Friday, September 20, 2013

Salted Butter Caramel Apple Pie with Vodka Pie Crust

My church went apple picking last weekend, and I went with the express purpose of picking apples to make this pie.  Or more precisely, so I could make this pie crust from America's Test Kitchen.  I first made the vodka pie crust three years ago with Tammy.  It made the flakiest, most flavorful pie crust I had ever eaten, but it uses shortening, an ingredient I don't usually have on hand.  Luckily, my new roommate had some from when she made this same pie crust (it's her favorite, too!).

*photo by Tammy Hui

According to America's Test Kitchen, the addition of the vodka helps to keep the pie dough tender because it inhibits the formation of gluten while still acting like a binder for the dry ingredients.  The shortening also helps to prevent gluten from forming because unlike butter, it doesn't contain any water.  Yay, science! 

*Pro-tip:  If you don't have a rolling pin, the vodka bottle works!

I adapted the filling and salted caramel sauce from Sally's Baking Addiction.  Sadly, I took my sugar off the heat too soon, and my sauce is more of a blond sweet butter sauce than a caramel, but it still tastes uber delicious!

If you can, try to use a variety of apples for the pie so you have some sweet and some tart, some softer and some firmer.  I picked Macintosh, Golden Supreme, and Honeycrisp apples for this pie.

Salted Butter Caramel Apple Pie with Vodka Pie Crust
makes 1 pie

For the pie crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and chilled
8 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces and chilled
1/4 cup vodka, chilled
1/4 cup ice water

Process 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar, and salt together in food processor until combined.  Scatter butter and shortening over top and continue to process until incorporated and mixture begins to form uneven clumps with no remaining floury bits.  Sprinkle remaining 1 cup flour over dough and pulse until mixture has broken up into pieces and is evenly distributed around the bowl.

Transfer mixture to a large bowl.  Sprinkle vodka and ice water over mixture.  Stir and press dough together, using stiff rubber spatula, until dough sticks together.

Divide dough into 2 even pieces.  Turn each piece of dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten each into a 4-inch disk.  Wrap each piece tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

For the caramel sauce:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup room temperature water
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Combine the granulated sugar, salt, and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook without stirring, until the syrup becomes a medium dark amber caramel, about 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from heat and immediately stir in the room temperature butter and cold heavy cream. Do not worry if the butter starts to separate; it will come together as the caramel cools. Transfer the caramel to a medium bowl and whisk until the caramel begins to come together.  Set aside.

For the apple pie:
2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
6 large apples, cored, peeled, and thinly sliced (use a variety for better flavor, such as Macintosh, Golden Supreme, and Honey Crisp)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk

Put the lemon zest and lemon juice into a very large bowl. Add the apples and toss gently. In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and sugar. Pour over the apples and gently toss to combine. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

On a floured work surface, roll out one of the balls of chilled dough (keep the other one in the refrigerator). Turn the dough about a quarter turn after every few rolls until you have a circle about 12" in diameter. Carefully place the dough into a 9"x2" pie dish. Tuck it in with your fingers, making sure it is smooth.

Fill the pie crust with the apples. There are a lot of apples, but pile them tightly and very high. Drizzle with 1/2 cup of the salted caramel, reserving the rest for topping.

Roll out the other ball of dough to a 10" circle.  Carefully place on top of the pie.  Fold over any excess dough and crimp all the way around.  Cut a few slits into the top with a sharp knife.

Make an egg wash by beating the egg yolk with the milk.  Brush the top with a very thin coating.

Place the pie onto a large baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Keeping the pie in the oven, turn the temperature down to 350°F and bake for an additional 40-50 minutes. If the top of your pie is getting too brown, cover loosely with aluminum foil. The pie will be done when the caramel begins to bubble up. A small knife inserted inside should come out relatively clean.

Allow the pie to cool for 4 hours before serving. Drizzle the pie with the extra caramel sauce to serve.

Previously:   Sweet Corn Ice Cream with Black Raspberry Swirl
Next:  Apple Cider Donuts

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