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a little slice of heaven

27 September 2010

dj

Les Price, the great sower of all things apple at Jones Creek Farm, observed that i had a penchant for English varieties. i peered into the bags of apples i had just gingerly picked from the orchard: Ellison’s Orange and Cox’s Orange Pippins and gave thought to the 40 pounds of Bramley’s i’d toted home just the weekend before.

i began to delve deeper into my mostly subconscious affinity for all things British : Winnie, the English bull terrier, Elroy, the Old English bulldog, Ralph Vaughn Williams, a recent, torrid love affair with a certain MINI-Cooper, Hidcote lavender, and of course, my beloved friend Alex. yes, an astute assessment on Les’s part and a startling revelation on mine.

bringing it back to the apples, i put up nearly 100 pounds of English varieties. and i knew when i was finally ready to bake, i’d want to dedicate the first pie of the season to Alex. this special pie could not be ordinary, although i venture to say few pies made with these varieties would be considered as such. it had to be spectacular.

a recent segment of Unique Eats on The Cooking Channel had featured Emily and Melissa Elsen of Four & Twenty Blackbirds pie shop in Brooklyn, New York. impressed by their creativity, originality, seasonal approach and commitment to local/organic ingredients, i decided to send them a note to request the recipe for their salted caramel apple pie. Emily and Melissa quickly and kindly responded with this perfectly extraordinary culinary tribute to Alex.

Four & Twenty Blackbirds’ Salted Caramel Apple Pie
a recipe generously shared by Emily and Melissa Elsen…heartfelt thanks

set aside about four hours to tackle the recipe—it will be time well-spent.

INGREDIENTS

for the crust
1 recipe of your favorite (2-crust) all-butter pie crust

for the salted caramel
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter (i used salted and cut back slightly on the sea salt)
1/2 cup fresh heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (recommended: Maldon sea salt flakes)

for the filling
4 to 6 lemons
5 to 6 medium to large apples (recommend a mix of varieties, including some tart)
1/3 cup raw sugar (castor, unrefined, large granule sugar)
2 tablespoons flour (to me, it seems like the amount of flour depends upon how juicy your apples are, so increase accordingly. the Bramley’s exude a lot of juice.)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (i increased this to 1/2)
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 to 3 dashes Angostura bitters (i didn’t have this ingredient, so i don’t know what i was missing. perhaps Emily or Melissa can comment, but the pie was wonderful nonetheless.)

for final assembly
1 egg beaten
raw sugar, for sprinkling
1 teaspoon sea salt (flake)

DIRECTIONS

the crust

  1. prepare one 2-crust batch of your favorite all-butter pie crust.
  2. roll the bottom crust to fit a 9-inch pan, and cut the top crust as a lattice, approximately 1-inch in width or as desired.
  3. chill the rolled crust while you prepare the salted caramel and apple filling.

the salted caramel

  1. cook the sugar and water together over low heat until just dissolved.
  2. add the butter and bring to a slow boil; continue cooking at a low boil until the mixture turns a deep, golden brown color, almost copper. important note: this process takes awhile, depending on the heat source. keep an eye on it: if the caramel begins to smoke, you’ve burned it, and you’ll have to start over.
  3. when the mixture has turned a copper color, remove it from the heat, and immediately add the heavy cream – the mixture will bubble rapidly and steam, so be cautious as the sugar will be very hot.
  4. whisk the final mixture together well over low heat and sprinkle in the sea salt; set aside.

the filling

  1. juice the lemons into a large mixing bowl.
  2. core, peel, and thinly slice the whole apples.
  3. dredge all the apple slices in the freshly squeezed lemon juice to prevent browning and to add flavor; set the prepared apples aside.
  4. in a large measuring cup or small mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and Angostura bitters.
  5. sprinkle the mixture over the apples in the mixing bowl; use your hands to gently mix and coat the apple slices.

the assembly

  1. preheat the oven to 375F to 400F, depending on your oven.
  2. gather your rolled pie crust, salted caramel and apple mixture.
  3. layer 1/3 of the apples in the bottom of the crust; gaps between apples should be minimal.
  4. pour 1/3 of the caramel over the apples.
  5. add 1/3 of the apples and caramel for a second layer, and then add a third layer of apples, and then a third layer of caramel. important note: save a small portion of the caramel to pour on top once the lattice is assembled.
  6. assemble the lattice crust, and flute the edges.
  7. pour the last bit of caramel on top of the pie.
  8. brush the crust with the beaten egg, then lightly sprinkle with raw sugar and sea salt.
  9. bake the pie on a baking sheet larger than the pie pan for 20 minutes (otherwise the caramel will bubble over and burn on the bottom of your oven, and that would be bad).
  10. reduce the oven temperature to 325F to 350F, again, depending on your oven, and bake for 25 to 35 minutes.
  11. test the apples with a long toothpick or small knife; the apples should be just soft.

let the pie cool, then slice and revel in the sweet, buttery, salty, tart contrast and deliciousness of this truly amazing pie. cheers!

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4 Comments

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  1. September 28, 2010

    Good heavens, this sounds just wonderful! Being another with a strong penchant for all things English, I am sure this recipe will serve me well. Perhaps with a spot of tea!

    I’m going to try to make this over the weekend!

    One question: Which pie crust recipe are you now using? We have so many in the arsenal – it overwhelms me! 🙂

  2. September 28, 2010

    i’m using an all-butter recipe that Emily and Melissa shared with me. worked beautifully!

  3. October 4, 2010

    Made the pie this wknd! Turned out pretty well, though I didn’t taste the salted caramel. Couple of questions:

    -What size lemons? I found large ones (more fruit for my $).

    -Related to that… Because I used lg lemons, there was a lot of lemon juice. At least 1/4 cup. I didn’t know what to do with it, so I poured it into the pie (because it had all the nutmeg, cinnamon, etc). But that overpowered the caramel.

    Thanks!

    • October 4, 2010

      hi, A. glad you gave the recipe a whirl!

      well, i actually used three large lemons. tossed the apples in their juice and then placed the dredged apples in a large mixing bowl, where i added the spice blend. if i had any remaining lemon juice (which i actually don’t recall if i did), i didn’t add it to the apple mixture. i used the same lemon-dredging approach when i put up the apples in the freezer.

      hope this helps…let me know!

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