When I first heard about The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book last fall I immediately requested it from my library system (overflowing bookshelves mean I always test drive cookbooks before making a purchasing decision). When I finally had the copy in my hands I knew this gem was going to the very top of my "to buy" list. In fact, I took the below photo with my computer's webcam and sent it to my "Pie Girls" to express how jaw-droppingly awesome it was (yes, I am a dork) and tell them that we MUST all grab a copy to use at our next Pie Day.
They happily humored me and we added three of its recipes to the list for our rapidly approaching gathering, Pie Day III. The Black Bottom Oatmeal, Junipear, and Maple Lime Custard were added to the docket and all proved to be fantastic. To make that day even better, Dina generously bought each of us our very own copy of the cookbook!!! We have utilized the book for each following pie-fest: the Rhubarb Pie for Pie Day IV and the Sweet Corn Custard Pie (a gift that kept on giving) for Pie Day V.
We haven't yet set a date for Pie Day VI (fall 2014/winter 2015), but I just couldn't wait any longer to try the Salted Caramel Apple Pie. My plan was to substitute Cara-Sel for the recipe's "make your own caramel" step. I was anxious to make it this weekend, but had a lot going on both Saturday and Sunday. However, since both days were "only" half full of outside-the-house activities, I was able to break the work up and spread it out over the time I was actually home.
I made the pie dough Saturday morning before I left for soccer and then did all of the other prep in the late afternoon when we finally returned from the day's various other enterprises. Everything was set aside overnight and then assembled and baked Sunday morning.
The spiced apple & pastry smells wafted through the house, and the pie emerged from the oven a gorgeous specimen. It was hard to obey the recipe and not sneak a piping hot piece, but willpower won. I left the pie to cool while we went out-and-about for the afternoon, counting the minutes until it could be devoured. After what felt like an eternity, we got home, ate dinner, and finally (!) served the pie. At first bite we knew...it had been worth the wait.
Salted Caramel Apple Pie (recipe adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book)
- Your favorite recipe for a 9" double crust pie
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 lemons
- 6-7 baking apples, ~2.5lbs (the book recommends a mixture of sweet/soft/tart/firm and I used Crispins, Cortlands, and Granny Smiths)
- 2 to 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
- ⅓ cup raw sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- one grind black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ to ¾ cup Cara-Sel, warmed so it is pourable
- egg wash (1 large egg, whisked with 1 teaspoon water and a pinch of salt)
- Demerara sugar and flake sea salt, for finishing
- Have ready and refrigerated one pastry-lined 9" pie pan and lattice strips to top.
- Juice the lemons into a large mixing bowl, removing any seeds. Core, peel, and thinly slice the apples with a sharp knife or mandoline (alternately, you could use an apple-peeling machine). Dredge the apple slices in the lemon juice. Sprinkle lightly with 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Set aside to soften slightly and release some of the juices, 20-30 minutes (as I discovered, an overnight rest in the fridge also works).
- 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 (this, too, can be done a day ahead and set aside in a covered container).
- 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 (I went with less) of Cara-Sel evenly over the apples.
- Assemble the lattice on top of the pie and crimp the edges as desired; the book has step by step instructions for this; I would be lost without them. If you prefer to take a simpler road I believe you would still find success using a well-ventilated traditional top crust.
- Chill the pie in the refrigerator for 10-15 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 degrees.
- 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 flaky sea salt. Place the pie on the rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is set and beginning to brown. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees, move the pie to the center oven rack, and continue to bake until the pastry is deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling, 30-35 minutes longer. Test the apples for doneness with a skewer or sharp knife; they should be tender and offer just the slightest resistance.
- Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2-3 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. The pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days.