It’s practically impossible to conjure memories of sweet Autumn without recalling the taste of pies from the years behind you. Pies are one of Earth’s genius comfort food creations – a buttery, flaky pastry with hearty filling makes for the most tender dish. The only gripe I have with pies is that preparing all of the pie’s constituents at once can become a little tedious. My solution now is to mix up and freeze pastry in advance and then cook fillings on the day before I roll out and set them.
Pastries are amazing, but tricky to work with. Try to ensure that you handle the dough with dry and floured hands. Number one rule is NEVER to over work the dough, especially if you are making puff pastry (more on delicious puff pastries to come soon). For this recipe I used one of Jamie Oliver’s sweet shortcrust pastry recipes as the base, and then I made my own thing up for the pie crumble. The shortcrust pastry in particular was a dream to work with, and it pulled away from the sides of the tin and crisped up wonderfully in the oven. I have found that using egg yolk in shortcrust recipes makes a huge difference with the texture and baking quality.
This salted caramel apple pie (crumble) is a downright treat for dessert. I enjoyed it with whipped cream and vanilla custard, plus my family was licking the baking tin for the juices afterwards.
Sweet Shortcrust Pastry recipe can be found here
Pastry Crumble for Topping of Pie:
- 250g wheat flour
- 150 g confectioner’s icing sugar
- 100g pure organic butter (very cold!)
Apple Pie Filling:
- 1.5 kg top red apples
- About 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Salted Caramel sauce:
- 250g brown sugar
- 60 ml hot water
- 2 tbsp pure butter
- 125 ml fresh cream
- 1.5 tsp salt (adjust up or down for your own personal preference)
- First get your pie pastry and crumble out of the way. For the method and ingredients to the shortcrust pastry, follow this Jamie Oliver recipe. It’s amazing, and you can’t go wrong! After you’ve made your beautiful shortcrust, wrap in cling film and put it in the refrigerator for about an hour to chill.
- The crumble is easy – use your fingers to ‘rub’ the ingredients together until they resemble crumbs. Ensure the butter does not begin to melt in your hands. It is important that the butter stays cold so that you can have a nice and crispy crumble. If you have a food processor, you can just throw all of the ingredients into it and give it a little whizz twice. Remove the contents as soon as they start to resemble crumbs! Place the crumbs in a covered bowl in your refrigerator also. The harder the crumbs are, the better it is for baking with.
- While your two pastry constituents are being chilled, it’s time to get started with the pie filling. Peel and core all of your apples, slice them, and then place them in a bowl large enough to fit. My apple slices were quite thin, because I dislike uncooked apples in pies with a burning passion. Pour the apple spices over the apples and toss through with the sugar. Squeeze the lemon juice all over the apples so as to ensure that they do not brown. Don’t overdo it with the lemon juice, now, or your apple filling will become too tart. At this point, I placed the bowl of apples in the microwave and let them cook in there for at least 10 minutes (Gasp! I used a microwave!). I know, I know… But it’s better to resort to the use of a microwave than to have those chewy, hard apples in your pie.
- So I had the apples pre-cooking, the pastries chilling… It was time to make the salted caramel sauce. What a divine concoction of sorts. We really owe it to the French for their beautiful culinary contributions to the world. This salted caramel sauce was completely my own recipe that I made up based on an idea of what I thought would taste amazing. You are welcome to swop it out for an authentic salted caramel sauce, but I tell you… The cream took the caramel to a whole other level of sumptuous, melt-in-your-mouth, saucy goodness! It was also really easy to make, might I add. All you do is: – get a non-stick saucepan on the stove heated up to about 180° C (or medium heat), add the butter to the pan and allow it to melt.
- Pour the sugar into the pan and stir it up with the splash of warm water. Now you have to be very vigilant and watch the sugar as it’s going to bubble and splutter in the saucepan. Let it bubble for a good few minutes and keep stirring, being careful not to allow it to burn.
- Add the cream and salt into the mixture and let it bubble and thicken slightly. It should take about 5 minutes. Keep a watchful eye and make sure that you are very careful with this hot mixture.
- When the caramel has reached a consistency to your liking (it should be a thickish dropping consistency – thick enough to fall slowly from the spoon), remove from the stove and mix through the apples in the bowl. Wait until the apple pie filling is completely cooled. Taste the mixture to see if there is enough salt once again, and adjust accordingly.
- Now it’s time for you to set the pie together to bake – how exciting! This is my least favourite part because handling pastry can be very testing on your patience. Preheat your oven to 200° C.
- Roll out the cold shortcrust pastry dough to about 8mm in thickness and line greased pie dishes with the pastry as a base for the pie. I used 3 pie dishes of 19 cm in diameter and 4 cm in height. This is the perfect pie size to me because it’s got a really good pastry-to-filling ratio (in my opinion!). You can also use two bigger pie dishes if you feel like this is too small for you. Use a knife to trim the edges of pastry away.
- Use a fork to press the pastry down along the top of the edges. You can also do pastry patterns along the edge of the pie, like braids or leaves.
- Fill the pies with the apple pie filling to the top of the pie dish. Pour your crumble topping all over the pie. If need be, work in batches and keep apportioned pastry in the fridge (so it doesn’t lose its coldness) while you are busy with one pie at a time. If you choose to make all of the pies at once, then make sure to work very quickly so that the pastry is still cold when you pop the pie into the oven.
- Bake the pies at 200° for 20 minutes, turn the temperature down to 180° C and then bake for a further 20-25 minutes. The pastry must become golden brown and pull away from the sides of the pie dish.
- If you are baking one pie at a time, you should leave the others in the refrigerator while you wait for the each one to get done.
Serve with homemade vanilla custard, whipped cream or ice cream!