Sunday, October 11, 2015

Caramel Apple Nut Pie

The standard thought when it comes to apple pie is apples baked in a crust with cinnamon thrown in.  If you are really craving the pure taste of apples in a pie, then the traditional apple pie is the one for you. For those looking for a additional layers of flavor in their pie, read on.

With Halloween coming up and the state fair, the caramel apple will be popping up in places. The thought of tasting a tart, green apple and smooth caramel can easily turn into a craving. Hold off on reaching for one..or you will miss out on satisfying your craving on a much more a tastier level. Let's take all that delicious flavor and texture from a caramel apple and enclose it into a flaky crust.  Caramel Apple Nut pie...need I say more?? Lets head into the kitchen!

Caramel Apple Nut Pie
adapted from Mrs Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies

Ingredients/Vinegar Pie Crust
1 egg
1 cup plus 1 tbs vegetable shortening
1 1/2 tsp white distilled vinegar
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
4-6 tbs ice water

6 cups peeled and sliced apples (4-5 McIntosh or Granny Smith)
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 tbs cold unsalted butter cut into bits
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
pinch of salt
3 tbs flour
1 tbs milk or cream
Sugar for sprinkling (brown, raw or granulated)

For the crust, start by blending the salt with the flour. Then add the shortening in chunks and use a pastry blender to cut the shortening into the dry mixture. Continue to use the pastry blender until all the powdery flour is slightly clumping with the shortening. There should not be any clumps bigger than peas. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, vinegar and 1 tbs of the water. Pour the blend into the shortening/flour mixture. Using a spatula, mix all together. If the texture is too dry for dough, continue to add in the ice water and mix until the right consistency is met.

Divide the dough into two pieces. Flatten each piece to form a disk and cover with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator to chill for a minimum of 30 minutes up to a maximum of 2 weeks.

Once you are ready to make the pie, dust a flat surface lightly with flour and do the same with a the rolling pin.Take out one disk of dough and roll in the floured surface, forming a circle 1/8 of an inch thick. Gently roll the dough loosely around the rolling pin. Hold the rolling pin 2 inches above the edge of the pie pan and slowly unroll the dough into the pan. Center the dough and then lightly press into the pan. Gather the dough edges into a border on the top edge of the pie pan and just fold the overhang of the dough over the top edge of the pie. Flatten slightly and make sure it is distributed evenly around the circumference of the pie pan. Place the dough lined pie pan in the refrigerator while you make the filling. At this time, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

Fill a large bowl with the apple slices. Then fill a second, smaller, bowl with the brown sugar, salt, flour and cream. Blend the ingredients in the smaller bowl with a wooden spoon. Toss in the nuts and fold until all is evenly distributed. Empty the blend from the smaller bowl into the apples. Mix until all the apples have some coating and the big clumps of the sugar/nut mixture are minimized.

Remove the lined pie pan from the refrigerator. Empty the filling into the pie pan and smooth the top, so all is even. Drop the butter bits over the top, making sure there is an even distribution. Take a pastry brush and dip in water. Brush the top edge of the dough with the water and set filled pie aside.

Take out the other dough disc from the refrigerator. Roll this piece out, in the same manner as the first. Also, use the same method of rolling the dough around the rolling pin. This time you will unroll it over the filled pie. Cut off any overhang of dough. Seal and shape the pie dough edges or use the tines of a fork. Cut a few steam vents in the center top of the pie with a sharp knife. Dip a pastry brush in the milk and gently brush over the top. Lastly, sprinkle a bit of sugar over the surface of the pie.

Place pie on a baking sheet then put in preheated oven. Pie is done when apples are tender and crust is golden. Bake time is about 40-45 minutes. Remove and place on a cooling rack to stand at least 2 hours prior to slicing and serving.

Tips and Notes:
1. It is important that apples are sliced thin, diced or chunks of apples will require longer baking time in order to get tender.
2. A vinegar pie crust is patchable and easier to work with but you can use whatever pie dough recipe you want.
3. The amount of water for your dough will vary, depending on the weather. Humidity or a dry day will make the difference.
4. If you choose to refrigerate the pie for enjoying at another time, let sit out 1 hour before serving.
5. Check the pie at the halfway point in baking, you may need a pie shield to insure that the crust edges do not get too brown.
6. You can use the dough scraps cut from the top dough layer.  Cut into leaves or desired shapes and place on the pie top after cutting vents and prior to brushing milk over the top.
7. The filling will be very thick, so when blending with the apples you may want to use clean hands.  
8. There is no need to shape edges of the bottom dough, the shaping is done with both the top and bottom dough is sealed together.
                              **LAST YEAR:After Eight Cupcakes**