Brown Butter Caramel Apple Pie
Grammy's pie meets rich and full flavors with brown butter caramel sauce and crisp apples
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The very best part of any Holiday meal, the apple pie. I have a slight obsession with apple treats and feel like they are greatly under appreciated. They are simple and have been around forever so sometimes they just need to be jazzed up a bit to remind the general public how truly amazing they are.
Enter brown butter caramel apple pie. This pie holds all the nostalgia of grandma's house with deep flavors and a thick caramel sauce that incorporates the apples which makes everything so unbelievably delicious. Just think of all the layers of flavors. My father in law has proclaimed this pie, "The best apple pie he has ever had".
Any good pie starts with a flakey crust. My go to pie crust has been handed down from my grandparents with few alterations by myself. It's like a marriage between a pie crust and a puff pastry. It is flakey and has the most beautifully crispy layers. Plus the flavor (yum) you could eat it alone and be completely happy. My grandparents always put vinegar in the crust. This raises the pH level of the water slightly which leads to quicker evaporation. Which means flakey crust. I add apple cider vinegar because I have found it have a more friendly tasted when cooked/baked.
Pie crust, in my opinion, needs butter and it must be COLD. I prefer butter because I feel like it is easier to work with and the flavor, again, is unmatched. I cut it up into about quarter inch cubes and then toss it into the flour using my hands to work it in. I feel like I have better control of it this way. Pie crust is much like scones, where you don't want to over work it and you look for a consistency more than following a recipe to the T. For example on dryer days you may need to add more water (ice cold) and on days that it's warmer you need to chill to dough more to keep the butter nice and cold. you just want your dough to come together, held mostly by the butter.
For my butter I like to have a combination of quarter size pieces and pea sixed pieces. When I roll it out I like to see chunks of butter because I know these will puff up the dough leading to a layered flakey crust.
Okay, on to the filling. Where the crust is the foundation, the filling is all the nice decorations. with out both you just have a meh pie. BUT when both are working together and really shining you have a pie that will be talked about forever. That's what we want. To bring a pie to any family gathering and have good ol' aunt Trish rave over it to everyone and anyone that will listen.
So, I like to use a combination of crisp apples. I use a good ol' granny smith because the flesh is tart and crispy. I also choose a sweet red apple like honey crisp or gala. neither of these are too sweet and they have a really crisp flesh as well. Using both a tart apple and a semi-sweet one will give your pie a depth of flavor and keep you taste buds awake and excited. The crispy flesh leads to a better textural bite. We do cook the apples till tender before baking so you want something that wont break down easily.
As mentioned, we cook the apples before adding them to the pie. First we brown our butter and the add in HALF the apples with brown sugar and spices. We allow this to all cook together to make a beautiful caramel apple sauce. Then we add in some thickening agents and remove from heat. The rest of the apples are added in at this point and everything is allowed to cool to room temp while you roll out your dough and prep it for the apples.
All of this leads to a delicious, flavorful and textural pie. It's lots of little steps, but the little steps make all the difference.
Brown Butter Caramel Apple Pie
For the crust:
2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup (2sticks) cold cubed butter
1 TBSP sugar
1 tsp salt
3-5 TBSP ice water
1/2 TBSP apple cider vinegar
For the filling:
4 granny smith apples
3 honey crisp, gala or pink lady apples
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
peel and slice apples. add everything to a large bowl and mix together. Set aside and brown your butter.
To a large pan add:
1 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 TBSP flour
1 TBSP corn starch
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Brown the butter on medium heat. Once the butter is browned add in vanilla. Then add in half of the cut apples. Make sure to get as much of the apple juices at the bottom of the bowl as possible. Cook apples till tender. Add in the flour, corn starch and spices and stir till thickened. take off heat and add in the rest of the apples and all the juices. stir all together in your pan and allow to cool to room temp.
To a large bowl add in flour, salt and sugar. mix together. Toss in cubed butter. Working it into the flour with your hands still you have a mixture of pea sized pieces and nickel sized pieces. Add in 3 TBSP ice water and 1/2 TBSP of AC vinegar. mix together. If the dough looks too dry add a little ore water. you are looking for a shaggy dough. When you press it together will it hold a shape? If so dump out on to a cold surface and fold on to itself about 3-4 times. form into a disk shape and divide into two equal pieces. you will get two 9" pie crusts from this recipe. chill dough in the fridge for at least an hour. give it time to get nice and cold again before hand. You can also make this ahead of time and store in fridge for a week or in freezer for up to 3 months.
Preheat oven to 425 f. While oven is warming up, roll out dough on a cold and floured surface. Roll the dough out to about 12" diameter. This gives you enough crust to create a lattice or a closed pie top. Transfer pie crust to a 9" pie pan. Press lightly into the pan so that no air bubbles form. Allow pie crust to hang over edges of pie pan. Add cooked apples and caramel sauce to the crust. Top it with the remaining crust and crimp the crust together. You will start by trimming the excess crust to about a half inch wider than the pan. Grabbing both bottom and top crust roll it under itself and crimp the finger and knuckle method. I show this process on Instagram so be sure to check there if you need it.
Lower over temp to 350 f (180 c) and lower the wire rack to the middle of the oven. Place pie in the center of the rack and bake for 20-25 minutes. Add a pie ring or foil to the outer edges and allow to cook for another 25 minutes or till the crust is golden brown and the apples are bubbling.
Allow to cool and serve with ice cream. Enjoy