COOKING ADVENTURE #91: Salted Caramel Apple Pie
And you were expecting Honey Cake. Hate to disappoint… Yep. The edges are a tad blackened but honestly, how does one not immediately start salivating like a hungry hyena upon looking at that decadence? Simply one of the funnest and tastiest desserts I’ve had the pleasure of pulling off for Cooking Adventures. And while it took me close to two hours to prepare the entire thing and bake it, I’d happily do it again. I have a weakness for pie. While I’ve made many, many cakes here on Cooking Adventures, pie really is one of my favorite things, no matter what kind. So, I kind of wanted to step up the idea of just a basic apple pie and do something a bit more creative. Even if being “creative” means slaving over a hot stove for a half an hour waiting for sugar to melt. But it wasn’t just the caramel that made this pie “adventure” worthy. It was the crust. The damn basket-weave crust. I’m not a weaver of anything much less pie dough. So that…that made things interesting.
So…winter has been overstaying its welcome. We had a sixty degree day last weekend that had me thinking visions of spring. Birds were singing, children were obnoxiously screaming and shoving each other outside at the playground next door from me, and my cat was sticking to the sunny spots of the kitchen. I’d opened a crack in the door to let a nice warm breeze in. The cooking bug had bitten me that day and I was looking forward to spending some quality time in the kitchen cooking…well, after I did the million and a half dishes that had been sitting on my counter all weekend.
And so, after clearing that obstacle, I undertook the challenge of making first a wonderful baked Chicken Parmesan, the subject of one of my earlier Cooking Adventures and then later that evening, began work on an elegantly scrumptious Salted Caramel Apple Pie. It sounds decadent, made of all things wonderful. When I saw the picture on Pinterest, my reaction was very much like this. It sounded too good to be true. And I’m a fan of dreamy things like that. The recipe came from Sally’s Baking Addiction.
But one of the things about this recipe that I wouldn’t be tackling was making the pie crust from scratch. The recipe becomes very intricate when it comes down to the pie crust. I’m not very good with making dough, let alone rolling it out and pressing it, and all that jazz. It all comes down to that little dislike of touching flour that I have. Silly, I know. But it just reminds me of nails on a chalk board… and that’s not a comforting sound or sensation for anyone as far as I know. I bought a pie crust from the store (because we all know there has to be some laziness factor involved here). I let it sit out and warm up a little bit while I got the other ingredients ready.
The next part of the recipe that it says for me to make after the crust is the caramel. Now… a little history on my attempts at making caramel. The last time, I ended up attempting to melt caramel nibs from a package. Didn’t go so well. In fact, I had the worst time in the world trying to get said caramel nibs off the bottom of my pan. T’was terrible. I wasn’t expecting things to go well here either. But knowing that I had no other options with which to make caramel other than waiting 3 hours for some sweetened condensed milk to boil in a crock pot (something I wasn’t going to do), I proceeded with the recipe.
I dumped a cup of sugar into the pot and turned the heat up to medium. I’d expected the sugar to start melting almost immediately as I stirred it. Not going to lie: this took some time. I even thought about leaving the sugar for a moment unsupervised while I watched a clip of something on the computer in the other room. However, paranoia was quick to keep me from doing that and rightly so. I brought the computer into the kitchen and watched videos from my favorite youtuber HarshlyCritical while stirring incessantly at the pot of sugar. Very soon, it began to melt and turn clear in the pan. This morphed into a rich amber colored syrup. This was the point that I was supposed to add 6 tbsp. of butter. Thankfully I’d already cut all of this up ahead of time. Now… I know I’ve made lots of sweet desserts in the past and everything…but… 6 tbsp. of butter!? Really?! Each time I added one, I felt a small part of me dying.
As I added each tablespoon, the mixture sizzled and I felt an overwhelming panic invade. I felt as if I had to stir twice as fast just to make sure that nothing burned to the bottom of the pan. Finally, when all was said and done, I had a wonderful concoction of caramel as smooth as velvet stared up at me. It looked gorgeous, and that one taste might possibly kill me from heavenly sugar content. But that wasn’t the thing that made me nearly drop my jaw in horror. It was the next ingredient.
Heavy cream. The words themselves felt heavy. It was the only ingredient that I had not picked up at the store. I knew I could use milk, but I wasn’t sure about adding the cold milk to the hot caramel, lest there be some insane spitting and fizzling action that left me with caramel flecked burns for the rest of my life. So instead, I reached under the counter to my pantry shelves and produced a can of delightful sweetened condensed milk. I knew…just knew…that this would do the trick. And probably double the sugar amount once again. But what the heck. Carpe diem, right? Or Carpe Saccharum anyway…
So, after drizzling almost the whole can in, I continued to stir the caramel until it had all mixed in and was thickened. Then, I pulled the caramel off the burner and added in the salt…because yes indeedy, it is salted caramel that we’re making. Yum.
The next part of the recipe involves cutting up the apples. I’m generally pretty pro when it comes to slicing and dicing fruits and vegetables. Well, anything except for mango, okay? But here, I’d picked up a couple of different kinds for the recipe. I grabbed a couple Granny Smiths for a little tartness and some nice Empires for more of a sweeter mixture. First peeled and then cut with my giant santoku knife (because that thing kicks some serious butt!). I tossed those apples in a bowl and mixed them with a nice, celestial combo of 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 tsp. cloves, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1 and 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 cup sugar (Carpe Saccharum!) and some lemon juice. Of course, it also asks for some lemon zest. And we all know who gets involved at this point…
That’s right. Matilda.
There were no accidents this time, thank the lord. Although she did stare at me with her beady black eyes for quite some time as I furiously ground at the lemon. Into the sink. Bye Matilda. And on we go.
I moved onto the final assembly portion of the pie. This was the FIRST time in a very LONG time that I was able to unroll a pie crust without it immediately cracking and breaking apart. T’was a bit of a miracle. I unrolled one crust into a glass pie plate and then filled it with the apple filling. Now, normally, I’d have been able to just roll the top of the pie over it, crimp the edges and call it good. No such luck. The pie in the recipe has one of those fancy shmancy lattice crusts, all woven and pretty. I decided that I’d do it up all the way. And so there began my horrible attempt at trying to weave pie crust together. I’m sure it’s much easier to manage when your material doesn’t keep breaking apart either. This took some time. Yup.
But finally, when I had something that resembled a grid covering the pie, I took some sugar and sprinkled it over the top, then pushed it into the oven to bake at 400 degrees for the first 20 minutes. I forgot to trim the edges off the pie… which is why after another 45 minutes of baking at 375, the pie began to smell a little funny. When I checked it, I discovered a corona of burnt crust surrounding my pie. Imagine the opening to Verdi’s Dies Irae and this and you’ll have an idea of how I was feeling.
But I saved it before the pie could be ruined forever. And you know what? It tasted phenomenal. Had it not taken nearly three hours to make and bake, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. But I’ll definitely be keeping this recipe for future use. Absolutely amazing in every respect. My kudos goes out to Sally for concocting this wonderful recipe. Thank you oh so much!
Next week, I’ll be tackling Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchilladas! Boom! Stay tuned!