With autumn upon us, and all those lovely apples and apple cider, I decided to slightly rethink my apple pie. The roots are the same as the Spiced Caramel Apple Pie, with all the warm spices, but I decided I wanted to “punch” up the apple taste to help create another little slice of heaven. You may recall that The Goddess feels the most important thing when making the perfect 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), Macoun, Jonathan or JonaGold and Winesap. Winesaps and Jonathans are much more common in the Midwest, but if you find them, grab them! And, make a pie.
You may also recall that she likes to cut the apples in smaller pieces, not full slices. She’s downright touchy about this. The pieces are more like 1/3 of a slice. 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 apples.
For this pie, she boiled 5 cups of cider down to 1/2 cup. She used Trader Joe’s Spiced Cider™, which you can tell by the name, has some of the spices already in it. Cool the reduced cider slightly, and pour into the apples, along with the spices. 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.
You can also use Boiled Cider, which is available from the folks over at King Arthur Flour®. It keeps very well and is nice to add a few drops to gravies and sauces, as well as apple pie/crisp.This time she used some boiled cider, which is just what you might think, cider that has been boiled down to concentrate the flavor. 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!
For fruit pies, she uses Instant Clearjel™ or arrowroot as the thickening agent. Instant Clearjel™ thickens instantly, and allows you to cut the pie while it’s hot…yum! Arrowroot 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.
Cider-Bourbon Caramel Apple Pie
- 5 cups spiced or regular apple cider
- 7-8 cups apples*, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4 X 1/2-inch thick
- 3 tablespoons bourbon
- 3-4 drops Angostura bitters
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot or Instant Clearjel™
- 1-2 teaspoons Vietnamese cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 crusts of Perfect Pie Pastry
- Heavy cream
- Coarse sugar or maple sugar flakes
*I use 3 Cortland, 2 Northern Spy (or Granny Smith) and 1-2 Macoun, Jonathan or Winesap
Place the apple cider in a large skillet. Bring to a boil over high heat; boil, watching carefully, until the mixture reduces to about 1/2 cup, about 15 minutes. The mixture will darken and thicken significantly. Cool slightly.
When ready to make the pie, preheat the oven to 425°F.
Place the apples in a large bowl. Add the reduced cider, the bourbon and bitters; toss to combine. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, arrowroot, spices and salt; pour on top of the apples. Stir to combine and the apples are completely coated. Taste, and if you are happy with the level of sweetness, then fill the crust-lined pie plate with the apples. 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 or flaked maple 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 of the pies, 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 dates or figs, 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 tarter apples. I increase the arrowroot to 3 tablespoons, as pears are juicier.
Cider-Bourbon Caramel Apple Pie Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2015. All rights reserved.
As the pie cools, the filling may 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 ever 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. Be 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.