Sunday, March 6, 2011

Caramel Apple-Pecan Pie (Yes, we're still baking)

So, I'm sure a lot of you thought we had dropped off the face of the earth, or at least the Interwebs. Truthfully, we've all been really busy lately, but we shouldn't have neglected baking and blogging for so long. Krissy just graduated from pastry school, Katie's busy with her new job, and I just want to go on a diet.

I picked this pie because Ben's mom bought me a beautiful Emile Henri pie plate for Christmas, and I was dying to use it. And everyone loves an apple pie; I just wanted to make mine with a little flair. This one is definitely a crowd-pleaser, especially if you're looking for a way to spice up your apple pie.

Caramel Apple-Pecan Pie
Adapted from "Pie"

Single pie crust recipe of your choice
10 caramels, each cut into 4 pieces

7 cups peeled, cored, and sliced Golden Delicious apples
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

Pecan Crumb Topping
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

Caramel and Garnish
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tbsp water
30 caramels
Large handful of pecan halves or pieces
1/2 chopped pecans

Prepare the single pie crust according to the recipe of your choice. Refrigerate until firm enough to roll, about 1 hour.

On a sheet of lightly floured waxed paper, roll the pastry into a 13-inch circle with a floured rolling pin. Invert the pastry over a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie pan, center, and peel off the paper. Tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it, and sculpt the edge into an upstanding ridge. Scatter the caramel pieces in the pie shell and place in the freezer while you make the filling. Preheat the over to 400 degrees.

Combine the apples, brown sugar and lemon juice in a large bowl. Mix well, then set aside for 5 to 10 minutes to juice. Mix the granulated sugar and cornstarch together in a small bowl. Stir the mixture into the fruit along with the cinnamon and vanilla. Scrape the filling into the chilled pie shell, smoothing the fruit with your hands leaving as little space as possible. (If the fruit mounds over the crust, that's ok because it will bake down). Put the pie on the center oven rack and back for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the crumb topping by combining the flour, pecans, granulated sugar and salt in a food processor. Pulse several times, copping the nuts coarsely. Scatter the butter over the dry mixture and pulse the machine again until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Transfer the crumbs to a bowl and rub the mixture between your fingers to make damp, gravelly crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Remove the pie from the oven and reduce the temperature to 375 degrees. Carefully dump the crumbs in the center of the pie, spreading them evenly over the surface with your hands. Push them down lightly in the apples. Return the pie to oven, placing it so that the part that faced the back of the oven now faces forward. Slide a large aluminum foil-lined sheet onto the rack below to catch any drips (seriously, don't skip this step). Bake until the juices bubble thickly around the edges, 30-40 minutes (mine went for a little longer). If necessary, cover the pie with loosely tented foil for the last 15 minutes to keep the top from getting too dark.

Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for about 1 hour. While the pie is still warm - approaching the 1 hour mark - prepare the caramel. Combine the butter, water and caramels in the top of a double boiler (I don't have one of these so I just use a glass mixing bowl - works like a charm). Melt the caramels over, not in, barely simmering water. This may take 10 minutes or more. To facilitate the melting, press down on them as they start to soften and melt. When melted, whisk the mixture until is smooth, then drizzle the caramel over the entire surface of the pie. Immediately press the pecan halves into the caramel in a random fashion, then sprinkle the chopped pecans over the top as well. Let cool for another hour before serving.

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