Funny story. So I go out into our “orchard” the other day (Play along. Those seven trees are spectacular.) to harvest apples from our biggest tree. We planted it about twenty years ago, and it has been faithfully churning out apples ever since. Five varieties of apples are grafted onto that tree, and although I long ago forgot which limb produces which apples, it doesn’t matter to me. They’re all delicious.
I’m picking away when I notice this one piece of fruit hanging all by itself on this one lone branch. And it looks … well … it looks like a pear. But this is an apple tree. How could that be? I pick the fruit, turn it over in my hand, sniff it, and then I freak out a little. Because everything about it screams “pear.” My mind begins to swirl with all the implications. But, again, how could that be? Doesn’t “every fruit tree bear fruit after its own kind?” But it really is a pear. What do I do? Who do I call? Who will believe me? And why o why did I pick it and not leave it hanging there? Now there will be doubters …
Hugging my bowl full of apples and that one freaky pear, I run around the side of the shed where Dave is nailing the roof onto his recently built garage-slash-tractor shed.
“You won’t believe this,” I begin. That’s the best way to begin when the news you bear is about to rock the scientific community.
I tell him about the anomaly, and show him my evidence. Dave, the patient, unruffled, level-headed saint that he is, doesn’t laugh or mock me. He just climbs down the ladder, turns me around and takes us both to the “orchard.”
“No,” he said. “It really is a pear. It’s the first pear our pear tree has produced.” And then he points out the skinny, barely-there tree growing up in the midst of the apple tree. It’s been there twenty years as well, but until now it’s never produced anything but anorexic leaves. I’d actually forgotten it was there. And to my credit, the apple tree had grown all around it. But there it was, and after all these years, it had decided this was the time to squeeze out one lone, woman-deceiving piece of fruit.
All you scientists can go back to your beakers and bunsen burners now. There’s nothing to see here.
I may be gullible, but I do know my way around an apple pie.
Spiced Caramel Apple Pie
- pie crust of your choice
- one egg white (for egg wash)
- 8-10 apples, at least two varieties
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 stick butter
- 3 TBSP flour
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 TBSP pure vanilla
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp fresh nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp kosher or coarse salt
- 1/4 tsp clove
Timing is everything in this recipe. You’ll want to have all your apples peeled, chopped, and piled in the pie crust (and have the top crust in place) before you start the filling.
Start peeling, coring and chopping the apples. You don’t want chunks that are too thin or the pie will be mushy.
Brush the bottom crust with the egg wash, then start adding apples. You’ll know you have enough when it’s mounded up nicely. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the apples to keep from browning.
Now decide how you’re going to handle the top crust. Lattice is always nice, and it works great for this recipe, because you’re going to be pouring the filling right over the crust, and that enables it to get down into the apples. But if you’re pressed for time, or if, like me, you prefer a frilly, lazy, fake-lattice top, that’s easy too. Just cut your top crust into 1″ slices and begin laying them on the crust from the center, spiraling outward as you go. Wet the ends of the strips with water to join them together. Just twist and spiral, and before you know it, you’ll have a pretty top crust. Where the spiral meets the edge of the bottom crust, just press (wetting only if needed) to seal.
Isn’t that pretty?
To make the caramel filling, melt the stick of butter in a pot, add the flour and mix well to make a loose paste. Add the sugars, the water, the vanilla and all the spices and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook five minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring as you go.
Pour the filling over the pie, covering the crust. If need be, take a pastry brush and touch up the spots that didn’t get hit.
With all that filling on the crust, this pie needs to be protected. If you have a pie crust protector, use that. If, like me, you have to make-do, that’s easy too. Just get a big-enough piece of foil and fold in half lengthwise, like this:
Fold again in half the other way, making a square. Then one edge of that square up to make a triangle, like this:
Cut the tip off of that point and begin cutting strips up along the edge, like this:
Now carefully unfold the foil and set it on your pie. Crimp the edges around the pie plate and open up the strips to give your pie a little air. You can always fold the strips back down if it’s browning too quickly.
I like to call this “Jiffy Pop Pie.” 😀 Oh, if only it were that easy!
Here are some pictures of the pie protector I made for a pumpkin pie last year, just so you get another example. This one was made of much thinner foil (which I like better):
Back to the apple pie … Now cover a rimmed baking sheet with more foil (the Reynolds people must be loving me about now) and place the pie on it. Bake at 375 for about an hour or until the apples are tender and the filling is bubbly. Check the pie frequently to see if you need to pull the strips back down to cover it.
I think this is best served with three tiny scoops of vanilla ice cream. But you do what you think best.
Here’s the bite you know you want: