So I know it's a little late to be writing a post about the Thanksgiving I so thoroughly enjoyed last week, I mean most of us have already moved on into the Christmas mind set, but I really wanted to share with you, at the very least, the pie that I slaved over for more than 5 hours. I was in fact only willing to spend that amount of time on one little pie just so I could take some pretty pictures to upload for all to enjoy. And I really am sorry that it has taken me a whole week to share this recipe. I'm sure some of you may recall the promise that I made after my move back from the north, the one where I vowed to be super committed to this whole blogging thing. And I have just now realized that I only made 5 posts during the whole month of November, but did I also mention the whole catering thing? Yeah, thats a major time commitment, my friends. Also, I confess I've been somewhat of the social butterfly as of late, staying out way too late, thus spending the majority of my days nuzzling my face into a pillow trying to block out the sunlight.
Anyways, I guess sharing this recipe now is better late than never, right? It is worth sharing too, because this pie doesn't just have your run of the mill caramel sauce. No. It has a red wine caramel sauce. Caught your attention didn't I? At first, I wasn't too sure how the red wine would meld with caramel. I actually thought about swapping some Calvados for the wine. (Which I still think would taste divine). But I'm so glad I stuck to the original recipe, because this was such an interesting flavor combination. So rich... and complex... and delicious. I can't wait to incorporate this sauce into something else. However, I should provide a warning. This pie- mainly due to the sauce alone- is not for the impatient. Luckily, I was able to nail the sauce on my second try, but from reading many of the reviews on this recipe, it took others many more times to perfect it, and some never managed to get it right at all.
During my first attempt, I stirred the sugar and water mixture (the only 2 ingredients necessary to make caramel) continuously which resulted in a hardened rock like catastrophe. So I did a little research on the art of making caramel, and I would like to pass along my new found knowledge. The sugar and water should only be stirred together just until the sugar begins to dissolve into the water. Then let the magic happen on its own. The sugar will start to boil, and slowly it will begin to harden, and just when you think you've failed and ruined it, the sugar will melt again, this time turning into a bubbling brownish hue. When you've reached the desired degree of amber, begin to stir it again to smooth out the mixture. This is basic caramel. Adding butter and cream, or in this particular recipe red wine and cream, will result in a caramel sauce. Another little helpful suggestion would be to use a candy thermometer. At around 350º F is when the sugar will begin to brown.
The recipe also suggested using a paring knife to manually slice the apples, or perhaps a mandolin. Well, after three plus hours already invested into this pie, I was desperate to speed things up. I used my new elite food processor to slice the apples. I took all of 5 minutes to very thinly slice 8 rather large apples. Pretty exciting stuff! Hopefully, by offering some of my pearls of wisdom, I'll be able to save some of you some time, if and when you decide to try this pie. Instead of 5 hours, maybe you'll only have to invest, say 3 1/2? Trust me, it's all worth it for the red wine caramel sauce.
Caramel Apple Pie
Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence at Food Network
3 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut in pieces
2 eggs separated (yolks for pastry, whites for glaze)
3 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed
For Caramel Apples:
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 lemon, juiced
8 apples (I used Granny Smith and Honey Crisp)
1 tablespoon flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup unsalted butter
cinnamon-sugar spice mixture
Turbinado sugar (optional)
1. To make the pastry, combine the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Cut in the pieces of cold butter with a pastry blender, a little at a time, until the dough resembles cornmeal. Add the 2 egg yolks and the ice water, and blend just long enough to pull the dough together and moisten. Be careful not to overwork the dough. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and let it rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour. (To speed up the process, you can use a food processor. Pulse the flour and butter together, add the egg yolks and water, pulse again to moisten the mixture, then form the dough into a ball with your hands).
2. While the dough is resting, prepare the filling. To make the caramel sauce, place the sugar and water in a small pot, and stir until the mixture resembles wet sand. Cook on medium-low heat and stir just until the sugar begins to dissolve. At this point, avoid stirring any further. The sugar will harden (and you will think you have burned it) but it will begin to re-melt and turn brown. A candy thermometer can help you know more exactly when to expect this re-melting process. The sugar will begin to turn brown at around 330º to 340º. Once the sugar is browning, begin to stir again to smooth out the caramel. (This process took me about 20-25 minutes). Remove the pot from the burner and add the cream, and then the wine slowly, so as not to seize the caramel. It may bubble and spit, so be careful. When the sauce has calmed down, return it to the flame, add the vanilla bean scrapings, and heat it slowly, until the wine and caramel are smooth and continue to cook slowly until reduced by half, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool until thickened.
3. Fill a large bowl with cold water and the lemon juice. Peel the apples with a paring knife or peeler, cut them in half, and remove the cores with a melon baller. Put the apple halves in the lemon-water (this will keep them from going brown).
4. Preheat the oven to 350º F. Take the dough out of the refrigerator, unwrap the plastic, and cut the ball in half. Rewrap and return 1 of the balls to the refrigerator, until ready for the top crust. Let the dough rest on the counter for 15 minutes so it will be pliable enough to roll out. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle. Carefully roll the dough up onto the pin and lay it inside a 10-inch glass pie pan. Press the dough into the pan so it fits tightly.
5. Drain the apples, blot dry with paper towel, and toss with the flour and cinnamon. Slice the apples using a very sharp knife, a mandolin, or a food processor fitted with a slicing blade. The apples need to be thinly sliced so that as the pie bakes, they collapse on top of each other with no air pockets. (I set my food processor slicing blade on 4). This makes a dense, meaty apple pie. Cover the bottom of the pastry with a layer of apples, shingling the slices so there are no gaps. Ladle about 2 ounces of the cooled red wine caramel sauce evenly over the apple slices. Repeat the layers until the pie is slightly overfilled and domed on the top; the apples will shrink down as the pie cooks. Top the apples with pieces of butter.
6. Now, roll out the other ball of dough just as you did the first. Brush the bottom lip of the pie pastry with a little beaten egg white to form a seal. Place the pastry circle on top of the pie, and using some kitchen shears, trim off the overhanging excess from around the pie. Crimp the edges of dough together with your fingers to make a tight seal. Cut slits in the top of the pie so steam can escape while baking. Place the pie on a sheet tray and tent it with a piece of aluminum foil, so the crust does not cook faster than the apples.
7. Bake the caramel apple pie for 25 minutes on the middle rack. Remove the foil from the pie and brush the top with the remaining egg white. Generously sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture, and if using, a little of the turbinado sugar (this gives it a rustic look). Return the pie to the oven, and continue to bake for another 25 minutes, until the pie is golden and bubbling. Let the apple pie rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour to allow the fruit pectin to gel and set; otherwise the pie will fall apart when you cut into it.
Makes 6 to 8 servings