Four & Twenty Blackbirds Salted Caramel Apple Pie
Last year we hosted our first ever Thanksgiving dinner in our tiny European kitchen with 8 of our closest friends (I say we, but let’s be honest, it was all me)… I will only gloat for a few moments, but I was just so gosh dang proud of myself for pulling it off.
I was able to cook the turkey perfectly in my too small of an oven and I made gravy with the drippings for the first time in my life! I timed it perfectly and had everything ready to serve while it was still warm and we had enough food for second and even third servings! It was a major success in my eyes and I kept giving myself little pats on the back throughout the night… And then it was dessert time…
Normally, I don’t think twice about desserts besides what to make… It’s not an area where I feel particularly inept or inexperienced, say for instance like making gravy, so I tried making the NY Times Double Crust Apple Pie recipe without giving it a second thought. I made the crust ahead of time and that turned out fine, but on my search for quick-cooking tapioca, I picked up tapioca starch instead… News flash, it’s not the same thing and it tastes like POISON.
I was feeling pretty confident after pulling off my first Thanksgiving dinner in Italy so I kind of winged the apple pie. It didn’t help that my friend’s four-year-old son was helping me and we (mostly me) accidentally poured more tapioca starch over the apples than desired and the apples ended up super slimy with a strong tapioca-like flavor. It was terrible! Inedible to the point that I threw away the entire pie after cutting one slice for a friend who will eat anything.
I was pretty bummed. I came so close to the perfect Thanksgiving dinner but this damn pie ruined it! I also love nothing more than eating a slice of warm apple pie with ice cream for leftovers… so I was real pissed. I was determined to make this pie again so that my friends could taste a true American apple pie… Correct my mistakes!
My first mistake was using only Granny Smith Apples. Normally, I love baking with Granny Smtih Apples because they are tart and hold their shape and don’t turn into mush. But for apple pie, I think it’s best to use a mix of tart apples and sweet apples, like Fuji, Honeycrisp, or Golden Delicious. Although I blamed the tapioca starch for ruining the dessert, I don’t think it would have been as delicious as I would have liked regardless because the filling wasn’t that special. I spiced the apples with allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and brown sugar and then squeezed some lemon juice over it, but I still felt like it was lacking… I wanted a “wow!” factor and that usually comes in the form of salted caramel…
To redeem my apple pie mishap last year, I decided to make Four and Twenty Blackbird’s Salted Caramel Apple Pie. Four and Twenty Blackbirds is a Brooklyn bakery that specializes in all things pie and their Salted Caramel Apple Pie is making headlines as one of America’s “Best Apple Pies.” It is a delicious twist on the traditional, with a classic, flaky, all-butter crust, overflowing with apples, and drenched in a salted caramel sauce. Definitely “wow!” factor worthy.
Four and Twenty Blackbirds Salted Caramel Apple Pie
Yield: One 9-inch pie
Prep Time: 4 hours
Cook Time: 1 hour
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
- 6 tablespoons ice-cold water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ pounds (1 stick) unsalted butter
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 lemons
- 6 to 7 baking apples (about 2½ pounds)
- 2 to 3 dashes Angostura bitters
- ⅓ cup raw sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- One grind fresh black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon flake sea salt, plus more for finishing
- Egg wash (1 large egg whisked with 1 teaspoon water and a pinch of salt)
- Demerara sugar, for finishing
- To make the pie crust, whisk flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Using a dough blender, two forks, or your fingers, cut butter into flour mixture, forming pea-size crumbles. Add water; work dough until smooth but with visible flecks of butter. (Alternatively, pulse ingredients in a food processor.) Divide dough in half and flatten into disks. Wrap disks in plastic wrap; chill 1 hour before using.
- To make the salted caramel, whisk together 1 cup of the granulated sugar and the water in a medium saucepan, and cook over medium-low heat until the sugar is just dissolved. Add the butter and bring to a slow boil. Continue cooking over medium heat until the mixture turns a deep golden brown, almost copper. Remove from the heat and immediately but slowly add the heavy cream - be careful, the mixture will bubble rapidly and steam. Whisk the final mixture together well and set aside to cool while you prepare the apple filling.
- To make the apple filling, juice the lemons into a large mixing bowl, removing any seeds. Prepare the apples using an apple-peeling machine, or core, peel, and thinly slice them with a sharp knife or mandoline. Dredge the apple slices in the lemon juice. Sprinkle lightly with the remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Set aside to soften slightly and release some of the juices, 20 to 30 minutes.
- In a small bowl, sprinkle the Angostura bitters over the raw sugar. Add the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, black pepper, kosher salt, and flour, and mix well. Add the prepared apples to the sugar-spice mixture, leaving behind any excess liquids. Gently turn the apples to evenly distribute the spice mix.
- To assemble the pie, tightly layer the apples in the prepared pie shell so that there are minimal gaps, mounding the apples slightly higher in the center. Pour a generous ½ cup to ¾ cup of the caramel sauce evenly over the apples (use the larger quantity of sauce if you'd like a sweeter pie). Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of the flake sea salt. Assemble the lattice on top of the pie and crimp the edges as desired.
- Chill the pie in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to set the pastry. Meanwhile, position the oven racks in the bottom and center positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack, and preheat the oven to 400F.
- Brush the pastry with the egg wash to coat, being careful not to drag the caramel onto the pastry (it will burn), and sprinkle with the desired amount of demerara sugar and flake sea salt. Place the pie on the rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pastry is set and beginning to brown. Lower the oven temperature to 375F, move the pie to the center oven rack, and continue to bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes longer. Test the apples for doneness with a skewer or sharp knife; they should be tender and should offer just the slightest resistance.
- Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
- The pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days.