Monday, November 28, 2011

Salted Caramel Apple Pie with Vanilla Bean Pâte Brisée

Apple pie is just the ultimate Thanksgiving dessert in my opinion, over pecan pie or anything else for that matter. There is just something so comforting about the cinnamon-y apples that are baked until tender and then surrounded by a beautiful pastry crust. Well, even though classic apple pie is always a hit, I thought that for such an important family holiday that we should do a different spin to make it that much better. To start with the filling, I tossed a variety of my favorite apples in lemon juices and seasonings, and then layered them into a pie dish with a homemade salted caramel sauce. But the most important part of any pie to me is the beautiful pastry crust (it is obviously the best part to me). I made a traditional Pâte Brisée, which is a French all-butter dough that yields the most flaky layers. But for my own little twist, I added about 4 vanilla beans into the dough, so that when it baked, the essence of vanilla bean would perfume the rest of the pie. However, what I was most excited for was the pattern that I turned out as decoration for the recipe. I topped it with the ever-popular lattice crust, and then I used dough to form braids that I laid along the rim of the pie dish. And, make sure that you brush it with egg wash, drizzle with a little more caramel, and sprinkle it with raw bourbon vanilla sugar & fleur de sel. This pie was amazing, I honestly can't think about anything else. Actually, it was so popular that my family & friends ate the whole damn thing before I could even take a picture of a slice (bummer). I know this recipe seems like so much work, but oh man will you devour it!! Enjoy :)
The Apple Pie Before Being Baked
See those tiny black specks... those are vanilla beans (delicious)
Salted Caramel Apple Pie with Vanilla Bean Pâte Brisée 
Up Close & Personal of the Beautiful Golden-Brown Topping
For the Vanilla Bean Pâte Brisée:
3 ¾C AP Flour (plus extra for rolling)
3 Sticks of butter, Chilled & Cut into ½inch Cubes
1 ½t Salt
1T+1 ½t Sugar
12-18T Ice Water, Very Cold
4 Vanilla Beans, Sliced & Scraped for Beans

For the Salted Caramel Sauce:
2C Sugar
1 ½ Sticks of Unsalted Butter, Room Temperature
2t Fleur de Sel (plus a little extra for sprinkling on top of the finished caramel)
1 1/3C Heavy Cream, Room Temperature

For the Apple Pie:
6 Medium Apples (Two of Each: Granny Smith, Gala, & Fuji) Sliced Thinly
4 Lemons
1/3C Gourmet Raw Bourbon Vanilla Sugar (plus more for sprinkling on top)
2T Flour
2T Cornstarch
½t Cinnamon
¼t Ground Allspice
Pinch of Freshly Grated Nutmeg
2-3 Dashes of Bitters
Prepared Vanilla Bean Pastry Crusts
Prepared Salted Caramel Sauce
1 Egg Beaten
Fleur de Sel, For Sprinkling
1. To Make the Vanilla Bean Pâte Brisée: Start by cutting the sticks of butter into ½inch cubes and placing in the freezer bag, along with the flour, salt, and sugar. Place the bag of flour into the freezer and chill for at least 1-2 hours. In a food processor, pour the frozen flour bag in, as well as the scraped vanilla beans, and pulse 6-8 times until the mixture resembles a course meal, with pea size pieces of butter. Add water 1T at a time, pulsing until the mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch of some of the crumbly dough and it holds together then it’s ready. Remove the dough from the machine and place on a clean surface. Carefully split the dough into two pieces (the first piece should be roughly 2/3 of the dough the second piece should be 1/3 of the dough) and shape into discs. Do not over knead the dough. You should still be able to see little bits of butter in the dough. Sprinkle the discs with a little flour on all sides and wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour. Remove the discs from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle some flour on top of the disk. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 12inch circle (1/8inch thick). Place the larger (2/3) rolled out disc on to a deep dish spring form pan, lining up the fold with the center of the pan, trimming the excess and crimping the edges. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes.
2. To Make the Salted Caramel Sauce: In a large saucepan, bring it up to medium-high heat. Pour in sugar and keep continuously whisking until the sugar begins to melt and the lumps dissolve. This sugar will begin to turn a light caramel color, at this point add in the salt and all of the butter. The mixture will begin to bubble, but keep stirring. Finally, take the pan off the heat, and pour in the heavy cream (once again, it will bubble, but just keep stirring) and stir until it is a smooth, consistent sauce. Pour this caramel into a bowl and let it cool completely before layering it into the pie.
3. Preheat the oven to 375-400 degrees and position an oven rack in the upper-middle position.
4. In a large mixing bowl, juice the lemons and add in the thinly sliced apples (I used a mandolin) and coat them with the lemon juice to prevent browning. Set the apple slices aside while you make the apple filling seasoning.
5. In a small mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, spices, and bitters. Toss well to combine. Sprinkle this mixture over the apples in the mixing bowl, using your hands to gently mix and coat the apples, and drain excess lemon juice. 
6. Assemble the Pie: When the bottom crust has finished chilling, begin by layering 1/3 of the apple mixture in the bottom of the crust. Pour 1/3 of the salted caramel over the apples. Add another 1/3 of the apples and caramel for a second layer and repeat for a third layer until all the ingredients have been used. Dot the surface of the apples with the pieces of cold butter. Roll out the remaining pie dough onto a floured work surface. Cut out numerous shapes or use do a latticework crust and use these to cover the top of the apple pie. Brush the top and edges of the crust with the egg wash, vanilla sugar, and fleur de sel.
7. Place the pie on a baking sheet (because the caramel will bubble over) and bake for 20-25 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 and bake for another 25-35 minutes.
8. Let the pie cool. Slice and serve with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, and enjoy!

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