Monday, August 19, 2013


     Since I used that pun when texting my sister the other day it's been pretty much my favorite thing. It's so bad it's good. But the pie in question was actually just so good it's good. Nice transition there, huh? Smoooooth. 

     For Sunday dinner this week I had a very specific vision that occurred to me around Wednesday (Yeah, I am pretty much always thinking about food). Since the weather has been so amazing -- cool, breezy, almost chilly in the mornings! -- I wanted to capitalize and make something toasty and homey. You know how cooler weather is, it makes you want to snuggle up in a sweater and get right at home for the winter (this is probably the point at which you start to go "Uh, it's still August, let's not get carried away," but NAY, I say to you, let's get carried all the way the hell over there!). So I decided on an American classic: a homemade apple pie. But you know me, I can't just do things the normal way. I have to experiment and create weird food hybrids! So I figured, let's take this to the next level. Let's do caramel apple pie.

     Now, I made a caramel apple pie once a few Thanksgivings ago, but it was a lot of work and involved making your own caramel from scratch. I can barely be bothered to get dressed on a Sunday, much less stand at the stove stirring sugar into caramel like a confectionery wizard for an hour, so I wanted to find an easier way. And I did! Let's do this! 

     First thing's first: get your caramel going. All I used for mine was sweetened condensed milk, heated up until it thickened and...well, caramelized, in the most literal sense. A lot of people swear by the easy, old-school method of plopping the sealed can in a pot of water and simmering it for an hour or two. I didn't do that though, because even though people SWEAR it's safe, you're still heating up a pressurized can of sugar-milk, and I didn't want to make a caramel IED. I ain't about that life. So I used this set-up (Well, you know...representationally. Obviously I took the condensed milk OUT of the can, or else I wouldn't be solving anything):

     Basically you just want to pour the sweetened condensed milk into a smallish oven-safe container, cover it with foil, and put the whole shebang into a bigger oven-safe dish full of water. Once you've got this weird little set-up complete, just stick it in the oven at 450 degrees for a good long while, at least an hour. The longer you leave it, the thicker and more caramelly (roll with it) it will get. Don't just walk away and forget about it though, you'll want to check on it periodically to make sure your water doesn't all evaporate. Here's what mine looked like when I took it out after an hour, partially because I didn't want it to get too thick to go in a pie, and partially because I wanted to go to Target:

Which is why it's in a Tupperware, I threw this in the fridge so fast you don't even know. In the middle of baking a pie? Screw that, we're going to Target! I didn't even NEED anything there.
     When I got home and remembered "Oh yeah, I was in the middle of something!" I set to making my pie crust. Now, real talk: you can totally buy the kind that you just roll out and go, and no one will know the difference, unless you hang out with some very prestigious pie critics, in which case your life sounds cool and I'm jealous. But if you have the time and the willingness the make a pie crust from scratch, it's way better: flakier, with a richer flavor and better overall texture. Making pie crusts is a pain in the ass though, so no judgments here if you wanna go the store-bought route. I use the recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (the red and white one -- if you don't have it, go look again because yes you do). It's simple and turns out delicious every time. 

     Once you're done with your crust, get that sweet, sweet caramel goodness back out and make the pie's fruity entrails (glad to ruin that for you). I used a bag of gala apples and this little doojig, which I would never ever make apple pie without. It peels, slices, and cores the apples for you in just a few seconds, so all you have to do is whack them in half from top to bottom to get a stack of perfect little apple pieces. If I had to peel, core, and slice all those apples by hand, I'd say "screw it" and buy a can of pie filling. Ain't nobody got time for that. 

     Anyway, when you've got a big bowl of apple slices, pour the caramel over them, stir to coat them all, and season however you'd like. I added some cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and a fistful of sugar, because pie-time is not the time to worry about sugar content.

     Then top it off with the second half of your pie crust and brush it in the method of your choosing. I like to do melted butter and a sprinkle of sugar, but some people prefer to do an eggwash or use milk. Follow your heart! And the way to man's heart is through his stomach, so...follow your stomach! When you're done with that, wrap the edges with foil so they don't get too dark, and bake the pie at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Then take the foil off and bake it for about 20 minutes more. You may need a little more or less time to get the crust perfectly golden and delicious-looking without the edges getting too brown (BURNT, ok, let's call it what it is). And then you're done! 

     Serve with vanilla ice cream if you're a purist, or melt a slice of cheddar or American cheese on top if you're not afraid of people looking at you funny (I'm used to it). 

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