Caramel Apple Pie with Brown Butter Crust
This caramel apple pie is a classic autumn dessert. Pink Lady and Honeycrisp apples are baked with brown sugar, apple pie spice, and caramel sauce. And, we make a toasty, nutty brown butter crust to amplify the caramelized flavor. It is without a doubt the best caramel apple pie ever!
It’s no secret that I wholeheartedly and firmly stand with Team Pie. When done correctly, the buttery crust, flaky layers, and spiced flavors just get me. On the other hand, there is an entire sector of people who don’t like pie. Or who think they don’t like pie. And I can’t say I blame them because while apple pie might arguably be my favorite dessert, they also have the ability to just absolutely blow. Soggy, flavorless pies are downright depressing, but I am so convinced that if you have a *really* good pie, it is completely life-changing.
It is through a tedious process of trial-and-error (and an absurd amount of research) that I have learned a few secrets that will help you make the best caramel apple pie that will just knock your socks off. As someone who would choose a caramel-y dessert over chocolate, vanilla, or even fruit, this is for sure the only way that I will be making apple pie from now on. Join me, will you?
A few details
There’s not a whole lot of “inspiration” behind this recipe aside from the fact that caramel + apple is just a ridiculously good combo. I kinda thought baked caramel would be weird but I was wrong! Here, we’re using a mix of Honeycrisp and Pink Lady apples to add some good texture and tartness to the filling. Then, we mix them with a bit of brown sugar and spices and drizzle the top with plenty of caramel! Salted? Go for it.
Next, we’re going to spoon the mixture into a homemade brown butter pie crust. Is making homemade crust worth the extra effort? Absolutely, 100%. Brown butter basically tastes like unsweetened caramel, so it’s really going to amp up the caramel flavor in this pie. Lastly, we’ll give the pie a good egg wash and sprinkle it with Demerara sugar for a little crunch. If you’re a fan of tart, buttery, caramelized, decadent, flaky desserts, it’s time to get on this stat.
The ingredient list
Everything you need to make caramel apple pie is easy to find or make! Here is what you’ll need to make both the crust and the apple pie itself:
Caramel apple pie
- Apples – opt for something crisp and tart to offset the sweetness from the caramel.
- Lemon juice – to help prevent the apples from browning too much and to add a little brightness.
- Brown sugar – you can use white but I find brown adds to the caramel-y flavor!
- Caramel sauce – you can go with salted or unsalted depending on your tastes. Also, feel free to go either store-bought or homemade. I usually just stop by my local candy shop to get a jar of caramel or opt for a higher quality variety at the grocery store. Or, if I’m feeling fancy, I’ll make this super easy salted caramel sauce at home.
- Baking basics – all purpose flour, cinnamon, apple pie spice, cardamom, Kosher salt, and an egg.
Brown butter pie crust
- Unsalted butter – I would go with something a little higher-quality to add some good flavor to the pie dough.
- All purpose flour – whatever you have on hand will work for this recipe!
- Apple cider vinegar – this prevents gluten from forming in the dough which will make it extra flaky!
- Basics – Kosher salt, sugar, and ice water.
Let’s make this pie
Not gonna lie, this pie is a bit time-consuming but it’s still pretty simple to make! Just give yourself a good few hours to get everything prepared. And, if it makes you feel better, there are a lot of steps you can do in advance to make it even easier. Let’s get into it!
Brown the butter
- Start by browning the butter. Melt the butter over medium low heat and let it cook, stirring frequently, until the butter has brown bits on the bottom and smells nutty.
- Immediately pour the butter into a parchment-lined bowl and let it cool in the freezer, stirring every once in a while, until it is very firm. Then, cut it in 1-inch pieces.
Make the crust
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and Kosher salt. Toss in the butter, and then cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter until you have a mix of small pea-sized pieces and larger almond-sized pieces. Alternatively, you can use your fingers but work as quickly as possible to avoid melting the butter.
- Combine the ice water and apple cider vinegar. Drizzle it over the mixture and use your fingers or a spoon to fold the dough together. It might take a little arm work but keep going! Try to avoid adding more water unless it’s absolutely necessary. Otherwise you might end up with tough crust!
- Divide the dough into two pieces, and flatten each into a disc. Wrap the discs tightly with beeswax wrap or plastic wrap. Lastly, refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.
Stir up the filling
- Peel and cut your apples into thin, uniform slices. Don’t go too thin or they’ll get mushy!
- Toss the apples with the lemon juice, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, apple pie spice, cardamom, and salt. Let it sit for a couple of minutes until the mixture is liquidy and has no dry spots.
