My best friend’s birthday was this week. We’ve been friends for twenty-two years, going back to when we first moved into our new homes on the same street of a spanking new development. Although she and her family moved from Cleveland, and we moved from Chicago, we were each experiencing the same feelings of excitement, ambiguity, and trepidation that such a move can elicit. Our husbands were beginning new jobs, our children new schools, and all of us were leaving old friends behind.
Long after the crates are unpacked and everything in its new place seemingly settled, the unsettled feeling within us can remain. I don’t know of a better fix for that than to find a new old friend. And thankfully, my friend and I found each other. We are drawn to others initially because of similar interests, but a lasting friendship is ultimately based on much more. It is life’s experiences, both good and bad, shared over time that create the bonds of friendship. And of that my friend and I have many. So naturally when one of our birthdays comes around it is a cause for celebration, and for me celebration is a cause for eating! That, by the way, is another thing we agree on.
So what to make for my best friend’s birthday? Something special for someone special, and this year it was Salted Caramel Apple Pie! This recipe I found online after having seen and read much about the two sisters from South Dakota who opened their pie shop called Four and Twenty Blackbirds recently in Brooklyn. It’s a fabulous pie. The apples are flavored with fresh lemon juice and spices before layering them with the caramel sauce, balancing the sweetness with the tartness. The buttery caramel also adds just the right amount of richness to the pie. And the addition of sea salt and raw sugar sprinkled on the crust before baking adds a wonderful crunch to the pastry.
Although they prefer using an all butter pastry for the crust, I have used my favorite pie crust recipe which includes vegetable shortening along with the butter for extra flakiness. Otherwise I followed the recipe pretty closely, with a few exceptions that are noted. And if I’m ever in Brooklyn I plan to stop by Four and Twenty Blackbirds for a piece of pie and a cup of coffee. I hope you’ll do the same.
Four and Twenty Blackbirds Salted Caramel Apple Pie
Recipe courtesy Melissa and Emily Elsen
Prep Time:1 hr 30 minInactive Prep Time:1 hr 30 minCook Time:55 minLevel:IntermediateServes:1 (9-inch) pie
- Pie Crust
- 1 recipe your favorite (2-crust) butter pie crust
- Salted Caramel
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) fresh unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup fresh heavy cream
- 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (recommended: Maldon sea salt flakes)
- Apple Filling
- 4 to 6 lemons
- 5 to 6 medium to large apples*
- *Cook’s Note: A mixture of Crispin, Granny Smith, and Cortland is nice if you can.
- Apple Filling Seasoning
- 1/3 cup raw sugar (castor, unrefined, large granule sugar)
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 to 3 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 egg beaten
- Raw sugar, for sprinkling on top
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (flake)
- Special equipment: Mandoline for slicing, and a pastry brush.
To make the pie crust:
Prepare one 2-crust batch of your favorite all butter pie crust. Roll the bottom crust to fit a 9-inch pan, and cut the top crust as a lattice, approximately 1-inch in width or as desired. Chill the rolled crust while you prepare the salted caramel and apple filling.
To make the salted caramel:
Cook the sugar and water together over low heat until just dissolved. Add the butter and bring to a slow boil. Continue cooking at a low boil until the mixture turns a deep, golden brown color, almost copper.
Cook’s Note: This process can take awhile depending on the heat source. Keep an eye on it, if the caramel begins to smoke, you’ve burned it and you’ll have to start over.
Once the mixture has turned a copper color, remove it from the heat and immediately add the heavy cream - the mixture will bubble rapidly and steam - be cautious as the sugar will be very hot.
Whisk the final mixture together well over low heat and sprinkle in the sea salt. Set the caramel aside while you prepare the apple filling.
To make the apple filling:
Juice the lemons into a large mixing bowl. Core, peel, and thinly slice the whole apples. Cook’s Note: A mandolin works great for producing very thin slices.
Dredge all the apple slices in the freshly squeezed lemon juice to prevent browning and to add flavor. Set the prepared apples aside.
To make the apple filling seasoning:
In a large measuring cup or small mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and Angostura bitters. Sprinkle this mixture over the apples in the mixing bowl. Use your hands to gently mix and coat the apple slices.
To assemble the pie:
Preheat the oven to 375 to 400 degrees F (depending on the hotness of your oven).
Gather your rolled pie crust, salted caramel, and apple mixture. Begin by layering 1/3 of the apples in the bottom of the crust so that there are minimal gaps. Pour 1/3 of the caramel over the apples. Add 1/3 of the apples and caramel for a second layer, and then add a third layer of apples, and then the caramel again. Cook’s Note: Save a small portion of the caramel to pour on top once the lattice is assembled.
Assemble the lattice crust and flute the edges of the crust. Pour the last bit of caramel on top. Brush the crust with the beaten egg and lightly sprinkle with raw sugar and sea salt.
Bake the pie on a baking sheet larger than the pie pan for 20 minutes (otherwise the caramel will bubble over and burn on the bottom of your oven). Reduce the oven temperature to 325 to 350 and bake for 25 to 35 minutes. You can test the apples for doneness with a long toothpick or small knife. The apples should be just soft.
Let the pie cool, then slice and enjoy.
Note: I made the following changes: I made a 10 inch pie so I increased the number of apples to 7.
I used sugar in the raw (natural cane turbinado sugar).
I used 4 large lemons.
I used my regular sea salt that I had, but ground it . (I’ll look for Maldon next time)
I used a combination of granny smith, stayman, and honey crisp apples. The honey crisp may be a bit too juicy, but it worked.
I doubled the amount of spices to accommodate the larger amount of apples.
I carefully sliced the apples with a sharp santoku knife because I don’t have a Mandoline.
I omitted the Angostura bitters. (didn’t have it in my bar)