Pie Day!

For those who may not know the story, my husband and I met online.  During our early email exchange, there was a debate about which was better, cake or pie.  I’m a cake girl, where he was adamant that pie was better.  After meeting and going on a couple of dates, it turned out he had never actually MADE a pie (and he cooks, so there wasn’t really an excuse).  I mocked him heartlessly, and to shut me up, we made a pie together, which happened to be our 1-month dating anniversary.  Someone decided we should make a pie every month (pretty sure I wasn’t the one with the idea), and the rest is history.  We haven’t always made the pie on the actual day, and we have been as many as 5 months behind (intense house hunting one fall and moving a week before Christmas just killed us), but 6 years and 71 pies later (currently we’re three behind), we’re still making pies (and believe me, people ask if we are!).

We receive pie cookbooks and pie paraphernalia as gifts, and plenty of people send us recipes via social media and email.  We’ve never repeated a recipe for a monthly pie, though we have made repeats for other occasions (Husband’s favorite is a bourbon caramel pecan pie that we’ve made for at least one Thanksgiving after we made it for the anniversary pie). They aren’t always a success (it took a while to figure out how to get fruit pies that weren’t pie soup), but we’ve gotten better over the years.  This caramel apple skillet pie is from Good Housekeeping, September 2014.  We’ve had mini-skillet pies in Memphis and they were tasty.  I’m always happy to dust off the cast iron, so this is pie #72.

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/a14919/rough-puff-pastry-recipe-ghk0914/

Rough Puff Pastry and Caramel Apple Skillet Pie

Ingredients (puff pastry)

1½ c. all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
12 tbsp. cold butter
¼ c. very cold water

Directions

  1. In processor, pulse flour and salt until combined.
  2. Add 4 tablespoons butter and pulse 10 to 15 times or until in very small pieces. Add remaining 8 tablespoons butter and pulse 2 to 3 times to just combine. Add water and pulse 3 to 4 times or until dough begins to come together.
  3. Transfer dough to well-floured surface and press into ball. Roll out to 18-inch by 12-inch rectangle. Fold two short ends to meet at center, then roll up from bottom into log. Use rolling pin to gently roll into small square, dusting with flour if needed. Tightly wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
  4. For Skillet Pie, unwrap pastry and roll out to 12-inch circle on lightly floured surface.

The dough came together nicely, though it took some time (more than 3- 4 pulses) after adding the water in step 2 for the dough to actually form, making the butter pretty uniform, and not in big chunks like the recipe suggests.  I can’t roll a rectangle to save my life, so I rolled the dough into a 16 inch square, folded it into a rectangle, proceeded with the rest of step 3, and chilled it. On to the next recipe:

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/a16458/caramel-apple-skillet-pie-recipe-ghk0914/

Ingredients (Pie)

1 c. sugar
¼ c. apple juice
6 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. salt
8 Gala apples
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (or 1 batch rough puff pastry)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. In 10- to 12-inch nonstick skillet on medium, cook sugar and apple juice 2 minutes or until sugar melts, stirring. Continue to cook, swirling pan occasionally (but not stirring), 6 to 8 minutes or until deep amber. Remove from heat. Add butter, a few pieces at a time, stirring just until melted; stir in vanilla and salt.
  3. Arrange apple quarters in pan, round sides down, in 3 concentric circles. Simmer uncovered on medium-low 40 to 45 minutes or until almost tender, pressing down apples occasionally.
  4. Transfer skillet to foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Top with pastry, tucking in any overhangs. Bake 20 to 25 minutes (30 to 35 minutes if using homemade pastry) or until golden brown. Transfer to wire rack; cool 15 minutes. Wearing oven mitts, invert rimmed serving platter over skillet; carefully flip together. Remove pan. Serve warm.

Husband takes an 8 year-old’s lunch to work every day and we buy 100% juice boxes for his beverage (he used to take capri-suns until I entered the picture).  I assumed there would be apple juice in the house, but there was only apple-berry blend left, and he said it’s definitely heavier on the berry flavor.  Don’t panic!  We bought a Caramel Apple wine a while back, and it’s been languishing here for some time.  Problem solved!

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I used Fuji apples instead of Gala.  They are a firm apple with a sweet flavor, and I thought they would hold up well to all the cooking in this pie. Personally, my favorite apple is a MacIntosh, and we have a giant clearance bag of them, but I knew they would turn to pulp after all the heat.  My apples were huge, and 5 would have been plenty.  But the rest that didn’t fit in the pan can go into smoothies or become applesauce.

The caramel took longer than 8 minutes.  I think it ended up being about 14 minutes total.  I don’t know how necessary the swirling was, but after 6 minutes the color had barely changed.

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At 13 minutes it was browning exactly where the burner sat underneath the skillet, and I thought it was over because it started to smell burny.  But I snatched it off the heat and got the butter in, and I think I rescued it in time.

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The apples were only getting soft in the middle of the pan, so I kept moving the skillet around to try to distribute the heat.  But even though the apples were still firm on the top, into the oven they went after an hour on the stove, because this pie was going to a party with us, and the pastry had to bake before we left.

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The puff pastry crust browned beautifully, and I pulled it after about 30 minutes.  We were supposed to give it 15 minutes to cool off (presumably to let the caramel harden up a little).  It was still waaaay too runny to flip after 15 minutes, so we packed the cast iron into a Pyrex Portable bag and carefully transported it to our friends’ house.

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We gave the pie another 2 hours to cool, but the caramel was still very runny.  I think that because my skillet was a 12 inch, the heat didn’t distribute evenly enough and the caramel didn’t cook long enough.  I expected the caramel to be thicker, but it’s possible that it was supposed to be saucy.  We took the skillet and the platter out to the backyard for the flipping so we wouldn’t spill caramel all over the kitchen (which turned out to be a brilliant call).  The flavor was great, although the caramel sauce was much too sweet for me.  The pastry stood up beautifully to all that moisture.  It was not soggy. The apples were plenty tender, despite still being quite firm when the skillet went into the oven.  Everyone said it was very good (but Husband thinks I reduced the sugar because he thought it was barely sweet enough).

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Verdict:  If I made this again, I would use a smaller skillet and try to cook the caramel more evenly for a longer time.  I’m curious to see if it would set better after baking if it had been a little thicker at the outset.  Personally, I didn’t love this one, but I might be convinced to try a different apple just to eat that puff pastry again.

 

 

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