- Meanwhile, heat your caramel for 30 seconds or so in the microwave until it is drizzling texture.
Assemble & Bake
- Roll out your pie dough into two 12-inch circles. Place it back in the refrigerator if it starts getting too warm and sticky!
- Fold one of the dough circles into a deep 9-inch pie dish. Fill with the apple mixture and drizzle the caramel over the top. Then, fold the other dough circle on top, cut off the excess dough on the edges, and crimp. Decorate as desired!
- Next, brush the pie with egg wash and sprinkle liberally with Demerara sugar.
- Bake the pie at 400°F for 45-50 minutes until the crust is a deep golden brown and your kitchen smells like heaven.
- Lastly, let the pie cool completely, slice, and serve with ice cream and more caramel sauce.
The best apple options
Because we’re using both brown sugar and caramel in the filling, you’ll want to go with apples that are a bit tart. However, we’re not using a whole lot of brown sugar, so a touch of sweetness is still important! You can also use a variety of different apples to add even more flavor to the pie. I personally like to use a mix of Honeycrisp and Pink Lady apples to get different flavors and textures in the filling. These are my top favorite baking apples:
- Honeycrisp – super crisp, excellent flavor, and they hold up well in the oven. This is my desert island apple and my go-to when it comes to baking.
- Pink Lady – these apples are both sweet and tart. Plus, they retain some good texture even when they’re baked.
- Braeburn – crispy, yet juicy, and they have a flavor that goes along perfectly with some apple pie spice.
- Granny Smith – the classic “apple pie apple”. They are crisp, firm, and great for baking. But, they are also pretty tart, so you may need to add a little extra sugar to the filling.
- Gala – when firm, these make good baking apples! They’re easy-to-find, sweet, and won’t get mealy in the oven.
A few helpful tools
These are just a few of my go-to kitchen tools that I use every time I make pie. Most of these tools are totally not necessary but nice to have on hand if you’re a big fan of baking pies, tarts, and galettes.
- Food processor – I love using my food processor to pulse the butter into the flour when I make pie dough. It makes it sooo much easier than doing it by hand. Then, I just pour the flour-butter mixture into a bowl and add the water/ACV mix.
- Pastry cutter – if you’d rather go the manual route, a pastry cutter helps prevent the butter from melting while you make your dough.
- Deep pie dish – there are quite a few apples in this recipe, so a deep dish helps keep everything together.
- French rolling pin – any rolling pin works but I personally love a French rolling pin. I just find it so much more comfortable than using one with handles.
- Marble pastry board – the marble stays nice and cold which helps prevent the butter from melting. I love this one!
Let’s talk brown butter crust
Like we discussed earlier, the crust is a little more work because 1. it’s homemade and 2. you have to brown the butter. But also like I said earlier, it’s very worth it. Like, truly. I promise! The caramelized notes in the brown butter only add to the caramel in the filling. Plus, homemade pie dough is absolutely life-changing. It’s infinitely more flaky, buttery, and flavorful than the store-bought variety.
To space the work out a bit, I would recommend browning/cooling the butter either the night before you want to make the pie dough, or just a few hours before. You can also make the crust a few days in advance! If you’re feeling a little intimidated by homemade pie dough, no worries! It’s honestly super easy. For a full guide on making homemade crust, I highly recommend checking out my OG pie dough recipe.
Storing leftover pie
If you even have leftovers, you can keep this pie for up to two days! However, you want to store it correctly to ensure that the filling stays jammy and the crust stays crisp. To store it properly, just cover the caramel apple pie with a cake or pie dome and set it at room temperature. If you don’t have a cake or pie dome, you can cover it loosely with plastic wrap or tin foil.
Alternatively, you can store the pie, covered, in the fridge for up to five days. Make sure to let it come to room temperature for a couple of hours before serving. The moisture from the fridge might make the crust a little soggy but it’ll still taste delicious! Especially if you heat it a little in the oven or microwave.
A few Tips & Tricks for the best apple pie
- Use the right apples to ensure that the filling is sweet, tart, and has the perfect texture. Some apples, like Red Delicious or McIntosh, will result in a pie filling reminiscent to apple sauce. No thanks!
- Cut the apples uniformly to ensure that they all bake evenly. This is easier said than done so just try your best. I like to slice apples about 1/8-1/4” thick but you can go thicker if you want more of a “bite”.
- Pop the pie in the fridge for 20 minutes or so before baking. This will just help really firm up any butter chunks in the pie dough so it bakes up nice and crisp!
- Bake the pie in the lower 1/3 of your oven. This prevents the top from burning and helps crisp up the bottom so you don’t have a soggy crust. I like to bake my pies on the third rack from the bottom.
