Caramel-Apple Pie

This is a delicious pie that features apples, caramel, crumbly topping and thin, flaky crust, and is best made a day ahead, which makes it ideal for the holidays.

The easiest way to cut the caramels is with strong kitchen scissors, but you can also use a sharp knife. Drop the caramel pieces directly into the cornstarch immediately after cutting or they’ll stick together.

INGREDIENTS:

For the crust:
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
3 tablespoons salted butter
4 tablespoons apple juice

For the topping:
3/4 cup unbleached flour
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons chilled salted butter

For the filling:
10 – ounces vanilla caramels, unwrapped and cut into 3 or 4 pieces each
1/4 cup corn starch
5 medium Granny Smith apples (about 2 to 2 1/4 pounds), peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 tablespoon chilled salted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

METHOD:

For the crust:

Freeze the vegetable shortening and butter for at least an hour.

Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix. Add the frozen shortening and butter, then the juice, pouring it evenly over the contents of the bowl. Process just until a ball of dough forms, about 10 seconds.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Flatten the dough into a disk about an inch thick; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to 2 days.

For the topping:

Combine the flour, brown sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Use a pastry blender or 2 knives to cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to use.

For the filling:

Toss the caramel pieces with the cornstarch in a large bowl until they are well coated, then add the apples, butter and lemon juice; stir to combine.

When ready to assemble the pie, position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Place a 9-inch pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet.

Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll it into a 12-inch round of uniform thickness.

Carefully transfer to the pie plate, allowing the edges to hang over the rim. Trim the edges and crimp the rim decoratively.

Press the dough trimmings together into a ball and roll out to about the same thickness as the pie shell. Use a cookie cutter to cut out five to eight leaves or other decorative shapes. Transfer the cut shapes to a plate and refrigerate until ready to use.

Spoon the filling into the unbaked piecrust, mounding it in the center; it will sink during and after baking. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the filling and gently press it into place.

Place the pie on the baking sheet to the oven; bake for 1 hour. Working quickly, remove the pie from the oven and arrange the chilled leaf cutouts on top of the crumble. Return the pie to the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and the pastry cutouts have lightly browned.

Transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Store, uncovered, at room temperature for up to two days after baking.

SOURCE: The Washington Post, November 27, 2008