Apple Pie with a Caramel Crust

When I think of my favorite desserts, I think of pastries. Give me a cannoli, some kataifi, or a chocolate-filled croissant and I’m in heaven. But my husband? Well, he’s a pie guy. He prefers pies over cakes, ice cream, and pretty much every other sweet treat. He loves all pies, but if he had to pick a favorite, it would be a warm apple pie.

And so, my quest for making the perfect apple pie began. I baked (and baked and baked) and then finally at Thanksgiving, my father and husband declared this apple pie “the best ever.” I sincerely hope you agree (if not, I apologize in advance for the spent calories).

Now, making an apple pie is a fairly simple process. Please don’t be deterred by the length of this post. I’m just trying to be thorough, y’all! You could make your own pie crust, but I generally don’t because by the time I decide to make the pie, I want it fast. Fast, I tell you! So, I use a deep dish frozen crust for the bottom and a refrigerated pie crust for the top (I do realize I’ll probably be burned -figuratively speaking- for violating the Apple Pie Purist Club’s rules, but I can live with that).

With that said, here is your ingredient list for the pie:

  • 7-10 apples, peeled, cored and sliced thinly
  • 1 frozen deep dish pie crust
  • 1 refrigerated, rolled out pie crust
  • 1-2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 Tbs. sugar

For the caramel topping:

  • 1/2 cup butter (one stick)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup water

Okay, first things first – get someone in your house to peel and core the apples because it is a time consuming and thankless task. Seriously, it’s my least favorite part of the entire process so I have the hubs pitch in here. I should mention that you can use whatever apples you prefer. I like using Golden Delicious apples myself, but I’m sure this would come out great regardless of the variety of apple that you choose. Next, slice your apples into thin wedges. You want them to be done cooking by the time your crust is golden.

Once your apples are sliced, toss them really well with 1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of sugar and set them aside.

The next step is making the caramel topping that we’re going to pour over the assembled pie. Caramel is easy to make, but you need to watch it carefully so that it doesn’t burn. Just add all of your ingredients (1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar) into your saucepan and bring it up to a boil.

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Once it’s at a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low (so that it’s still simmering) and stir it until it thickens in consistency to a very thin caramel. You want it pourable, but not fully a liquid. My test for knowing it’s done is when it coats the spoon. Naturally, I forgot to get a picture of the caramel sauce when it was done, but it usually takes about 5-7 minutes of stirring to get to the right consistency. Once it’s done, take it off of the burner and set aside.

Okay, the apples are tossed and ready and the sauce is done. Now, the next step is getting the top crust ready. Lightly flour your cutting board and lay out your refrigerated crust. Using a rolling pin, roll it out until it’s a bit thinner and more oval than round. I like my top crust thin, so I can usually stretch one refrigerated crust to cover the tops of two apple pies. Once it’s rolled out, slice it in thin strips, about an inch thick.

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Once that’s done, put your apples into your bottom crust. I generally like to load in as many apples as my dish can handle, but last night, I was making two apple pies so I put fewer apples than I normally do. In other words, you can put as many or as few apples as you’d like. How liberating, right? Just remember that they will shrink down when you bake them, so make sure it’s at least slightly mounded – like the photo below. You’ll see later on that this pie ended up being completely level. apple03

For the top crust assembly, you’re going to make a basket weave top. Basically, you’ll lay one complete row of strips down (evenly spaced), then you will fold back every other strip. Lay down a strip in the opposite direction, put the first row of strips back into place and then fold back the alternating strips. Keep this up until the entire top looks like the bottom right picture. Notice that I’ve left small spaces in between the weaves so that the caramel sauce can seep into the pie (I don’t know if that made any sense at all, but there you have it.) apple05

Once your basket weave top is in place, you want to pinch the top crust and bottom crust together. apple06

Finally (FINALLY!), you’re going to spoon the caramel all over the top of the crust, making sure that it goes into all of the small gaps. Do this slowly and carefully because if you pour it too quickly, it will end up all over your counters.

**Imaginary picture of me spooning caramel over crust. Management, I really need an assistant.**

Hello beautiful.apple07

We’re going to bake this beauty in a 375 degree oven for 45-55 minutes (or until the top is a golden brown). **Tip: I bake my inside of a roasting dish because as the pie filling starts to bubble, it has a tendency to overflow and believe me when I say that caramel is a bitch to clean off of your oven’s elements.

