You know those uncles that you only see once a year, bringing you the coolest gifts and telling the corniest jokes? That’s my Uncle W. He has lived everywhere, from the busy commute of England to the pyramids of Egypt to…Kazakhstan (memorably described as “the armpit of the world”). His international lifestyle means I only get to see him during his annual visit to Canada, which happened to be right after I came back from school. I was beyond excited to start baking in my mom’s kitchen. It’s utterly luxurious compared to my student housing kitchen (ample counter space that’s clean? A huge pantry of well-organized ingredients? And most importantly – a brand new KitchenAid stand mixer?!). So when I called Uncle W. to ask him what dessert he wanted for the family dinner that night, I was hoping he’d go for something exotic or challenging, something that I’d been holding myself back from making during the school year. I was thinking “maybe a mango panna cotta, or salted caramel banana cream pie, or fruit flan made with frangipane…” and then he says “Oh I know! Apple pie!”
“Umm…you just want regular old fashioned apple pie?”
“Yeah that sounds great! See you tonight!”
Well then. I offered the entire dessert world on a platter but the man still chose the ubiquitous apple pie. Who was I to say no? If I had to make apple pie he definitely wasn’t getting it the regular old fashioned way.
I used the Perfect Apple Pie recipe from seriouseats.com which I’ve been dying to try since it was posted. Kenji, the recipe developer, goes into the science of apple pie – the apples which give the best structure, enzymatic activity of apple juice, the secret to perfect pie crust. It all culminates in one of the best pies I’ve ever made.
But it wasn’t enough – this couldn’t be a normal apple pie, I wanted flair! I decided to introduce honey-bourbon caramel to the apples. Caramel and apples go way back, they’re like the people who have been friends since the fourth grade. Except now caramel has gone off to college in Kentucky and come back boozed up and ready to party. The bourbon cut the sweetness of the caramel and added complexity; I only added 2 tbsp and could barely taste it so next time I’d probably put in a bit more to bring out the flavour.
The golden pie crust was super buttery and flakey, shattering under my fork to reveal the spicy tender apples mixed with smoky sweet caramel. Needless to say, Uncle W. loved it and we all fought over the last piece. Nothing like family lovin’ to make your desserts taste better.
Easy Pie Dough (from Serious Eats)
• 12.5 ounces (1.56 cups) all-purpose flour
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pats
• 6 tablespoons cold water
- Combine 2/3rds of flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse twice to incorporate. Spread butter chunks evenly over surface. Pulse until no dry flour remains and dough just begins to collect in clumps, about 25 short pulses. Use a rubber spatula to spread the dough evenly around the bowl of the food processor. Sprinkle with remaining flour and pulse until dough is just barely broken up, about 5 short pulses. Transfer dough to a large bowl.
- Sprinkle with water then using a rubber spatula, fold and press dough until it comes together into a ball. Divide ball in half. Form each half into a 4-inch disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before rolling and baking.
• 3 pounds Golden Delicious, Braeburn, or other baking apples, peeled cored, and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
• 3 quarts boiling water
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling over crust
• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon allspice
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 tablespoon cornstarch
• 1 recipe Easy Pie Dough
• 1 egg white, lightly beaten
Honey Bourbon Caramel Ingredients:
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 1/4 cup mild honey
• 2 tbsp bourbon
• 2 tablespoons water
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and place a heavy rimmed baking sheet on it. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place apple slices in a large bowl or pot. Pour boiling water directly over top. Cover and set aside at room temperature for ten minutes. Drain apples well and transfer to a large bowl. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally. Add sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, salt, and cornstarch and toss until apples are evenly coated. Set mixture aside.
- Bring 1/2 cup sugar, honey, bourbon and water to a boil in a 1 1/2- to 2-qt heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then wash down any sugar crystals from side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Boil without stirring, swirling pan occasionally so caramel colors evenly, until dark amber, about 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and add butter, swirling pan until butter is melted. Be careful here as the caramel will hiss and spatter. Pour over apples and toss (caramel may harden but will melt in oven – promise!).
- Roll one disk of pie dough into a circle roughly 12-inches in diameter. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. Add filling. Roll remaining disk of pie dough into a circle roughly 12-inches in diameter. Transfer to top of pie. Using a pair of kitchen shears, trim the edges of both pie crusts until they slightly overhang the edge of the pie plate. Use the thumb and forefinger on your right hand to crimp the edges of the two pie doughs together. Cut 5 slits in the top with a sharp knife for ventilation.
- Use a pastry brush to brush an even coat of lightly beaten egg white all over the top surface of the pie. Transfer pie to sheet tray in the oven and bake until light golden brown, about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375°F and continue baking until deep golden brown, about 25 minutes longer. Remove from oven and allow to cool at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving.