I’m pretty sure I’ve made more pies in the last two months than I’ve made in the last couple of years. Between practicing for Organic Valley’s employee apple pie contest, baking for Thanksgiving, and testing out this apple pie I have definitely made (and eaten!) my fair share of pies this fall. And they’ve all been delicious- it’s hard to go wrong with pie, right? Especially if you top if off with some homemade vanilla bean ice cream or a dollop of Organic Valley whipped cream.
Earlier this year Organic Valley partnered with Amy Beehler from the 112 Eatery in Minneapolis to create this amazing Caramel Apple Pie using Organic Valley’s award winning butter and cream. This pie is a perfect combination of traditional apple pie flavors with a few new twists (hello bourbon caramel sauce!) I made the pie a few days before Thanksgiving so I could take my photos and then planned to wrap it up and save it for Thanksgiving, but, it was just too delicious and it disappeared long before our holiday dinner!
In all my pie making this fall, this crust might be my favorite so far. It tastes amazing- flaky, tender, buttery, and it’s easy to work with. Check out my step-by-step photos and scroll all the way to the bottom for the ingredients and directions. If you’d like a closer look at anything, just click on the photo for a larger view. I hope you enjoy this pie as much as I did!
I feel like the crust is the most controversial part of pie making. If you google tips for pie crusts you’ll find dozens of suggestions ranging from adding vinegar or vodka to debating the merits of lard, butter and shortening. Of course, you’ll also find a good percentage of people who vote for just buying a crust in the freezer section. Crust really isn’t that hard to make though, and this crust is super easy to work with so I’d encourage you to give it a go! The first step to the crust is cutting the butter into small pieces and putting it in the freezer for about 15 minutes to chill.
After the butter has chilled, add your flour and salt to a bowl and stir to combine. I like using my mixer for this step, but you can use a bowl and a pastry cutter too (two knives will also get the job done if you don’t have a pastry cutter) and some people like using a food processor for making crusts also.
Add your chilled butter
And mix it until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs and the biggest pieces of butter are about the same size as peas.
Add in the cold whole milk and stir it together until the crust just comes together- avoid over mixing since that can result in a tough crust.
Pat the dough into a ball and place it on a work space. I love using a pastry mat for rolling out crusts (easy clean-up!) but a counter or table dusted with flour will work great too. Divide the dough in half. Try to make the two halves equal, but if one is slightly larger use that as the bottom crust.
Flatten them into disks and tightly wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour or up to a week.
While the crust is chilling, peel, core and slice your apples. Sprinkle a little fresh lemon juice over the apple slices to keep them from browning.
Start your filling by combining the butter and sugar over medium heat.
Stir until the butter and sugar are both melted- about 7-8 minutes. Once the sugar has melted, stop stirring and allow the sugar to caramelize.
While the sugar is caramelizing, combine your cornstarch and apple juice (I used apple cider since we had some on hand)
Whisk it until smooth, then set aside.
Once the sugar has caramelized, add the almond flavored liqueur and the apples.
Some of the caramel might ‘seize’ when you add the apples. Don’t stress though, it’ll melt again and smooth out. Cook the mixture for about 8 minutes until the apples are softened. If you’re like me and want to multi-task, you can jump ahead to rolling out your crusts while the apples soften. Just make sure to keep an eye on the apples and stir them occasionally.
See- the caramel melted again and everything is looking (and smelling!) delicious. Add your spices and the cornstarch mixture and stir until smooth. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the mixture thickens, then remove from the heat and set aside.
Now it’s time to roll out the crust! Flour your work surface- I always err on the side of extra flour, rolling out a beautiful pie crust and having it stick to the counter is the worst.
See on the bottom right part of the crust where it’s starting to stick to the rolling pin? Time to dust the top with more flour. I like to roll my crust a few times in one direction, then pick up the crust and rotate it 90 degrees. That’s a good way to know if it’s sticking so you can add extra flour.
Once it’s rolled out to the appropriate thickness (1/8-inch in this case), I like to set my pie pan down on top to make sure it’s big enough. This old tin pie pan is a little tarnished, but it belonged to my great-grandmother. I love baking with it and thinking of all the pies that have been produced for my family. Since I had a fair bit of extra crust left around the edges I trimmed a little off to make it easier to handle. It doesn’t need to be neat and tidy yet since the crust will be further trimmed after the apples are added. If you do trim your crust at this step, make sure to leave it a couple of inches wider than your pan.
Roll the crust up onto your rolling pin to make it easy to transport
Then unroll the crust into your pie pan. Press it gently into the base and sides of the pie pan
Repeat the process with your second disk of pie dough- this will be the top layer of your pie
Again, I trimmed the edges a bit to make it easier to handle
Crack an egg into a small bowl or cup and whisk with a fork, this will be used to brush the top crust before it goes in the oven
Once your apples are finished, pour them into the crust lined pie pan
Roll the top layer of crust onto your rolling pin and place it over the apples.
Gently press down on the top crust until it is touching the apples. Pinch the edges of the top and bottom crust together.
Cut several slits in the top of the crust to allow steam to escape while it’s baking, then lightly brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with a bit of sugar. This will give the top crust a lovely brown color. Stick it in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes.
While the pie is baking, you can make the caramel sauce. Start by pouring your cream and bourbon into a small pot. Place it on the stove so it gently simmers but doesn’t boil.
In another, larger pot, combine the sugar, water and vanilla and cook over high heat, stirring a couple of times. Once it has reached a rolling boil, stop stirring and cook until the sugar caramelizes. The photo on the right is the color you’re aiming for. If you’re cooking in a pot with a dark colored bottom it can be hard to tell when the sugar is caramelized. To test the color, dip a spoon into the sugar and let a few drops fall onto a white plate or paper towel so you can see how the color is progressing.
Once the sugar has caramelized, remove the pot from the heat and slowly pour in the cream and bourbon mixture. The sugar will steam and bubble pretty violently, so be careful!
Stir it until smooth. If the caramel ‘seizes’ return it to the heat and stir it until smooth. I like to add a dash of salt here, but that is totally optional. If you have any little bits of hard sugar in there just strain it through a sieve. Store the caramel in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
Pull your pie out of the oven when it’s a light golden brown on top then set it aside to cool completely. Before serving you can warm up the pie if you’d like, but it’ll cut more smoothly if it has had time to cool first
Serve your pie with a drizzle of the caramel and a big dollop of fresh whipped cream! I can’t imagine you’ll have leftovers, but if you do, they’ll store well in the fridge.