Cider-Caramel Apple Pie

I set out to create an apple pie sweetened only with apples. After a few tests, I ended up adding a little brown sugar to the mix for balance, but if you like things a little less sweet, you can leave it out. This filling is sweet-tart, but with a rich creaminess to it, because it's finished with butter. I use Honeycrisp apples, which hold up very well in baking, resulting in a filling that's tender but still has a little bite. This pie has everything: a bright, intense apple flavor; a hint of caramelly sweetness; a little bit of salt to tie it all together; and a tender, flaky crust. All-Buttah Pie Dough for a double crust (see Notes; mixed for a flaky crust), divided in half, shaped into 2 disks, and chilled, recipe follows
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 4 hr 55 min
  • Active: 50 min
  • Yield: one 9-inch pie
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Ingredients

All-Buttah pie dough for a double crust (see Notes: for a flaky crust), divided in half, shaped into 2 disks, and chilled, recipe follows

CARAMEL:

1.81 kg (1/2 gallon) apple cider

57 g (2 oz) (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter 

2 g (1/2 teaspoon) fine sea salt 

5 g (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract 

FILLING:

1.36 kg (8 large) Honeycrisp apples (or another good baking apple), peeled and thinly sliced into 1/4 to 1/2-inch slices

212 g (1 cup) packed light brown sugar 

40 g (1/3 cup) all-purpose flour 

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 

EGG WASH:

57 g (1 large) egg, beaten with 15 g (1 tablespoon) water and a small pinch of fine sea salt

Turbinado or coarse sugar, for sprinkling 

Double crust:

2 1/2 cups (302 g) all-purpose flour

Pinch of fine sea salt 

8 ounces (226 g) (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 

6 tablespoons (90 g) ice water, plus more as needed 

Egg wash:

57 g (1 large) egg, beaten with 15 g (1 tablespoon) water

Directions

  1. Roll out one disk of dough and fit it into a 9-inch pie pan. Roll out the second disk as directed in Cook's Note and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill the crusts while you prepare the caramel and filling.
  2. Make the caramel: In a large wide pot, bring the cider to a boil over medium heat, then lower to medium-low heat and cook, without stirring, until the cider reduces to a sauce with the consistency of thin caramel, 45 to 60 minutes (the timing will depend on the size of your pot; check the progress every 15 minutes or so to start, and more frequently once it begins to thicken). 
  3. Stir the butter, salt, and vanilla into the caramel, then pour the mixture into a heatproof bowl to cool slightly, about 15 minutes. 
  4. Make the filling: Place the apples in a large bowl. In a small bowl, stir the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together. Add the mixture to the apples and toss to coat. Add the cooled caramel and toss well to combine. 
  5. Arrange the filling in the chilled piecrust: If you place the apples in overlapping concentric circles, like a rosette, there will be fewer air pockets between the fruit, reducing the chance of the top crust collapsing after baking. Once you reach the upper edge of the pie pan, begin to make the circles smaller to mound the filling higher in the center to give the baked pie the domed look. 
  6. Roll up the top crust onto the rolling pin and gently unfurl it over the filling. Press the edges of the top and bottom crusts gently together to seal, then trim the excess dough away using scissors, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Tuck the overhang under itself all the way around the pie. 
  7. Crimp the edges of the crust as desired. I refrigerate the pie for 20 to 30 minutes. 
  8. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (218 degrees C), preferably with a baking stone on the bottom rack. 
  9. Brush the top crust with the egg wash and sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar. Use a small sharp knife to cut a few small vents in the crust. Bake the pie on the stone or bottom rack until the crust is deeply golden and the filling is bubbling up through the vents, 40 to 50 minutes. If the crust begins to brown too quickly, reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and/or tent the crust or edges with foil. Cool the pie for at least 30 minutes before serving. 

Egg wash:

  1. To mix the dough by hand: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the butter cubes, tossing them through the flour until each piece is well coated. Cut the butter into the flour by pressing the pieces between your palms or your fingers, flattening the cubes into big shards and continuing to toss them through the flour, recoating the shingled pieces.
  2. For a flaky crust, continue cutting the butter into the flour just until the pieces of butter are about the size of walnut halves. Or, for a mealy crust, continue to work the mixture together until the pieces of butter are about the size of peas. To mix the dough in a food processor: See Pro Tip. 
  3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add 3 tablespoons ice water for a single crust or 6 tablespoons for a double crust and mix to incorporate. Then add more ice water 1 tablespoon at a time and continue mixing just until the dough comes together. As it begins to come together, you can knead it a few times to make sure it's fully combined. It's important not to add too much water to the dough, which should never be sticky— it should hold together easily in a ball but still feel almost dry to the touch. 
  4. Form the dough into an even disk if making a single crust; or divide in half and shape into 2 equal disks if making a double crust. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.  
  5. For a double-crust pie: Using one disk of dough, follow the instructions for a single-crust pie and chill the bottom crust in the pie pan. Roll out the second disk of dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch thick and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes. 
  6. Fill the bottom crust as directed in the recipe. Roll the top crust up onto the rolling pin, starting at the far edge of the dough. With the pie pan in front of you, start at the edge closest to you and gently unfurl the dough onto the filling. Trim the excess dough from the edges, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang all around. Use your fingers to press the edges of the bottom and top crusts together so they are lightly sealed. Chill the pie in the refrigerator for 15 to 30 minutes or freeze for 5 minutes. 
  7. Tuck the excess dough under at the edges, pressing lightly to help seal the dough to the rim of the pie pan. Return the dough to the refrigerator for 15 to 30 minutes or to the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes. Crimp the edges of the piecrust as desired. Bake as directed in the recipe.

Cook’s Note

Reduced fruit juice makes a wonderful caramel-like sauce. The process is very similar to making traditional caramel, though a great deal of water must evaporate in order for the juice to reduce to mostly sugar. You may be tempted to make the cider caramel ahead of time, and you can, with one caveat. Because apples are so high in pectin, the caramel will firm up—whether left at room temperature or chilled—and make a sort of clumpy sauce resembling jelly. To use it, rewarm it in the microwave in 15-second bursts, stirring occasionally, just until fluid. It shouldn't be hot when you add it to the apples, but a bit warm is OK. The pie can be baked up to 1 day ahead (any longer, and the crisp texture of the crust suffers because it absorbs too much moisture from the filling) and stored, loosely covered, at room temperature. The tightly wrapped disk(s) of dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Wrapped in plastic and then in aluminum foil, the dough can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Manipulated properly, four simple ingredients—flour, fat, salt, and water—make a dough that's crisp and tender. The key takeaways: Keep everything cold; don't be afraid to leave the butter in large pieces; and don't overmix. And, come baking time, don't be afraid of the high temperature, which turns this dough into all it can be through the magic of moisture evaporation and steam! I prefer mixing my dough by hand, but it can be made in the food processor. Start by cutting the butter into 3/4-inch cubes instead of 1/2 inch. Toss the butter in the flour to coat before adding both to the food processor, then pulse in 3-second bursts until the pieces of butter are the desired size, depending on whether you want a flaky (walnut size) or mealy (pea size) crust. I find 10 to 15 pulses usually do the trick. Even when using the food processor, it's best to add the water by hand to prevent overmixing.

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