Do Or Pie


Salted Caramel Apple Pie


Traveling to Brooklyn just for a slice of pie is kind of a big deal. Actually leaving the borough is always a bit disorienting. Firstly, the train goes UNDERWATER to leave the island (!!!). Secondly, it always seems to take a long time to travel out of Manhattan but this is actually just an illusion. It’s all so close we’re just spoiled. With a trusty smartphone to guide us through the frozen streets of Park Slope/Gowanus my sister and I successfully journeyed into Brooklyn to stuff our faces. Next door to an industrial-looking shop that brews craft beer (welcome to Brooklyn) is the much-celebrated pie shop, Four and Twenty Blackbirds. Those ladies make some fantastic pies. Rachael and I shared a slice of Chocolate Pecan (pretty sure it was the last slice… win!) and brought home some Caramel Apple pie. The crust was perfectly flaky, and the filling was a serious upgrade from the traditional version. We chose pretty conservative flavors but next time I’ll get more adventurous. Salty Honey? Grapefruit Custard? Yes and yes.

We had a few technical difficulties replicating the Four and Twenty Blackbirds recipe but who cares it was insanely delicious. The recipe here is in their new cookbook.

The problems:

Well, just the one problem. I’ve never made caramel before and it’s possible that about one hundred things went wrong. We didn’t use a thermometer (the recipe didn’t call for one); the sugar may not have dissolved enough before we added butter; the butter might have been too cold; the list could go on but I’ll spare you. I’m clearly a noob at caramel. Regardless, we ended up with a browned-butter syrup rather than browned caramel. It tasted excellent. The pie was a bit liquidy so next time I will try to perfect this. Don’t let this step scare you away! As long as you don’t burn your sugar/butter substance I am convinced it will enhance the flavor of your pie.

The successes:

Everything else. This crust recipe is perfection and I will certainly be using it for future pies. There was a great balance of apple to lemon and not too much spice. The caramel flavor made the pie much more special than your average apple pie. It’s definitely worth leaving the island for a slice.

Recipe Adapted from Four and Twenty Blackbirds

2 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
8 to 10 tablespoons ice water mixed with 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch chunks

Salted Caramel
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 cup water
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon sea salt

Apple Filling
2 pounds of apples (I used Granny Smith)
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons flour

Make the dough:
In a Cuisinart, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse to blend. Add the pieces of cold butter. Pulse until you see pea-sized chunks of butter. Don’t over mix! You want to keep chunks of butter because those little guys will melt and become the crusty flakes. Adding 1 tablespoon at a time, pulse in 8 to 10 tablespoons of the ice water/vinegar mixture. Dough should just come together.* Remove from the Cuisinart and divide the dough into two equal pieces. Flatten with the heel of your hand on a cutting board (you should have two fat disks). Wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

*You can do all of this by hand with a pastry cutter, a fork, two knives, etc.

Make the caramel:
This takes kind of a long time so get it going as soon as you’re done with the crust. In a small saucepan over medium heat combine sugar and water until the sugar has dissolved. Add the butter and stir while it melts. Turn the heat down to medium-low and allow the mixture to brown. Don’t stir too often but keep the heat low to make sure it doesn’t burn. For me this step took about 45 minutes. Eventually you will get a golden mixture that smells of browned butter and is syrupy. Remove from heat as soon as it turns golden and quickly whisk in heavy cream and salt. Set aside.

Make the apple filling:
Slice 2 pounds of apples thinly. Toss with the juice of 2 lemons, then toss with sugar, cinnamon, allspice, vanilla, and flour.

Roll out your dough:
Once the dough has chilled, roll out one of the balls on a floured surface. It should be very thin. To place the dough into the pie pan I lightly flour the top of the flattened dough, fold it in half, and then carefully lift it, place it on the pie dish, and unfold it. Press down the edges neatly. Pierce the bottom and sides with a fork to allow air to escape from under the crust.

Put it all together:
Add half the apple filling to the crust, then add half the caramel. Add the rest of the apples, then the rest of the caramel. Don’t add all the apple/lemon juice because it will make the pie too watery.
Save a little bit of caramel to brush on top of the crust!

Roll out the second ball of dough just as thin as the first. Slice into 1 inch strips. Weave the strips gently to form a lattice on top of the pie. I lay all the strips vertically, then weave in the horizontal strips. Personal preference.

Brush the top with leftover caramel.

Place the pie on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. Decrease temperature to 325 and bake for another 35 minutes.

Filling should be bubbling and crust should be browned. Allow pie to cool before serving. Serve warm.




Cranberry Oat Squares

There I was in the kitchen right after work, itching to bake, having done no prior shopping for specific ingredients. My go-to recipe and cure-all for unpreparedness has been raspberry squares for a few years. Well, since 2010 when my sister brought home the Mountain School Cookbook containing an arguably perfect recipe for this dessert. But this time would be different! I was armed with an abundance of frozen cranberries. I made my own cranberry filling which took a bit longer than using jam from the jar. And by “a bit longer” I mean 10 minutes longer which wasn’t a big deal but you know, more time than scooping jam someone else has made. By making my own filling I had more control over the sweetness. This could have gone disastrously wrong so I’m patting myself on the back for taking a risk with 2 cups of unsuspecting cranberries. The tart cranberries offset the sweet oat crust well. This version of an oat square requires an egg which makes the base just a bit cakey. Modifying the usual raspberry square recipe feels like kind of a big deal; it’s a grown-up version of a baked good I’ve been making for a long time. Since I’m just a few days away from my 25th birthday, at least a few life changes seem in order, right?


Recipe adapted from Joy of Baking

Cranberry Filling
2 cups frozen cranberries
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons water

Oat-y Base
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups oats (instant oats should work too)

On medium heat, combine cranberries, sugar, and water. Stirring frequently for about 10 minutes, your mixture will go through various stages of liquid/bubbly-ness. After about 10 minutes you should have a thick, jammy cranberry substance. Turn off the heat and let that filling hang out until you’re ready to use it later.

In a mixer, combine butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla. Combine.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients to butter/sugar mixture on low speed. When combined, add oats.

In a 9×9 buttered pan, pat down about 3/4 of the oat dough using your fingers (don’t pretend this isn’t fun). Spread cranberry filling all over. Sprinkle on the rest of the dough. It won’t really sprinkle so much as blob on. You get the idea.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Top should be slightly browned.


Thanks, 2013

Happy New Year! 2013, you were nice. 2014, I expect great things.

While the pictures below are evidence of 2013’s yummy crusts, hard work, and some memorable fruit fillings, it’s really the fun of baking with friends and family that make these pictures good memories. Thanks for putting up with/participating in my baking addiction.

In honor of fresh starts, do-overs, and a new year, here’s an improvement on a cinnamon bun recipe I posted in November. The last batch were a bit drier than I would have liked. Perhaps the single rising was too good to be true. This recipe allots more time (2 risings) and the buns were moister and more flavorful. I also much prefer this cream cheese frosting to the simple confectioner’s sugar/milk mixture. Since I already posted a recipe for this I’ll just give you the link here and you can go forth and follow Deb’s advice. All I changed was the quantity (I halved the recipe to get 8 buns) and used a little less butter for the filling than she suggests.