Apple caramel pecan pie

13 May

I adore apples in every shape and form – tart and crunchy, sweet and juicy, fresh, baked, caramelized, stewed – the works. They’re the easiest lunchbox treats, the most convenient quick snack, the humblest dessert ingredient that never disappoints.

Today is international Apple Pie Day! I teamed up with Dutoit Agri to create my favourite “apple pie” inspired dish – they said it could be a pie, a smoothie, a sweet treat, anything derived from the humble yet classic apple pie. Seeing that I haven’t created an apple pie in some time, I was extremely keen to create an actual pie, especially after recently visiting one of the Dutoit Agri apple farms in the Koue Bokkeveld in April this year. It was eye opening to see the vast orchards, treated with the utmost care and respect by generations of farmers, the fruit ripe and plump and wholesome. I understood in that instant that the humble apple played an indispensable role in our South African community, and that the family business that is Dutoit Agri is key to many household’s basic nutritional intake.

Here is my take on the classic apple pie that can take on so many jackets: an apple caramel pecan pie – a fruit-focused pie made with a combination of Dutoit Agri’s Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples, steeped in a brown sugar liquid, swirled with caramel treat and pecan nuts, baked in a flaky buttery pastry casing, topped with beautiful lattice pastry strips. The result is something between a pie and a pudding, because it crumbles irresistably as you plate it, perfect for a bowl full of pudding and whipped cream.

To skip some of the labour, you can opt for a convenient store-bought short crust pastry which is very stable to handle and bake, but with less of the flakiness and none of the sweetness. But it you’re keen for a tender flaky crust that’s fragrant with butter and vanilla, make your own – recipe listed below.

This recipe is something between a traditional American-style chunky apple pie, a French-style finely sliced apple pie and a caramel pecan pie. It might not behave neatly when sliced (and rightly so), therefor you can certainly scoop it with a spoon into bowls instead of trying to slice, serving as a pudding instead of tea-time treats. Best served slightly warm with a generous dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.

Notes & tips:

  • I’ve used a combination of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples, but you can use only one varietal if you want to.
  • I’ve used a 23 cm round pie dish, about 4 cm deep. You can also use a 20 cm dish, the pie will just be piled a bit higher – remember that the cooked apples will soften and sink back.
  • If you’ve never worked with pastry before, or if you are not keen on doing lattice work, remember that you can always just place the strips in one direction with a little space inbetween – it will be much easier and equally beautiful. Another option would be to cover the pie completely with a rolled out layer of pastry, just trim the sides and make a few slits in the top for the steam to escape. (As mentioned earlier, you can also use store-bought short crust pastry for a quick and convenient alternative – it isn’t sweet like my recipe, but it is still crisp and flaky and very easy to handle.)
  • Always place a regular baking tray underneath the pie dish when baking, as the caramel tends to bubble up and escape over the sides. This way you prevent any caramel from dripping on the base of your oven.
  • The pie gets covered with a layer of foil half way through baking to prevent it from browning too much. To make a very convenient foil dome lid, turn a dinner plate upside down and shape a sheet of foil to fit it, then use to cover.
  • For a cheeky twist, replace the pecan nuts with chopped Peppermint Crisp chocolate bars (perhaps 1 medium bar is enough) for an Apple Caramel Peppermint Crisp Pie.

Ingredients: (serves 8) – also check out my how-to video on Instagram!

For the filling:

  • 10 medium size apples (about 1,1-1,2 kg), suitable for cooking (Granny Smith, Golden Delicious etc.)
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) demerara sugar
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) white sugar
  • 1 ml (1/4) teaspoon salt
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) ground cinnamon
  • 2,5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) allspice
  • 20 ml (4 teaspoons) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) corn flour

For the sweet sort pastry crust: (optional – you can also use a store-bought short crust pastry or puff pastry)

  • 280 g (2 cups) cake flour
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 2,5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) salt
  • 200 g cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 XL egg yolks
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) lemon juice
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 20 ml (4 teaspoons) ice cold water

For assembling & serving:

  • 1/2 can “caramel treat” / caramel dessert topping
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) pecan nuts, chopped
  • 1 egg, whisked (for brushing)
  • 250 ml (1 cup) fresh cream, whipped (for serving)

Method:

For the filling: Peel the apples, cut them from the core and slice finely. Place the slices in a large mixing bowl, then add the demerara sugar, white sugar, salt, cinnamon, allspice and lemon juice. Stir well to coat on all sides, then leave to macerate for 30 minutes. (At this point, you can continue making the pastry – see below.) The fruit will release liquid and a pool of dark brown sugary syrup will form on the base of the bowl. Sprinkle the corn flour all over and stir again to mix very well. Set aside.

For the sweet shortcrust pastry: Place the flour, caster sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the cold butter cubes and pulse to mix until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs, then add the yolks, lemon juice and vanilla and process briefly to mix. While the motor is running, add the iced water through the feeding tube and process until it just starts to come together in a ball, then remove from the bowl and divide into two equal parts, patting them into flat disks with floured hands. Cover each and refrigerate until ready to roll out (can be made ahead and refrigerated for a day or two).

For assembling: Preheat the oven to 180 C and place a rack in the middle. Grease a 23 cm round deep pastry dish with non-stick spray. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the first disk of pastry to a rough circle of about 30 cm in diameter (or cut a ready rolled sheet of store-bought shortcrust/puff pastry into a 30 cm round), adding more flour to prevent the pastry from sticking. Carefully transfer it to the pastry dish, easing in the sides and leaving a slight overhang. Spoon the apple filling and all the liquid into the lined pan and smooth the top. Warm the caramel in a medium size jug in the microwave, then stir until smooth, and pour all over the top of the filling. Scatter all over with the pecan nuts, then place the whole pie as is in the fridge while you roll out the second pastry disc. Again, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to a rough rectangle and cut into 12 long strips (or use another sheet of store bought pastry for this). Arrange the strips on top of the pie to form a lattice (or any other pattern of your choice), then trim the sides – I cut any leftover pastry into thinner strips and place all around the sides, then press with a fork and brush all over with the whisked egg. Place the prepared pie on another baking tray, then bake for 45 minutes uncovered. Lightly cover with foil (see notes above), then continue to bake for another 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove the foil and leave to cool completely for the liquids to set – the pie is best cut when completely cooled, as it will hold its shape, but best served slightly warm (a microwave will do the trick!). Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream.

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