Once it’s done, resist the urge to dig in immediately (although it smells so, so good!). Instead, let it cool for at least 15 minutes so that the inside is not molten lava. But then, THEN, you can dig in. I can almost never get these slices to come out looking pretty, but once everyone tastes it, no one will care what it looks like. Promise. apple09

I almost always make two pies at a time – one to eat and one to freeze. I freeze my second pie BEFORE baking it. I put it in the freezer by itself (see below) to flash freeze it and after about 30 minutes, I’ll wrap it in foil so that’s it’s ready to bake the next time we have a hankering for some apple pie.
apple10 And, that’s a wrap! Serve it with some vanilla ice cream and you’ll have your family and guests eating out of your palm. Of course, you’ll also have to make this pie at every family gathering, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

South Africa’s Cape Peninsula Tour

Look, I’m back! See, I’m getting better at this already. The day after we cheated death during our Table Mountain hike (okay, not really, but I do tend toward the dramatic in my storytelling), we were off on our grand Cape Peninsula tour with Baz Bus. It was a full day tour and our first drizzly day, but we put on our rain jackets and headed over to designated pick up address (a nearby hostel).

The mini bus showed up about 15 minutes after the designated pick up time and we were the last stop, so it was fairly full. And just like that, we were headed off to tour the southern peninsula of Africa. It was beautiful. See for yourselves.

Our first stop was Hout Bay to grab a snack and take in the scenery.

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Then, we were off to False Bay to visit Seal Island! This was the ferry boat we road on in 60 mph cross winds to see the Cape Fur Seals.

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Then we went to False Bay to catch a ferry boat out to Seal Island to see the Cape Fur Seals. There were 60mph cross winds, but it was worth it. There were hundreds of them!

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After that, it was off to Boulders Beach to see the penguins. It was amazing to see the African penguins in their own habitat.

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Another highlight of the tour was that we visited Cape Point National Park…to go biking. Yeah, baby.

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After our cycling adventure, we got back in the minibus to head to our final destination – Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. I love the feeling of visiting someplace that you learned about in your history books.

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In this picture, I’m sitting on Cape Point with the Cape of Good Hope behind me. cape97The Cape Peninsula was breathtaking and visiting the southwesterly most point of Africa was surreal. That was our last Cape Town day and from there, it was back to the interior and straight to our sunset safari!

Wrapping Up Our South African Adventure – Cape Town, Part II

So here’s the deal – I am horrible about leaving loose threads out there. Before I get finished writing about one adventure, I’m off to the next. Sorry about that! In 2014, I’m going to try to be better about that but for now, I figured I’d spend the week wrapping up previous posts. The first of these posts will be about the last couple of days of our trip to South Africa. I cannot believe it was 9 months ago because it still feels like I just got back. Truly. It has left such an imprint on my mind that I can recall the sights and smells with more clarity than I can recall what I had for dinner last night.

We left off (I think) with our group about to visit Table Mountain. While there was a bit of overcast (which you can see behind us in the picture), it was a gorgeous day on the banks of Cape Town and we decided to try the Hop On/Hop Off bus for a city tour.

table13There were people out exercising – which is like everyone in this very fit city – and we were enjoying our sightseeing tour on this seemingly beautiful day.

table12We wound our way through the different corridors of the city, but our thoughts were on a single destination – Table. Mountain. Now, Table Mountain is an imposing sight. It is the primary landmark of the city and can be seen from everywhere.

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But on this particular day, the entire top of the mountain was obscured by fog.

table11There is both a hiking path as well as a cable car to get to the top of the mountain. All of us elected to get to the top via cable car because we didn’t want to spend our entire day hiking. The ride up was nothing short of ominous. Here’s a picture of a cable car coming down from the top as we are ascending in ours.

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At the top, there was zero visibility. From this point, all of Cape Town should have been visible before me.

table07We hung around the top for a bit because the sun kept teasing us. We would get glimpses like these…

table08and then back to fog. Half of us decided to walk back down instead of taking the cable car –the brochure said that there was a ‘well marked walking path– so we bid adieu to the group that was riding down and off we went.

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It started off nice enough and then down, down, down we went….
table04I kept waiting for this walking path to reveal itself, but the terrain only got rockier. At one point, we were jumping from boulder to boulder to get down.

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This is when I started to panic. If I was with friends, it would be one thing, but I was there with 5 of my students, whom I think of as my kids. The rocks were wet, they didn’t have enough water, it was very slow going and the fog was very disorienting. If anyone broke a let up there (with no cell phone signal) we were screwed. So, I made lots of excuses to take breaks so that no one felt rushed. One of those excuses was to take embarrassing videos. See for yourself.

And then finally, FINALLY, we broke out of the clouds.

table02I have never been so happy to see the city below. From there, it was about a 30 minute trip back to the bus pick-up point.

table01In all, it took us about 3 hours to get all the way down. Honest to God, I have never been quite so sore going down a mountain before.

Tomorrow – I’ll share the Cape Peninsula Tour (Promise!)