- Let the pie brown even when you think it’s done! Remember, brown = flavor, so even if it looks done, let it have another 5-8 minutes to really crisp up the crust. Just keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn!
- Let the pie cool completely before serving. I know it’s torture and there’s nothing better on this earth than warm apple pie. But if you let it cool completely (at least 3 hours), it’ll really help firm up the filling so it cuts nicely. Just re-warm the slices if you like warm apple pie with ice cream (meeee!)
A few more autumn pies & Tarts
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Caramel Apple Pie with Brown Butter Crust
Brown Butter Crust
- 1 1/4 c unsalted butter (2 1/2 sticks)
- 2 1/4 c all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 Tbs sugar
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
- 3 Tbs ice water* + more as needed
Caramel Apple Pie
- 2 9-inch brown butter pie crusts (recipe above)
- 3 lbs tart, crisp apples (about 8 medium)
- 1 1/2 Tbs lemon juice
- 6 Tbs light brown sugar
- 1/4 c all-purpose flour**
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp apple pie spice store-bought or homemade
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1/4 tsp. Kosher salt***
- 1/2 c good-quality caramel sauce, store-bought or homemade
- 1 egg
- Demerara sugar, for sprinkling
- Vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, and pecans, for serving
- Food processor or pastry cutter
- Deep 9-inch pie dish
Make the Pie Crust
- Line a shallow bowl with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Cut the butter into chunks. Place the butter in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the butter gets foamy and bubbly. Continue stirring and cook for 5-8 minutes, until the butter smells nutty and has brown bits on the bottom. Keep a close eye on it so the butter doesn't burn!
- Once browned, immediately pour the butter into the parchment-lined bowl. Place in the freezer for 60 minutes, stirring every once in a while, until very firm and cold. Alternatively, firm the butter in the fridge overnight.
- Use the parchment paper to remove the butter from the bowl. Discard the parchment and cut the cold brown butter into 1-inch chunks.
- ****Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Toss the flour with the butter, and pulse a few times until you have both small pea-sized butter chunks and larger almond-sized chunks.
- Pour the flour-butter mixture into a large bowl. Combine the apple cider vinegar and ice water in a measuring cup, and drizzle it over the flour mixture. Run your fingers through the flour to incorporate the ingredients. Add more ice water 1/2 Tablespoon at a time if necessary. Then, quickly knead the dough until it comes together.
- Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Flatten both pieces into 1-inch thick discs and wrap them with beeswax wrap or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 5 days. You can also freeze the dough for up to 2 months.
Make the Filling
- Start by peeling and coring the apples. Cut the apples into 1/8-1/4'' slices. Keep them as uniform as possible to ensure even baking.
- Place the apples in a large bowl. Drizzle in the lemon juice and toss to combine. Then, add the brown sugar, all-purpose flour, cinnamon, apple pie spice, cardamom, and salt. Mix well and let the apples sit for a couple of minutes until there are no dry spots.
Assemble & Bake
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place your oven racks on the second and third rack of your oven (from the bottom). Microwave the caramel sauce for about 30 seconds, or until it is a drizzling texture.
- On a floured surface, roll one of the pie dough discs into a 12'' round. Wrap the dough over your rolling pin and unroll it into a deep 9'' pie dish, letting the extra dough hang over the sides. Gently press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pie dish, making sure not to tear it. (If you do, just press the dough to fill in the cracks). Place your pie dish into the fridge. Next, roll out your next pie dough disc into a 12'' round.
- Fill the bottom pie shell with the apple filling, mounding it a bit in the center. Drizzle the caramel sauce evenly over the apple pie filling. Then, using your rolling pin again, roll and unroll the second 12'' dough round over the top of the pie. Press the edges of the bottom and top crusts together to form a seal. Trim with a knife or shears until you have about a 1/2'' left.
- Using your fingers, crimp the edges of the pie crust. Use any leftover pie dough to make decorations, as desired. I like to roll out the leftover dough, cut out shapes with leaf-shaped cookie cutters, and press them on top of the pie!
- Place the pie in the fridge for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg and 1 Tablespoon of water in a small bowl.
- Once chilled, brush the top of the pie with the egg wash. Sprinkle liberally with Demerara sugar.
- Place the pie on the third rack of the oven from the bottom. Place a sheet pan on the rack underneath to catch any drips. Bake 45-50 minutes until the crust is a deep golden brown and the filling is bubbly.
- Let the pie cool at room temperature for at least 3 hours. Slice, re-warm if desired, and serve with vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, and chopped pecans.
xo Sara Lynn
*Song of the day: If You Need To, Keep Time on Me by Fleet Foxes