How to Turn Apple Cider into Pie

November 19, 2014

We're teaming up with Squarespace to get to know a few of our favorite bloggers a little bit better. And since it's Pie Week, that means we're getting to know them through pie. (Bonus: We're giving away a PieBox Gift Set and a yearlong Squarespace subscription! See below for details.)

Today: Erin McDowell, Food52's resident pie maven, has developed a brilliant way to turn cider into caramel -- which makes for the perfect tart, buttery apple pie.

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I make (and eat) a lot of apple pie. Sometimes, I make a smooth, almost apple butter-like filling. Other times, I like to use a crisp apple to give texture when the fork hits the fruit. Recently, I began mulling over what could combine everything I love about apple pie into one pie. I thought about how to make a pie with a bright, intensely apple flavor and no added sugar. I decided to make a cider caramel as the base; I first created the recipe to enter a Food52 contest many moons ago (drizzled over an apple upside-down cake), and went nuts for the stuff. 

This filling is tart, but with a rich creaminess to it, because it's finished with butter. It's sweet, but not overly so. I used Honeycrisp apples, which hold up very well in baking, resulting in a filling that's tender, but still has a little bite. In the end, I decided to add a little brown sugar to the mix (it balances things out in a really yummy way), but I can attest wholeheartedly that this recipe works without it—if you like things a little less sweet, leave it out! 

More: It's time to get over your fear of pie crust. Erin is here to help you do that.

The finished pie really has everything: a bright, intensely apple flavor; a hint of sweetness that has that characteristic caramel flavor; a little bit of salt to tie it all together; and (of course) a tender, flaky crust encasing the whole thing. In my mind, any pie is a good pie, but this...this is a really good pie. It's definitely going to be the official apple pie at my Thanksgiving table this year, and for many years to come. 

Cider Caramel Apple Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie

1 quart apple cider
4 tablespoons softened butter
Hefty pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 large Honeycrisp apples (or other good baking apples), peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch cinnamon
Your favorite double-crust pie dough (this is my favorite)
Egg wash
Turbinado sugar

See full recipe (and print and save it) here.

Photo by Mark Weinberg

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I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!