the apple pie filling:
- 3 lbs apples, peeled and sliced (I used honeycrisp, but feel free to use a combination of whatever is in season, tart apples preferred)
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoons flour
- salted cider caramel (above)
- 2 rounds (top and bottom) of your favorite pie crust plus additional flour for dusting
- 1 egg, beaten
- raw sugar, for sprinkling on top
First, prepare your pie crust, and roll the bottom out to fill a 9-inch pan. Cut the lattice top. Place both crusts between parchment paper or waxed paper and place it into the freezer while you prepare the filling.
For the filling, peel and cut the apples, taking care to squeeze lemon juice over them occasionally to prevent browning. Combine the apples with the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and flour, and mix it all together with your hands so that it is all coated. At this point, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Take the pie crust out of the freezer and fill up the first layer of apples, laying them out flat to prevent air pockets. Dollop the caramel over the apples. If the caramel is too firm, place it in a hot water bath or microwave it to soften it up. Layer more apples on top, then add more caramel. Repeat until all the apples are in the pie. Top with the lattice top, then seal and crimp the edges. Brush the top with the egg wash and sprinkle raw sugar on top. Place in the preheated oven, baking at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes. Then, reduce the heat to 325 degrees F and bake for another 30 minutes. The pie crust should be crisp and brown and the apples should be soft but not mushy. Enjoy.