A few weeks ago one of my friends was raving about the salted caramel apple pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds in Brooklyn. I adore salted caramel anything anything (like this gelato), so when I found the recipe online I knew I wanted to try it. I decided the perfect time to tackle it would be over Thanksgiving when I could use my mother's spacious kitchen and have some helping hands (thank you mom, Krista & Duane for letting me boss you around).
Here is the main lesson I learned, caramel is delicious because it is made of sugar, butter and cream. (I will still love it though). Overall the pie was fun to make, but a little less caramely than I had anticipated. (I have a plan for fixing that the next time around which I have noted below).
It's a little labor intensive, but it's a good recipe to bookmark for a cold weekend this winter. And caramely or not, apple pie is always a crowd pleaser.
Or if you're in New York you can always go pick it up at the store. I won't tell.
Four & Twenty Blackbirds' Salted Caramel Apple Pie
From the Kitchen of Four & Twenty Blackbirds
Servings: Over 8
Cook Time: Over 120 min
1¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1½ teaspoons granulated sugar
¼ pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
½ cup cold water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
½ cup ice
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ cup water
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup heavy cream
6 to 7 baking apples (about 2½ pounds)
2 to 3 dashes Angostura bitters
1/3 cup raw sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
One grind fresh black pepper
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ 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
Stir the flour, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture using a bench scraper or spatula. With a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; be careful not to overblend). Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup or bowl. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix and cut it in with a bench scraper or spatula until it is fully incorporated. Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, using the bench scraper or your hands (or both) to mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining. Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more small drops of the ice water mixture, if necessary, to combine.
Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the crust time to mellow. Wrapped tightly, the dough can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 1 month.
Have ready and refrigerated one pastry-lined 9-inch pie pan 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, almost copper. Remove from the heat and immediately but slowly add the heavy cream—be careful, the mixture will bubble rapidly and steam. Whisk the final mixture together well and set aside to cool while you prepare the apple filling.
Juice the lemons into a large mixing bowl, removing any seeds. Prepare the apples using an apple-peeling machine, or core, peel, and thinly slice them with a sharp knife or on a mandoline. Dredge the apple slices in the lemon juice. Sprinkle lightly with the remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Set aside to soften slightly and release some of the juices, 20 to 30 minutes. Ours tasted really lemony so we would use more apples and less lemon juice next time.
In a small bowl, sprinkle the Angostura bitters over the raw sugar. Add the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, black pepper, kosher salt, and flour, and mix well. Add the prepared apples to the sugar-spice mixture, leaving behind any excess liquids. Gently turn the apples to evenly distribute the spice mix. Tightly layer the apples in the prepared pie shell so that there are minimal gaps, mounding the apples slightly higher in the center. Pour a generous ½ cup to ¾ cup of the caramel sauce evenly over the apples (use the larger quantity of sauce if you'd like a sweeter pie). We used 3/4 of a cup, but still had a lot of our caramel mixture left over. Next time we would use all the caramel. Hey you made it anyway right? Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of the flake sea salt. Assemble the lattice on top of the pie and crimp the edges as desired. Chill the pie in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to set the pastry.
Meanwhile, position the oven racks in the bottom and center positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack, and preheat the oven to 400°F. Brush the pastry with the egg wash to coat, being careful not to drag the caramel onto the pastry (it will burn), and sprinkle with the desired amount of demerara sugar and flake sea salt. Place the pie on the rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pastry is set and beginning to brown. Lower the oven temperature to 375°F, move the pie to the center oven rack, and continue to bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes longer. Test the apples for doneness with a skewer or sharp knife; they should be tender and should offer just the slightest resistance. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. The pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days.