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Recipe

Caramel Velvet Apple Pie

Featured in our 2017 Christmas Guide
Tina Rupp

Servings: 10

Combining caramel and apple in a dessert is reminiscent of a childhood favorite, but there’s nothing childlike about this pie. The filling’s caramel flavor is sophisticated and elegant, and the baked apple texture is downright velvety. Put them together and you have a filling that’s a far cry from its stick-to-your-teeth candy-apple cousin.

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 12 Tbs. (6 oz./170 g) unsalted butter
  • 4 Tbs. (2 oz./57 g) vegetable shortening
  • 5 Tbs. (75 ml) very cold water
  • 1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2-2⁄3 cups (12 oz./340 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. table salt

For the filling

  • 3-1⁄2 lb. (1.6 kg.) crisp, firm apples (such as Honey Crisp or Golden Delicious)
  • 1⁄3 cup (1-1⁄2 oz./42 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 cup (7 oz./198 g) granulated sugar
  • 1⁄3 cup (80 ml) water
  • 2 Tbs. (1 oz./28 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • Good pinch of table salt or fleur de sel

For assembly

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. water

Preparation

Make the dough

  • Cut the butter in half lengthwise and then cut each strip into 6 pieces; cut the shortening into 2 pieces. Pile the shortening and butter on a plate and slide into the freezer until ready to use. Measure the water, add the lemon juice, and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl until well blended. Add the cold butter and shortening pieces and, using a pastry blender or two knives, cut them into the flour mixture until the pieces are pea-sized, about 3 minutes. (You can also do this a food processor using short pulses, scraping the blended mixture into the large bowl before proceeding.)
  • Pour the water and lemon juice over the flour and, using a silicone spatula, stir and fold until it forms a shaggy, moist dough with some floury bits remaining (I like to use one hand to help mix while keeping the other working the spatula). Scrape the dough and any remaining floury bits into a pile on the counter. Starting with the top of the mound and using the heel of your hand, smear a section of the dough down the side and along the work surface away from you to blend the butter pieces into the dough. Repeat with the remaining dough in sections. Using a bench scraper, fold the dough together (the mixture will be rough and crumbly). Turn the pile about 90 degrees and repeat the smearing process until the mixture just comes together into a cohesive dough (this is a technique called fraisage). Be careful not to overwork the dough because that will make the crust dense. Divide the dough in half (12 oz. each/340 g) and shape into two 6-inch (15 cm) disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours, or up to 2 days.

Make the filling

  • Peel and core the apples and cut into 1⁄2- to 3⁄4-inch (12 mm to 2 cm) thick slices. Put the slices in a large bowl and sprinkle the flour over the top. Using a silicone spatula, toss and stir until the slices are evenly coated with the flour.
  • Put the heavy cream in a small saucepan or microwave-safe bowl and heat until very warm. Set aside.
  • Put the sugar and water in a 4- or 5-quart (4 or 5 liters) heavy saucepan. Cook, stirring, over low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is boiling. Once the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is boiling, stop stirring and increase the heat to high. When the sugar begins to caramelize, swirl the pan over the heat until the caramel is deep amber in color, 2 to 3 minutes. Gently swirl the pan over the heat to even out the caramel color. (I like to test the color by putting a drop or two on a white plate. If the caramel is too light in color, the sauce will be too sweet.) Slide the pan off the heat and slowly and carefully add the warm heavy cream. Be careful, as it will sputter and the steam is very hot. Whisk until the caramel is completely smooth. If necessary, return the pan to the heat and continue whisking until the caramel is dissolved. Slide the pan off the heat, add the butter and salt, and whisk until blended. Taste and add more salt, little by little, until the caramel is slightly salty.
  • Scrape the apples and any remaining flour into the pan and toss and stir until blended. The mixture will be sticky and very thick. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pan with a spatula, until the caramel is liquid, boiling, and thick enough to coat the apples, 5 to 7 minutes. If the mixture boils too vigorously, reduce the heat to medium low. Slide the pan off the heat and set aside, stirring occasionally, until room temperature (no longer than 1 hour).

Make the top crust

  • Remove one of the dough disks from the fridge and, if it’s very cold, set it out at room temperature until it’s just pliable enough to roll, 10 to 20 minutes. Arrange a large piece of parchment on a work surface, put the unwrapped dough in the center, and cover with another piece of parchment. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough between the parchment to a 13-1⁄2-inch (34 cm) round, lifting, turning, and repositioning the parchment and lightly flouring throughout the rolling.
  • Slide a large cookie sheet under the parchment and dough. Remove the top sheet of parchment, and using a small 2-inch (5 cm) leaf-shaped cookie cutter, stamp out 6 or 7 shapes about 3 inches (7.5 cm) apart, starting in the center of the round. Cover the dough with parchment or plastic, and slide into the fridge.

Make the bottom crust and line the pan

  • Following the directions in step 1 for making the top crust, roll the second disk to a 13-1⁄2-inch (34 cm) round and peel away the top parchment. Carefully roll the dough around the pin, leaving the bottom parchment behind, and position over a 9-inch (23 cm) pie plate (I prefer Pyrex). Unroll the dough onto the plate and gently nudge it into the bottom and sides of the plate. Gently but firmly press the dough against the sides and bottom, being careful not to stretch or tear the dough, allowing the excess dough to hang over the edges

Assemble and bake the pie

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and set a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet on the rack. Heat the oven to 425°F (220°C/gas 7).
  • Scrape the cooled filling into the bottom crust and spread evenly. Remove the top crust from the fridge, uncover, and, using the tip of a small knife, lift the cut-out leaves and set on the counter or a piece of plastic wrap. (The dough should be cold but not firm. If it’s too cold, the dough will break.) Slide your palm under the parchment and center it under the top crust. Lift the paper and invert the dough onto the filling, using your palm as a guide to center it.
  • Press the top and bottom edges together and trim both crusts so there’s about 3⁄4 inch (2 cm) left hanging over the edge of the plate. Roll the overhang under itself to shape a high-edge crust that rests on top of the rim. Crimp the edge. Roll out the trimmed dough scraps and cut out 4 or 5 additional leaf shapes.
  • In a small bowl, mix the egg and water with a fork until well blended. Brush the top generously with the egg wash, randomly arrange the leaf cut-outs on the crust, and brush the leaves with the egg wash.
  • Put the pie on the heated baking sheet and reduce the oven temperature to 375°F (190°C/gas 5). Bake until the filling is bubbling and thickened and the pastry is deep golden brown, 68 to 75 minutes. If the pastry starts to get too brown, cover loosely with foil and continue baking. Move the sheet to a rack and let cool until warm (or cool completely) before serving. The pie is best when served within 1 day and can be warmed slightly in a 300°F (150°C/gas 2) oven, if desired.

Make Ahead Tips

The pie dough can be prepared and refrigerated for 2 days or wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to 1 month. If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

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