Orange Blossom Scented Apple Pie with Caramel Walnut Ice Cream
I would like to start this article by saying that Mike and I were just watching The Office. It’s the episode where Pam and Jim get married, and I started weeping like a ninny because apparently I have no pride. Mike turns to me and says, “Awww, we’re like Pam and Jim, aren’t we? But then…you’re also like Dwight, and I’m like Michael.”
Note: this was not a popular sentiment.
I am not like Dwight. Okay, sure, maybe I think his turtle bowls PLUS fresh turtle was a brilliant idea for a wedding gift, but I’m still not like Dwight. And Mike isn’t really like Michael either. Except when he drinks. Then, well, maybe. But I love him anyway.
So let’s talk about PIE! When my Lebanese grandmother immigrated to Canada, she kept her cultural cuisine but supplemented many of the foods she loved with local favorites. It may sound counter-intuitive to say, “As Lebanese as apple pie”, but the apple pie that she used to make is the one that my childhood memories are based on. You see, she didn’t avoid traditional spices like cinnamon, she just…added to them with Lebanese flair. If you haven’t thought of combining fresh apples with orange blossom water, well, you’re in for a treat.
Orange Blossom Scented Apple Pie
- 2.5 cups + 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- 1 + 1/2 tsp salt, divided
- 1/2 cup + 5 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter
- 7-9 tbsp ice water
- 3.5 lb Golden Delicious apples *
- 1 lemon (1.5 heaping tbsp zest + juice of whole)
- 3 tbsp orange blossom water **
- 2 tbsp rose water **
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
* You can use your favorite baking apple but I like the mild and sweet flavor of Golden Delicious. They also break down splendidly in pies!
** Rose water and orange blossom water are both available at Middle Eastern grocery stores, specialty food stores, or a regular supermarket which stocks a goodly amount of ethnic and Middle Eastern ingredients.
Caramel Walnut Ice Cream
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 L good vanilla ice cream *
* If you make your own, kudos. We don’t have an ice cream machine, and without one I’ve found that the texture is….lacking. So I bought my ice cream. Such is life.
You can make the crust in a bowl using a pastry cutter or two knives, but over time I’ve both lapsed in my efforts AND recognized how much better the results are when I just break down and use a food processor. So, start by putting 2.5 cups of all purpose flour, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tsp of salt and the 1/2 cup of shortening in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the mixture in 1-2 second intervals until it has the texture of damp sand.
Cut the butter into 1/4″ chunks and toss them into the flour. Pulse the flour 5-6 times until it’s in small pieces, the largest no more than the size of a green pea….which is to say, no bigger than the size of a cherry pit? How about the pinky fingernail of an 11 year old? Alright, you get the picture. And that last example was creepy.
Drizzle in 7 tablespoons of the ice water and pulse just a few times until the mixture just barely starts to come together. If it seems far too dry you can add the extra water, one tablespoon at a time. Tip the mixture into a bowl and turn it over gently a few times using a large spatula. Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap and mete out just under half of the pastry onto the plastic. Gather the wrap up around the dough, pressing in gently until it’s flattened into a 5″ disc. Repeat with the other larger half of the dough.
Put the two sealed dough discs into the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.
While the dough chills, start the cinnamon scented caramel sauce. Stir the cinnamon and sugar together and put it in a small pot. Add the water and turn the heat on to medium. Let the liquid warm, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring when the liquid comes to a boil and just let it go for the gold(en color), swirling the pot every 30 seconds or so.
Let the caramel boil down for 3-5 minutes until the color deepens. It’s hard to tell because the cinnamon will keep the color dark to begin with, but do your best. It should be reducing slightly and thickening up, but don’t let it go for more than 5 minutes before taking the pot off the heat.
Add the chopped walnuts to the caramel sauce and stir them in to combine.
Lay a piece of parchment paper onto a baking sheet with a lip. Grease it well. Pour the cinnamon spiced walnut and caramel onto the parchment and smooth it out. Leave this to cool.
Now then, the caramel took about 5-10 minutes in total, and the pastry still needs another 20 minutes to cool, so it’s on to the apples!
Peel the apples and cut out the core. Slice each apple in half and then lengthwise into quarters. Slice each piece of apple across into 1/2″ chunks, trying to make sure that all the apple pieces are approximately the same size.
Zest about 1.5 tablespoons from the lemon into the apples. Squeeze in the juice of the whole lemon. Add in the orange blossom water and rose water, tossing them in the liquid until each piece is well covered.
Mix together 3 tbsp of flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the cinnamon. Sprinkle the flour mixture onto the apples and toss it well together until each piece of apple is coated.
Liberally dust flour over your work surface and sprinkle some additional flour on top of the pastry dough. Roll the smaller disc of dough out in a circle until it’s at least 12-13″ in diameter and about 1/4″ thick.
….And at this point, I can’t help but show you one of my favorite pie plates. When I was growing up my mother had a number of fairly large ceramic pie plates that each had a different recipe printed on the inside. Those plates remind me of my Mom’s amazing pie crust and the sweet smells that came out of the oven in the summer and around the holidays. I found this one at a second hand shop for about a dollar, and the fact that the recipe is in French? That just makes it even more fantastic in my opinion.
Oh yes, and preheat the oven to 425ºF.
Lay the bottom pie crust down in the center of the plate and press it against the mold. Fill the bottom crust with your chopped apple mixture, piling it fairly high into the center and smoothing it out into a dome.
Flour your work surface again and roll out the top (larger) crust. Cut the crust into a rough circle which is large enough to cover the pie, and reserve the rest of the unused pastry.
Lay the top crust on top of the apples and press it gently onto the lower. Crimp the top and bottom crust together into pleats.
Cut the remaining crust into shapes that will decorate the top of your pie. I did the….uh….bastardized version of the cedars of Lebanon. Apparently I’m a terrible fraud twice. Once, because I’ve never actually been to Lebanon and have no right to be cutting out their national emblem, and twice because these were the ugliest pastry cedars that I’ve ever seen.
Paint the back of each cut out with water and lay it flat down on the crust. Cut a few slits around the shapes so that the cuts are somewhat camouflaged but still allow venting for the hot air. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar evenly on top of the pie crust.
Tuck your pie in the 425ºF oven for 20 minutes and then reduce the heat to 350ºF. Let the pie continue cooking for another 45-50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the juices have been bubbling out in the cracks. If the top starts to brown up too fast, loosely cover the pie with tin foil and tuck it back in the oven to continue cooking.
While the pie is baking, take the ice cream out of the fridge for 10 minutes to let it soften.
Dollop the ice cream into a large bowl and scrape the caramel walnut mixture on top. Work it in with a spoon until you have a gorgeous caramel swirl going through the cream.
Put the ice cream back into your freezer to set up until you’re ready to serve it.
After the pie comes out of the oven, let it cool for at least 3-4 hours before cutting in.
Plate up a nice slice of apple pie with your modified caramel walnut ice cream on top.
As far as apple pie a la mode goes, this is where it hits the fan – in the nicest possible way. The ice cream is rich and nutty with a delightful vein of caramel and a cinnamon sweetness redolent throughout. The pie is understated but just ever so slightly different. It’s not the kind of pie that makes you go, “Oh god, what did I just put in my mouth?!” It’s the kind of pie that makes you go, “Huh. That’s apples. And cinnamon. And…different, but I LIKE IT.”
And so ends our long winded 24, 24, 24 posts! I was starting to wonder if we’d ever get through all the food that we made, but somehow we found a way….a delicious, fattening way.