Apple pie, with all the warm spices, is a slice of heaven for dessert or breakfast. And why not for breakfast? You have apple Danish, don’t you? Think about a nice slice of apple pie for breakfast…it makes Monday worth getting out of bed for! The Goddess is a tad touchy about her apple pies. She feels the most important thing to remember when making an apple pie, is to use several different kinds of apples. She prefers to use Cortland, Northern Spy (Granny Smith if you can’t find Spies), and Macoun, Jonathan or Winesap. Winesaps are much more common in the Midwest, but if you find them, grab them! And, make a pie.
She’s also a bit touchy (some might say “Bitchy”, but we don’t associate with those people, do we?) how she slices the apples. The pieces are more like 1/3 of a slice. She feels they fill the pie shell better, sort of pack in there together better…her goal being, the most possible apples she can place between two sheets of pie pastry. For a 9-inch pie shell want about 6-7 cups of sliced/diced apples.
As for spices, that’s really up to you. The Goddess always uses Vietnamese cinnamon, a little allspice, but you can use ginger, cardamom, cloves, citrus zests or juices, etc. That’s a matter of personal taste. And some salt. Don’t omit salt. You don’t taste “salt” per se, but that little bit helps you taste the spices and the sweetness more profoundly. Sometimes she adds 2-3 tablespoons of frozen apples juice concentrate, just to boost that apple-y flavor. This time she used some boiled cider, which is just what you might think, cider that has been boiled down to concentrate the flavor. Add a few drops of Angostura bitters adds complexity. In this case, she used brown sugar as the sweetener, but you can use white sugar or maple syrup, if you wish. She doesn’t like to over-sweeten things that are tart; find a nice balance between the sweet and tart taste…The Goddess knows tart, or rather tarts, you know! If you choose maple syrup as your sweetener, you are adding liquid as well as sweet, so you’ll need to adjust the thickening agent accordingly. For fruit pies, she uses arrowroot as the thickening agent. It thickens at a lower temperature than either flour or cornstarch, tolerates acidic ingredients and prolonged cooking better. If you’re planning on freezing the pie, arrowroot is more stable; it won’t break down.
Spiced Caramel-Apple Pie
- 8 cups (7-8 apples) apples*, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4 X 1/2-inch thick
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons boiled cider or 3 tablespoons apple juice concentrate (AJC)
- 3-4 drops Angostura bitters
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot
- 2 teaspoons Vietnamese cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces for the top
- 2 crusts of Perfect Pie Pastry
- Heavy cream
- Coarse sugar
*I use 3 Cortland, 2 Northern Spy (or Granny Smith) and 2-3 Macoun, Jonathan or Winesap
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Place the apples in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice, cider or AJC and bitters; toss to combine. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, arrowroot, spices and salt. Stir to combine; pour over the apples and toss and stir until completely coated. Taste and if you are happy with the level of sweetness, then fill the crust-lined pie plate with the apples. Top with pieces of butter. Dampen the edge of the pastry and place the top crust over the apples (remember to make vents), pressing gently to seal the edge. Leave an overhang of at least 1/2-inch. Turn the overhang under the bottom crust edge; press together gently. Crimp or use the tines of a fork to make a pattern. Brush the top with some heavy cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Place the pie on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 350°F and continue to bake for 60-75 minutes or until the apples in the center are tender when speared with a knife tip. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature before slicing.
Variation: A special flavor combination is to use apples and pears, a small handful of dried cranberries, reduce the cinnamon to 1 teaspoon and add 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom and cloves, instead of the allspice. I use about 1/2 pears and half apples and use the more tart apples. I increase the arrowroot to 3 tablespoons, as pears are juicier. For this version, I usually prefer white sugar to brown.
Spiced Caramel-Apple Pie Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2015. All rights reserved.
Sometimes as the pie cools, the filling will settle, leaving a space between the top crust and the apples. The Goddess is undaunted by this problem; she simply places her hand on the top crust and every so gently presses the top crust down. You want to do this while the pie is still quite warm, maybe within 10-15 minutes of removing it from the oven. Do be very careful, because the filling will still be very hot, and steam can come bursting out of the vents when you do this. Burning yourself tends to cut down on the pie-enjoyment experience. You can see the sparkle of the coarse sugar on the crust. Doesn’t that look yummy?
Now wasn’t that easy? Make pies often, and they won’t be so daunting. There is little that offers more comfort that pie…now let me get some of that Maple-Bourbon Ice Cream!