When I became I King 8 years ago I quickly learned that cake for your birthday is not the word around here, so if I baked a beautiful cake for my husband on his birthday he would be like “what do you want me to do with that?” It’s been a pleasure learning the art of pie making which of course begins with a beautiful flaky crust. The King crust is Crisco all the way, but if you come from the school of butter crusts go on ahead and do that, we won’t be mad.
We all love apple pie, especially when you drowned it in caramel and sprinkle it with raw sugar and flake salt – the combination makes this classic into an epic flavor party that you won’t want to miss. I know there are a few versions of this pie out there, but I’m a Four and Twenty Blackbirds devotee so mine is very slightly adapted from the one they are famous for. Just for fun I used the triangle in my toddlers shape ball to cut out this top crust and it turned out pretty amazing, but do whatever you like. I’m also a fan of the fat lattice they do at the aforementioned Four and Twenty Blackbirds – just do something fun and pretty. Now go be the star of your Thanksgiving feast and make this STAT!
King Crust – Combine 2 Cups flour, ⅔ Cup Crisco, 1 tsp Salt and 7-8 TBS ice cold water. Mix with pastry cutter or potato masher, then with hands until a nice dough forms. Cut into 2 balls, roll them out thin, cut one into strips for lattice, or use a cookie cutter to make a decorative top, and place the other into your pie plate.
1 C plus 2 TBS sugar
¼ C water
1 stick unsalted butter
½ C heavy cream
6-7 baking apples
2-3 dashes angostura bitters (I use them, it adds a little something, but don’t sweat it one bit if this rare ingredient is not in your pantry, it will taste great without)
⅓ cup raw or demerara sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
one grind blk pepper
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoon flour
¼ teaspoon flake salt (maldron is easy to find)
Egg wash (1 lrg egg whisked w/ 1 tsp water and pinch of salt)
Demerara sugar (also known as raw or turbinado sugar) for finishing
Caramel – Whisk together 1 cup of the sugar and the water in a medium-low heat until the sugar is just dissolved. Add the butter and bring to a slow boil. Continue cooking over medium heat until the mixture turns a deep golden brown (do not stir!) almost copper, but you don’t want to see smoke so not too crazy long. Remove from heat and immediately but slowly add the heavy cream – be careful, the mixture will bubble rapidly and steam. I like to add salt at this stage instead of putting salt on top of your filling before you top it with crust. I just whisk in 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt after the cream. Whisk the final mixture together well and set aside to cool while you prepare your apple filling.
Filling – Juice lemons into a large mixing bowl removing any seeds. Prepare the apples using an apple peeling machine or core, peel and finely slice them with a sharp knife or on a mandoline. Dredge the apple slices in the lemon juice. sprinkle lightly with the remaining 2 TBS sugar. Set aside to soften slightly and release some of the juices, 20-30 minutes. Once you’ve done this pour your extra juice out of the bowl, it’s very important you don’t fill your crust with loads of juice because no one wants an apple pie soup. I like to do this before I add the spices so none of those wash out and I get all the flavor.
In a small bowl, sprinkle the angostura bitters over the raw sugar. Add the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, black pepper, kosher salt, and flour and mix well. Add the prepared apples to the sugar-spice mixture, leaving behind any excess liquids that might have gathered. Gently turn apples to evenly distribute the spice mix.
Tightly layer the apples in the prepared pie shell so that there are minimal gaps, mounding the apples slightly higher in the center. Pour a generous ½ cup to ¾ cup of the caramel sauce evenly over the apples (use the larger quantity if you like a sweeter pie). Note that you won’t use all of the caramel, and it saves for weeks in the fridge. If you didn’t add salt to your caramel, then sprinkle with ¼ tsp of the flake salt, but skip this if you put salt in your caramel. Assemble the lattice on top of the pie and crimp the edges as desired.
Chill the pie in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to set the pastry. Meanwhile, position the oven racks in the bottom and center positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack and pre-heat oven to 400.
Brush the pastry with the egg wash to coat, being careful not to drag the caramel onto the pastry (it will burn) and sprinkle with the desired amount of demerara sugar and flake sea salt. Place the pie on the rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is set and beginning to brown. Lower the oven temp to 375 move the pie to the center oven rack, and continue to bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling, 30-35 minutes longer. Test the apples for doneness with a skewer or sharp knife; they should be tender and should offer just the slightest resistance.
Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2-3 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days, or room temp for 2 days.
Recipe adapted from Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book