Saturday, January 17, 2015

Salted Caramel Apple Pie

I go back and forth about which fruit pie is the best. For me, it comes down to apple, peach and strawberry rhubarb. If I could make a pie with all of them I would. it'd be a huge pie, but it would be a great one. 

This apple pie is pretty decadent. I love what pears bring to apple dishes, so they're here in equal measure. You only need two of each, so it's not like you'll be peeling and chopping all day.

 Salted caramel puts this over the top, for sure. Apples and caramel go together like...shoot. All I can think of is apples and caramel. You get the point. The important thing is to be careful when making caramel. I outline that down below, but I can't stress it enough. Don't touch it!

This recipe calls for vegan cream. Does such a thing exist? Yes, in a few variations. Sometimes I make my own with soy milk and coconut oil in the blender. For a recipe like this where you only need a little, I use vegan creamers that you can get a most grocery stores. They have soy, almond and coconut. I used soy for this:


For the crust:
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup evaporated cane sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
6 tbsp Earth Balance, cut into cubes and kept cold
2-3 tbsp ice water

For the salted caramel:
1/2 cup evaporated cane sugar
2 tbsp Earth Balance
1 tsp kosher salt
3 tbsp vegan cream

For the filling:
2 apples (sweeter is better here. I used Golden Delicious), peeled, cored and sliced
2 Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cinammon
pinch of salt
1 tbsp Earth Balance, cut into small cubes

Make the crust: Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Add the cold, cubed Earth Balance. If you don't have a food processor, use a large mixing bowl and a pastry cutter instead.

 Pulse or cut the cubed Earth Balance until it's the size of small peas. Run the food processor and stream the cold water through the chute. You'll probably need about 2.5-3 tablespoons of water in the end, but start with 2 and see where it gets you. There will be a little loose flour in the bottom that you can work into the dough after it comes out. You're looking for it to come together like this:

 Dump it out onto a floured countertop and work it over a bit until you have this:

Cut the dough in half. Wrap one half in plastic wrap and put it into the fridge. Roll the other half out flat and wide enough that you can put your tart or pie pan on top of it and still have plenty of overlap on all sides.

Roll the dough up onto your rolling pin, set it down over the tart or pie pan and unroll it. If you're using a regular pie pan, cut off all but about 1/2 inch of the excess dough and then roll and crimp it on all sides. With a tart pan, it's even easier. Just roll it over the top and push the down down into the corners of the pan. Then roll the pin over the top, cutting off the excess: 

Put the pan with the dough into the fridge until you're ready to assemble your pie.

Make the salted caramel sauce: Put the sugar, Earth Balance and salt in a small saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water. Heat them over medium-high heat until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Caramel takes time and needs to be watched closely, so clear your schedule for this. You can do other stuff (I peeled the apples and pears), but don't wander too far away. It'll start bubbling, which is when you want to turn the heat down to medium-low.

This is important: DO NOT STIR this caramel. Instead, gently tilt your pan this way and that and let it all swirl around. You don't have to do this constantly, but do it every couple of minutes. It should be bubbling slightly. Also, be REALLY careful not to get it on your skin. Boiling sugar can cause serious burns, so be very deliberate in your movements with it at this stage.

It'll take about 20 minutes to get it where you want it. You'll know it's ready when it's got a golden caramel color. The bubbles may make it hard to see initially, but just swirl it around until you can see the color.

Remove the pot from the burner, stand back a bit and pour in the vegan cream. The caramel will sputter and may spit a bit, so be careful.

At this point, you're going to think you ruined it. The cream will be much colder than the sugar and will cause some of the sugar to crystallize and separate. Don't worry! Put it back on the burner over low heat and things will smooth out again. Now you can stir it, so get in there with a spoon and get everything all combined and smoothed out. You'll end up with a smooth, creamy and buttery caramel sauce. Resist the temptation to stick your finger in and taste it, though. It's still super hot.

Assemble the pie: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and put a foil-lined sheet pan in there. In a large bowl, combine the apples, pears, flour, salt, cardamom and cinnamon. Pull your tart shell out of the fridge and fill it with the apples and pears. Pour the caramel sauce all over it.

Now take out that other half of the dough. Roll it out flat, like you did with the first half, and cut the dough into thin strips. Lay the strips across the top of the apple/pear mixture.

If you want to do the fancy over/under lattice on this pie, you can see how to do that here. This time I just laid the second layer of strips down at a 45-degree angle. It looks just as fancy, but it's a lot less work. Dot the holes in the lattice with the cubed butter.

You can finish the pie any number of ways. I brushed a little more of that vegan cream onto the lattice and sprinkled a little more sugar onto it. I think you're supposed to use fancy sugar, but it turned out fine this way.

Carefully place the pie onto the heated sheet pan and cook for 40-45 minutes. Once it's done, let it cool for 30-45 minutes before digging in.

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