Certain foods come with a particular level of animosity attached, a “this is gonna be delicious, but…damnit, I still have to make the freaking thing” feeling. Apple pie is one of those.
I love apple pie, but I also, deep down, taste the mind-numbing process of peeling each individual goddamned apple every time I shove a forkful into my mouth. It’s one of those old-timey recipes that’s loveable only because you had a grandma who was so hardened from her decades-old shouty marriage that she could put all of her rage into peeling apples and mixing dough, so you get all the flavor and none of the yelling about why Harold couldn’t pay more attention to her after the war.
Caramel’s another one of those foods, for obvious reasons: it’s heat-seeking super napalm disguised as a Werther’s Original. Again: something that tastes delicious, but serves as a constant reminder of how it tried to kill you not two fucking hours earlier. From bubbling candy magma to delicious, creamy treat; just like that.
So, because I’m your friendly neighborhood masochist, I decided to inflict both of those horrors on myself in one, swift go. I also added bacon, because I wanted to have one goddamned thing on there that wouldn’t put you in a hospital.
Here’s what you need:
– 1 ½ cups AP flour
– ½ teaspoon salt
– 1 teaspoon sugar
– 8 tablespoons cold butter
– ¼ cup ice water
– ¼ cup sugar
– ¼ cup light brown sugar
– ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
– Pinch nutmeg
– Pinch salt
– 6 apples (usually you want to get a mix of sour and sweet, but for this one you’re gonna want to go all sweet. I picked pink lady apples, but go for your favorite)
– 1 tablespoon lemon juice
– 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
– 10 strips applewood-smoked bacon
– 1 cup sugar
– ¼ cup water
– ¾ cup heavy cream
– 3 ½ tablespoons butter
– 1 teaspoon sea salt
Here’s what you do:
First we’re gonna do the caramel sauce, since you’ll probably need some time between this and making the actual pie to visit your local burn unit. And because it keeps well overnight. Either one.
Get a medium pot and stir the water and sugar together until the sugar completely dissolves. That means clear, people, not “kind of grainy but still mostly clear and eh fuck it close enough”.
Turn up the heat to a boil and keep it bubbling until it’s the color of caramel (duh), should take about 6 to 7 minutes. Brush the sides with a wet pastry brush while that’s going on to keep the sugar crystals from sticking to the sides, and don’t stir. At all. Not even a little bit.
Take the pot off heat and SLOWLY whisk in the heavy cream. Keep it painfully, “leaky faucet in the middle of the night” slow, otherwise you’re gonna get clumpy, hard garbage instead of smooth, silky caramel.
Stir in the butter and salt until it’s all melted together, let it cool, then pour it in a container and refrigerate while you make the pie.
To make the crust, start by whisking together the salt, sugar, and flour.
Get a pastry blender (the thing that you totally don’t pretend to be wolverine with when you’re alone), cut the cold butter into 8 slices, and mix it into the dry stuff until it’s roughly the texture of cornmeal. Making sure the butter is cold matters, because that’s what keeps your crust from being mushy. Keep it frosty, people.
Add the ice water in and combine until you get a nice, doughy ball of…well, dough. You might need to add more to get it to all stick together, so just keep adding in ice water a little at a time until you’re golden.
Press the ball down into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it in the fridge for an hour while you do the rest of the pie. Now’s a good time to take out the caramel sauce and let it warm up, too.
Once the dough’s been chilled, take it out and let it un-chill for a few minutes. Then spread some flour on a flat surface and roll it out with a rolling pin. I could give you the thickness down to the millimeter like most recipes do, but you’re a smart person: just roll the damn thing out until it covers your pie pan.
Preheat your oven to 450.
For the actual pie part, get yourself a large bowl and mix together the sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
Peel the apples, then cut them using the largest setting on a mandoline. Sure, you could go the normal route and hack them up into gross, giant chunks, but we’re going for apple pie here, not “apple boulders surrounded by a hint of other shit”. Slice ‘em up thin and you’ll get a nicer-tasting, nicer-looking pie. Period.
Stir together the apples, lemon juice, and cornstarch with the crap that’s already in the bowl.
Alternate layers of apples and salted caramel until you’ve filled the pie. You don’t have to be exact, just make sure the caramel is nice and mixed in with the apples.
Take the bacon strips and make a lattice over the top, like in the picture. The bacon is going to fall over the edges of the pie a bit, but don’t trim the edges, since the strips will shrink in the oven. Sprinkle a little more sugar in between the bacon holes, too (sorry folks, there’s no way to not make that sound disgusting).
Put the pie on a rimmed baking sheet and stick it in the oven for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350 and bake for another 50. The bacon grease is gonna go everywhere, so you can even place the pie on some foil and turn up the edges to make a grease trap if you want.
Let the pie cool on a rack until it’s cool enough to eat. And then eat it, damnit.
Eat up these beats, too. This week they’re from DIBIA$E, with a track called unfortunate:
Cooking is work, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. Sure, there’s the soccer moms and the Sandra Lee’s and anyone else who gets all glowy and doe-eyed whenever they’re frosting something for a kid under 10 years old. But for the rest of us saner people, even if you like that stuff, it’s still a pain in the ass. And 9 times out of 10, the ratio works in reverse: the tastier it is, the more annoying it’s gonna be to make.
So cramp up those hands, grab a handful of apples, and hope your fingers don’t get fucking chopped off in the process. It’s (probably) worth it.
See you next time.
Here’s a recipe that’s eerily similar to the one I used. Almost like I copied it or something.