Sure, you could just buy one. But a homemade pie, especially one this special, is a surefire way to impress whenever you're invited to dinner or want to pull out all the stops. And you won't find anything this delicious in the frozen section of the grocery store. Roll your sleeves up and bake one for your next visit to the in-laws (or potential in-laws) and you'll be on their good side for years.
The recipe is from Four & Twenty Blackbirds, a small pie shop in Brooklyn that makes some of the city's best desserts. Their uniquely delicious riffs on old favorites add just enough personality and unexpected flavor, while staying firmly grounded in tradition. Try one bite of this knockout combo – addicting salted caramel and soft spiced apples – and you'll have a good idea of what they're all about.
The best part? It's easy. Seriously. We're no experts, and we managed to make that beautiful pie up there. The recipe may look long, but we've noted some easy workarounds and helpful tips. The only tricky part is making caramel, and even that's not too bad if you know what to expect and have the patience to do it right. So go ahead and put your skills to the test. Your dinner guests will be very, very thankful.
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 8 to 10 tablespoons ice water mixed with 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- 5 to 6 medium to large apples (Crispin, Granny Smith, Cortland)
- Juice from 2 lemons
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup raw sugar (castor or turbinado)
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 to 3 dashes Angostora bitters
- 2 tablespoons flour
For the Crust
A homemade pie crust is a flaky, delicious thing of beauty, and earns you bragging rights. But if you don't want to bother, just look for pre-made pie dough at the grocery store. It costs about four bucks, is damn near indistinguishable from homemade, and saves you a ton of hassle.
- Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and pulse until the mixture is combined. To mix it by hand, cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry blender, two knives, or your hands.
- Add the water mixture a little at a time, while pulsing, until dough forms a ball.
- Divide the dough in 2, roll it out into discs big enough for a 9-inch pan, and wrap in plastic. Chill the discs for at least an hour.
- Place one disc in the bottom of the pan. There should be excess overlapping the rim – you'll crimp it up later.
For the Filling
Be very, very careful while making the caramel – this is no joke. Use too much heat, or take your eye off it for too long, and it can rapidly bubble over your pan in seconds, making a hard-to-clean mess of your stovetop and potentially causing serious burns. Follow each step carefully, and watch a video how-to beforehand so you know exactly what to expect.
- Cook the sugar and water together over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the butter, then bring to a slow boil.
- Continue cooking at a low boil until mixture turns a deep, golden brown color. Keep the heat low, and be patient so that you don't burn the caramel. If it smokes or turns too dark, you've gotta start over.
- Immediately remove the caramel from heat and slowly stir in heavy cream. Watch out, since it'll bubble and steam and the mixture is extremely hot and sticky.
- Whisk the mixture together over low heat and add sea salt. Set aside.
- Core, peel, and thinly slice the apples.
- Toss the sliced apples with lemon juice and the remaining ingredients.
Bringing It All Together
The lattice crust here isn't strictly necessary, but is easier than it looks and gives it a pro-level look. Here's how to do it easily. And brushing the top with a beaten egg is optional, too, but it helps give the crust a nice shine that adds to the presentation.
- Place half the apple fillings into the pie crust, then pour over half the caramel. Layer the rest of the filling on top, followed by the rest of the caramel.
- Roll out your second disc of pie dough and slice it into strips.
- Lay the strips on top of the pie in a lattice pattern. Crimp the edges of the crust together tightly.
- Beat one egg and brush it over the top of the pie. Sprinkle on an extra pinch of sea salt and sugar.
- Bake for 20 minutes at 375F.
- Reduce heat to 325F and bake for 25 to 35 minutes more. You'll know it's done when a toothpick or small knife can poke easily through the apple filling.
- Let cool for an hour before slicing, then serve and enjoy.