Apple pie is quintessential holiday fare, and my family would be highly disappointed if it was missing from our dessert table. In my new cookbook, Baking for the Holidays, I’ve taken my favorite apple pie recipe (found in The Vanilla Bean Baking Book) and added hard cider and caramel to it, elevating it to superstar level.
A Different Apple Pie Making Technique
The method I use for making pie comes from Ms. Rose Levy Beranbaum and her wonderful book The Pie and Pastry Bible. Releasing the fruit juice and then cooking it down helps control how much liquid is in the filling and gives it a more concentrated flavor.
To release the juice from the apples in this recipe, you’ll mix the cut apples with brown sugar, lemon juice, and salt, and let them sit for a few hours, or overnight. The sugary juice is then strained and boiled down with the hard cider, to eventually be stirred into the caramel.
Can this pie be made without alcohol?
If you don’t prefer to use alcohol, the hard cider can be replaced with straight-up apple cider. When testing recipe for the book I used Gala apples, but recently tried this pie with Cosmic Crisp apples and found them to be a delicious alternative. Store-bought caramel can also work to save time, but make sure it is not overly sweet.
Best Apples To Use for Making Apple Pie:
In my book, I call for Gala apples, but I’ve also used Cosmic Crisp apples with great success, as you see here.
Cosmic Crisp® brand apples are a cross between the ‘Enterprise’ and ‘Honeycrisp’. This juicy apple has a firm and crisp texture that holds up well to baking, so it’s perfect for pies.
Cosmic Crisp® is also celebrating it’s return to produce shelves and a happy holiday season with a lovely giveaway for my new cookbook, Baking for the Holidays, just harvested apples, swag, and a pie plate. You can enter HERE, through November 19th, 2021!
More Apple Recipes:
Hard Cider Caramel Apple Pie
- 1 1/4 cups [250 g] granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup [80 g] water
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup [120 g] heavy cream
- 5 tablespoons [70 g] unsalted butter, cut into 5 pieces
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
For the Pie:
- 2½ lb [1.1 kg] Gala apples, or Cosmic Crisp apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into ¼ in [6 mm] pieces (7 to 8 apples)
- ¼ cup [50 g] light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ cup [120 g] hard cider or apple cider
- ¾ cup [162 g] Caramel
- All-purpose flour, for dusting
- 1 recipe All Butter Pie Dough
- Egg wash
- 1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
For the Caramel:
- In a large, heavy-bottom saucepan (the caramel will bubble up quite a bit once it starts cooking, so it’s important to have a deep pan), combine the sugar, water, corn syrup, and salt, stirring very gently to combine while trying to avoid getting any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat until the sugar has melted and the mixture is clear, 3 to 5 minutes. Uncover and cook until the mixture has turned a light golden color. Turn the heat down to medium and cook until it turns a deep golden color and registers 340ºF [170ºC] on an instant-read thermometer. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and add the heavy cream. The cream will foam considerably, so be careful pouring it in. Add the butter next, followed by the vanilla, and stir to combine. Set aside to cool. Caramel can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
For the Pie:
- In a large bowl, combine the apples, brown sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Let sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours, or covered in the refrigerator overnight. Strain the sugary juice (you should have about ½ cup [120 g]) from the fruit into a medium saucepan and return the apples to the large bowl. Add the cornstarch and cinnamon to the apples and toss to combine. Add the hard cider to the saucepan with the juice and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn the heat down to low and simmer until reduced to a scant ½ cup [120 g], 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the caramel.
- Pour the caramel mixture over the apples and toss to combine. Set aside while rolling out the pie dough.
- Lightly flour a work surface and roll one piece of the dough into a 12 in [30.5 cm] circle about ¼ in [6 mm] thick and place it into a 9 in [23 cm] pie plate. Transfer the plate to the refrigerator and let the dough chill while you roll out the second piece. Lightly flour the work surface again and roll the second piece of dough into a 12 in [30.5 cm] circle, about ¼ in [6 mm] thick.
- Fill the prepared pie shell with the apple mixture and place the second crust on top. Trim the dough overhang to 1 in [2.5 cm] past the lip of the pie plate. Pinch the dough together and tuck it under itself so it’s resting on the edge of the pie plate. Crimp the edges of the dough and cut at least four vents in the center, each about 2 in [5 cm] long. Transfer the pie plate to the freezer to chill for about 20 minutes while the oven is preheating. The crust should be nice and firm before you bake it.
- Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and preheat the oven to 425ºF [220ºC]. Place a sheet pan on the oven rack (the preheated sheet pan helps crisp the bottom of the pie crust and also catches any leaks and drips).
- When ready to bake, brush the top of the pie with the egg wash and sprinkle with the granulated sugar. Transfer the pie plate to the preheated sheet pan and bake for 25 minutes. Turn the heat down to 375ºF [190ºC] and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the crust is deep golden brown and the juices bubble.
- Transfer the pie plate to a wire rack and let cool for at least 4 hours before serving. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream. The pie is best eaten the same day it’s made.