salted caramel apple pie [SBA & smitten kitchen]

(Originally posted: March 14, 2014)

Hey guys.

Guys guys guys.

Guess what today is?

It’s PI[E] DAY!! 😀

I can’t be the only one who geeks out over this.

In celebration of Pi Day, my dorm does a large Pi Day Study Break that includes a pie baking contest, a pie eating contest, and a pi recitation contest. And, of course, lots and lots of delicious pie for everyone to eat.

I’d never made a pie before, but I was feeling ambitious this year and figured I’d try my hand at one for the contest. Plus, looking at pie recipes is a lovely (read: dangerous) procrastination method when you’re spending upwards of 8 hours a day in the library.

Let me just say that I severely underestimated how long it would take me to make a pie for the very first time. My slight procrastination via baking turned into an entire afternoon of slicing, mixing, rolling, and carefully cutting, broken up by periods of waiting for the pie to chill again in the fridge so that I wouldn’t accidentally melt the pockets of butter in the dough.

Still, it was worth every second, as I realized when I checked on my pie in the oven and began shouting excitedly at my roommates.

Dear roommates: thank you for putting up with my sometimes loud, messy, and distracting baking endeavors.

IMG_9015

The final product was a mix of several recipes, parts of which I tweaked slightly, and other parts that I wish I’d tweaked.

I started with one of smitten kitchen’s staple pie crust recipes. Unlike most of the recipes I found, this one requires no shortening and still promises a tender, flaky crust.

The verdict? 10/10 would use again. Granted, I have a particular love of flaky pastry crust to begin with, but this one was actually fantastic. It’s very easy to make–only flour, butter, sugar, and salt!–even for a beginner. Plus it got nice and crispy on the outside while flaking perfectly on the inside and, arguably most importantly, did not crumble. I hate crumbly pie crust. It makes me feel like I’m eating a sad cheesecake hybrid.

Recommendations:
+ Get a pastry blender. Trying to cut cold butter into flour with a fork sucks from all perspectives.
+ No matter what recipe you’re following, keep the dough cold! Seriously, they’re not joking about this. I made a few mini pies with the extra dough, and the crust wasn’t as good because it had warmed up sitting on the counter for too long, melting all the cold butter chunks.
+ Make your dough early, both for convenience and because it’s ideally supposed to chill for a while. I did this on Wednesday night as my don’t-think-just-bake de-stressor after a CS final.

Behold: dough!

IMG_8956

For the filling, I went with salted caramel apple from Sally’s Baking Addiction. If you’ve been with me for a while, you know how much I love Sally’s recipes–trustworthy and always slightly offbeat. I knew I wanted to make an apple pie the first time around, but I wanted to make it unique, and this one fit the bill.

IMG_8969

Remember when I was raving about the salty sweet combination?

Yeah, really not surprising that I picked salted caramel. Or that I fell in love with this candy thermometer-free salted caramel recipe. The only change I made to the caramel was using sea salt instead of regular salt, adding an extra 1/2 tsp to kick up the salty edge. Other than waiting a while for the sugar to start caramelizing, this was incredibly quick and easy.

Changes I made to the filling:
+ 3 Pink Ladies and 3 Granny Smiths, but they were only medium-sized. Still, plenty of apples.
+ No cloves, and instead added about 1/8 tsp more nutmeg.
+ Instead of 1/2 cup granulated sugar, I used 1/4 cup dark brown and 1/4 cup granulated.
+ Thick lattice because I like how it looks. You can do whatever you want here, of course.

I kept picking at the apples and caramel as I mixed them.

No shame.

IMG_8972

Into the oven, cue some shouting and dancing around the kitchen in excitement, then lots and lots of dishwashing (if you can figure out how to do this without making a complete mess of your kitchen, please tell me), and finally…

IMG_9005

omg PIE.

That’s my proud pie face, you guys. I stood there for a good couple of minutes just staring at it.

(Sheena captured the moment. Thanks, Sheena. <3)

IMG_9010

I won’t bother with the step-by-step in between parts, because both the SBA and the smitten kitchen recipes describe them far better than I can. Not to mention both ladies actually know what they’re doing with a pie.

I will, however, tell you that this pie filling is not everyone’s favorite. Sadly, I did not win the pie contest. The lemon flavor was overpowering for some, while others weren’t fans of the more pronounced spices. Personally, I love lemon, and I loved how unexpected and noticeable it was with every bite. If you’re not as much of a fan, make sure you scale back the citrus.

Mostly, though, I was sad about how much of the caramel bubbled out of the pie. There was a puddle of it forming on the baking sheet after only 20 minutes in the oven. So much salty sweetness! Wasted!

IMG_9012

Changes I would recommend:
– Less nutmeg. As in, maybe only 1/8 tsp for the whole pie. And more cinnamon. And cloves, if you like them. (I usually don’t.)
– Less lemon juice, or maybe substituting some orange juice in there for a slightly different flavor.
– Layer the apples with the caramel when filling the pie to avoid losing so much of it in the oven.
– More strips for the lattice, also to keep the filling inside as best as possible.

IMG_9009

All in all though, super pleased with this pie. I poured the extra salted caramel over a slice and happily devoured it. There’s nothing quite like the warmth and comfort of a good apple pie.

I’m already looking for excuses to make another one. Something tells me that my mother wouldn’t appreciate an entire pie sitting in our kitchen, though. Must find a way to get rid of it first.

Finally, in true celebration of today, here are some really awful pi jokes.

And then this last one, because I just can’t help it.

Happy Pi Day, happy Friday, and happy baking! 🙂