This week's SMS was chosen by Susan of Baking with Susan: double crusted caramel apple pie. I adore apple pie but I almost never make it so this was a real treat! That said, I had to figure out a way to scale this one back - it's hard to give away treats on the weekend with no one going to work and I certainly did not need a full size pie tempting me. I'm almost positive I bought a mini pie plate at Crate & Barrel last fall (it was adorable - a ceramic green mini!) but I can't find the darn thing anywhere. Ok, I guess I haven't looked that hard, but hopefully once I do, it'll turn up.
There were a lot of ideas thrown around on the P&Q's this week for scaling the recipe back, but in the end I decided to try to make mini pies in a muffin tin. I wanted to make all 3 components of the recipe - the crust, caramel sauce and apple filling - so it seemed like a good solution. I took a lot of pictures as I made this recipe not only to share on the blog, but also so I'd remember what I did in case I try the minis again.
I made 1/2 of the recipe for Melissa's all butter pie dough for the crust. I haven't had a lot of luck with pie crusts in the past, but this one came together nicely in my food processor. The recipe called for baking powder, which I don't think I've ever added to a pie crust before - some quick Google research indicates it might help the dough stay flaky even if its overworked, so it may have contributed to my success. After letting the crust rest in the fridge, I rolled it out and got to work on figuring out how big to cut the rounds for my mini pies. I tried my largest biscuit cutter first (I forgot to measure it but it's probably between 3 and 3 1/2 inches in diameter), but it was too small. Instead, I wound up using the edge of a huge plastic cup - it was one of the biggest circular items I could find! It measured 4 1/2 inches in diameter and was almost perfect! Next time I'd like to make the circles just a tad bigger though. At 4 1/2 inches, I could press the dough into the muffin tin and up the sides, but there wasn't any overhang, which made it tricky to attach a top crust. I chilled the crusts in the fridge while I made the other components of the recipe.
I'd just made a wonderful caramel sauce the other day for these brownies and I was tempted to make that one again since it had worked out so well but in the spirit of the group, I tried Melissa's recipe instead. I did use the Cook's Illustrated tip of putting a lid on the pan at the beginning of the process though, a neat trick which uses condensation to dissolve any sugar crystals that end up on the sides of the pan. Unfortunately, some of my sugar hardened after I added the cream and despite attempting to reheat and melt the sugar on low heat, I couldn't resolve the problem. The caramel was tasty, but the texture wasn't pleasant at all. As for the filling, I cut up only one Granny Smith apple (I made the pieces small since I figured the baking time wouldn't be very long and I wanted them to cook completely) and scaled the remainder of the recipe back accordingly. I resisted the strong urge to add cinnamon. I had more than enough filling for my 3 mini pies.
I went with a lattice top on my pies since I figured it would make it easy for me to check the tenderness of the apples when they were in the oven. Also, as I mentioned, I didn't have any overhang from the bottom crust, which made it nearly impossible to attach a top crust as I typically would. I kept a close eye on the pies when they were in the oven and my baking time was about 25-27 minutes. The filling was bubbling and the apples were perfect! After they'd cooled, I was able to remove my pies easily by sticking a paring knife between the crust and the side of the muffin tin and lifting.
I absolutely loved the way these little guys looked, but how about the flavor? The crust was awesome - flaky, tender and delicious! I liked the filling too - the tart Granny Smith apples worked well with the super sweet caramel. Still, I missed the cinnamon and felt the filling could have used just a little spice to up the flavor. This is definitely a recipe I'll fiddle with because I think it could be amazing. I'll probably make the Cook's Illustrated caramel sauce next time and adjust the filling to include cinnamon and/or nutmeg. Many thanks to Susan for hosting this week - I had a blast with this one! You can find the recipe on her blog or in the book.