FRONT BURNER: Roasted caramel apple pie becomes new tradition

Roasted Caramel Apple Pie (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

Food publications -- blogs, magazines and newspapers -- spend a lot of time and effort creating show stopping Thanksgiving menus featuring new and unusual recipes. The holiday is a big deal in the world of food writing. It's the Olympics of culinary feats (this is true for everyone, especially home cooks).

I applaud their work, and occasionally I contribute to the displays, but that's now not how I actually celebrate Thanksgiving.

To be completely honest I don't want new or reinvented. I want the same tried-and-true dishes that I eat most every year: roasted turkey breast; my Mammaw Bernie's cornbread dressing (https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/nov/17/cornbread-dressing-a-must-for-thanksgiving/); green bean casserole (https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2018/nov/14/thanks-be-to-brunch-20181114/); sweet potatoes, https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/nov/20/sharing-chefs-20191120/; canned jellied cranberry sauce (brand name only, no store-brand nonsense); and pie. Lots of pie.

While my husband prefers pumpkin pie (we like the recipe on the Libby's label) and my parents and brother favor pecan pie, I will never turn down a slice of apple pie. And I'll never turn down the opportunity to try a new apple pie recipe.

In fact, the very first recipe I ever had published was for apple pie. And it was terrible, but in my defense I was 4 years old. (The recipe appeared in a construction paper and yarn booklet I made at Mother's Day Out in the late 1970s.)

This pie, adapted from "Bake Your Heart Out: Foolproof Recipes to Level Up Your Home Baking" by Dan Langan, has four special things going for it: a cream cheese enhanced crust, a crumb/streusel topping, roasted apples and buttery caramel.

Plan to make the pie the day before you want to serve it. To give the pie dough ample time to chill, make it in the morning or the day before you plan to bake the pie.

Cream cheese pie crust

2½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons lightly packed brown sugar

1¼ teaspoons fine salt (reduce to ¾ teaspoon if using salted butter)

14 tablespoons cold butter, cut into ½-inch pieces

4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 1-inch pieces

2½ tablespoons very cold water

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar and salt on low speed for about 30 seconds. Add the butter and cream cheese all at once and mix on low for two to three minutes or until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs with a few large pea-size pieces of butter and cream cheese remaining. Drizzle in the cold water and mix on low for 15-20 seconds, just until small clumps of dough start to form.

Turn mixture out onto a work surface and gather the crumbs into a mound. Press and knead three or four times or until mixture comes together in a cohesive mass with no dry bits of flour. Divide dough into equal portions (about 12 ounces each), wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or up to two days before using. The dough can be frozen for up to two months.

Makes enough for one double crust pie or two single crust pies.

Roasted caramel apple pie

Pastry for 1 (9-inch) single crust pie (homemade or refrigerated), chilled (see previous recipe)

1¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting, divided use

½ cup lightly packed brown sugar, divided use

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt, divided use

A few gratings fresh nutmeg

3½ pounds Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Golden Delicious or Honeycrisp apples, or a combination (I used Pink Lady and Honeycrisp)

8 tablespoons butter, divided use

3 tablespoons heavy cream, divided use

½ cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Let the pie dough stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before rolling.

On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 13-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick, rotating the dough a quarter turn after every few passes of the rolling pin. If the edges start to crack, press the crack back together or tear off a piece of dough to patch it. Dust the surface with a bit more flour and then roll the dough onto the rolling pin and transfer it to a 9-inch pie plate. Gently, but firmly press the dough into the pan and up the sides. Using a sharp knife, trim away the excess dough leaving a ½-inch overhang. Roll the overhang under itself to create a smooth edge that lines up with the pie pan. Crimp if desired. Chill until ready to fill.

Heat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position.

In a large bowl, toss together 2 tablespoons of the flour, the ¼ cup brown sugar, the cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon salt and the nutmeg. Mix well.

Peel and core the apples and then cut them into ½-by-¾-inch pieces. Toss the apples in the cinnamon-sugar mixture until well coated and then spread mixture in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for about 20 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until apples are just fork tender. Cool to room temperature.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Scrape the cooled roasted apples and any accumulated juices into the prepared pie shell; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining flour, remaining brown sugar and remaining salt. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Add the melted butter and 1 tablespoon of the cream to the flour-sugar mixture and stir until crumbs form. Set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, remaining butter and 2 tablespoon of water; cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Continue cooking, stirring every 30 seconds, until the mixture thickens and forms a light-colored to tan caramel, four to eight minutes. (Langan notes the butter will prevent the sugar from crystallizing so don't worry about agitating it when stirring.) Carefully add the remaining heavy cream -- it will bubble and sputter -- and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and vanilla.

Working quickly, pour the caramel over the apples. Use a flexible spatula to even out and slightly compact the apples. Sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the apples. Place pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet (I lined mine with parchment for easy cleanup) and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees and then reduce oven to 350 degrees and continue baking until the crumb topping is golden and the apples are bubbly, 45-55 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least six hours before serving.

Pie will keep, loosely covered, at room temperature for up to two days.

Makes one pie.

Adapted from "Bake Your Heart Out: Foolproof Recipes to Level Up Your Home Baking" by Dan Langan (Union Square & Co., $29.99)

photo Roasted Caramel Apple Pie (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
photo Roasted Caramel Apple Pie (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)