Great British Bake Off Challenge: Pecan Caramel Apple Pie

Today I started preparing for that festive period at the end of December...I daren't speak it's name incase any of you feel stressed at the very mention of it. I decided that since Baby Cake Hunter is due on the 4th December, I really don't want to be battling with shoppers in November - when I'm heavily pregnant - or in December - when I'm heavily exhausted from looking after said baby. So yes, I'm doing it all in September and October. I also get the smug satisfaction of having done it 3 months before everyone else...go me!

I'm not buying a lot but I'm still trying to find people things they might not normally find out and about. My favourite find so far is Fritha, of Tiger Lilly Quinn's new shop. I've got my eye on the cat ear bowler hat because it's about the cutest thing I've ever seen and I need something to cover my curls frizz now the rain is upon us.

Pie feels like the perfect accompaniment to rain and early festive shopping. I find pie calming and oh so comforting. I'm not great at pastry. I'll be honest...it's not my forte. I have very hot hands and very little patience. Thank God for the food processor, it makes my life a lot easier. I don't make pie a lot, and if I do I tend to make one without a top which might be considered a bit of a half arsed pie (excuse my French).

I decided that, frankly, apple just isn't enough on its own and I added caramel and pecans to mine. The pecans still retain a good bite after baking and give a lovely crunch when the apples have gone all soft - in a good way. I should warn you this pie might cause a spike in blood sugar but it will so be worth it when you crash on the sofa in a sugar induced high. The main things I need to point out is that this pie should really be left to cool for a few hours in order for the juices and caramel to thicken. I was in a rush when I photographed this and so it was still very runny...which possibly led to a soggy bottom. It still tastes amazing runny but you have to be prepared to serve in a bowl rather than a plate (as I should have done).

Pecan Caramel Apple Pie
(shortcrust pastry from Leith's Baking Bible and filling adapted from The Huffington Post)
 
For the pastry:
340g plain flour, sifted
pinch of salt
110g cold unsalted butter
60g lard
6-7 tablespoons ice cold water

For the filling:
240g golden caster sugar
120ml cold water
180g salted butter, diced and room temperature
2 tablespoons single cream

6 large or 9 small apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
60ml lemon juice
60g plain flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
120g light brown sugar
80g pecans

1 egg

Make the pastry:
  1. Grease your pie dish and set aside. Easiest way to make pastry is in a food processor. Mix the flour, salt, lard and butter in the food processor by pulsing it until it reaches a fine breadcrumb stage. Tip into a bowl and rub with your fingertips to make sure the flour coats the butter.
  2. If you want to do it by hand, tip the flour, salt, lard and butter into a bowl and rub in with your fingertips until it reaches breadcrumb stage. Chill for 5 minutes if you have particularly warm hands.
  3. Sprinkle over half the water and mix with a table knife. Add more water - I used it all but don't add it all at once - and keep mixing until there is no dry flour left. Bring the pastry dough together with your hands and shape into a flat disc about 1cm thick. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 10 minutes.
  4. After 10 minutes, halve the dough and roll one half out on a floured sheet of baking paper. Roll out enough to cover your pie dish, around 3mm thick. Place over the pie dish and press in, leave any rough edges hanging over and place in the fridge to chill until you've made the filling.
Make the filling:
  1. Toss the apple slices in the lemon juice and set aside. Then make the caramel...mix the sugar and water and place over a medium heat. Stir constantly until the sugar has dissolved and then leave to simmer over the heat until it turns a dark amber caramel colour.
  2. Remove from the heat and add the butter and cream straight away. Stir until melted and set to one side.
  3. Mix the flour, light brown sugar and spices together and sprinkle over the apple slices. Mix until they're all coated.
Assemble:
  1. Arrange the apples over the bottom of the pie base. Sprinkle half the pecans over and pour over 1/3 of the caramel. Lay the rest of the apples on top, the rest of the pecans and pour over another 1/3 of caramel. The final third can be kept aside to reheat and pour over the served pie.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F. Brush the edge of the pie dish with a beaten egg and pop the pie to one side whilst you roll out the top. Just as before, roll out the other half of the pie dough over some baking paper sprinkled with flour. Place over the top of the pie dish and press down on the edges. Trim off the excess and push the edges together with a fork, making a pattern round the edge.
  3. You can use the scraps to make shapes for the top of your pie or throw away. Cut two little slits in the middle of the top of the pie (to let steam out) and brush the whole top with the beaten egg wash. Sprinkle with a little light brown sugar.
  4. Place on a baking tray in the oven for 20 minutes (I would highly recommend the baking tray in case any filling spills out, you don't want it on the bottom of the oven). After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 190 C/375 F and bake for another 40-50 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
  5. Leave to cool for at least an hour, preferably more to allow the juices and caramel to thicken. Serve with ice cream or a little drizzle of cream.