Salted Caramel Apple Pie

Salted Caramel:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup white granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon of flaky sea salt (I used Maldon)

Pie:
2 nine-inch pie crusts (homemade or store-bought)
3 Gala Apples (You can use others too - like Russets or Orins)
1 Granny Smith Apples (I used this for an added tartness - totally optional)
1 lemon
4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon bourbon (optional)
3 tablespoons white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice

Topping:
Turbinado Sugar
Flaky Sea Salt

Special Equipment:
9-inch pie pan
Whisk
Silicon Spatula (we don't want it to melt in the caramel)

1. In the microwave or a small pot, heat the heavy cream until it's warm to the touch. Set it aside.

2. In a medium to large pot, add the sugar and place it over medium heat. Do not stir. Cook the sugar until the bottom starts to turn a light golden brown, about 3 minutes. Stir the sugar, if needed, so all of it gets its turn hitting the bottom of the pan. Cook the sugar until it turns a medium brown, this process will happen fast so be sure not to leave. Once the caramel reaches a medium brown color take it off the heat and whisk it until smooth. You'll notice that it will still turn a darker color and cook more as you whisk. At this point it should be a dark brown - if it's not, place it back on the heat in 30 second increments, whisking the entire time, until it reaches that dark caramel color. Turn off the heat and whisk in the 5 tablespoons of butter (it will bubble up!). Keep whisking until the melted butter fully incorporates into the cooked sugar. Next, add the warm cream (it will bubble up!), whisking it in until it's fully incorporated. You'll notice that the texture is much thinner than it was earlier - not to worry it will thicken as it cools. Add the salt and whisk. Transfer it to a glass container and set aside.

3. To assemble the pie, roll out 1/2 of your homemade or store-bought dough to a 12-inch circle and place it in the 9-inch pie pan. Trim the edges, leaving a 1/4-inch overhang - it will shrink in the oven! Transfer the pie pan to the refrigerator while you make the heart-cut outs. Take the second half of your pie dough and roll it out. Cut out about 10 hearts, re-rolling the scraps and making 2 more. Lightly flour them, transfer them to a cutting board and place it in the refrigerator.

4. Preheat the oven to 300F. Peel, core and slice the apples to a 1/4-inch thickness. I lopped off the tops and bottoms and sliced them horizontally. TIP: If you don't have an apple core, you can use the bottom half of a piping tip (I did this!). Transfer the apples slices to a bowl and to prevent them from browning, coat them with the juice from the lemon. Add the flour, bourbon, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice to the apples and using your hands, toss the apples until they're evenly coated.

5. Take the pie crust out of the fridge. Transfer the apple mixture to the pie crust, layering them in a circle pattern. Taste the caramel - does it need more salt? Add more if needed. Pour about 1/4 cup of caramel over the apples. Top them with a few pinches of salt. Brush the edges of the pie crust with water. Place each heart around the pie crust, gently pressing them down so they are secured to the pie crust underneath. NOTE: There will be some heart sinkage because of the holes in the cored apples, to prevent this from happening, cube up an apple and fill those holes to keep the pastry dough upright. When you're done arranging the hearts, lightly brush them with the leftover caramel and top with a few pinches turbinado sugar and a few pinches of sea salt.

6. Transfer the pie to baking sheet and place it in the preheated oven. Bake at 300F for 25 minutes, until the pie crust is a very lightly golden brown. Turn the heat up to 350F and bake for an additional 35-40 minutes. You'll know when it's done when the pie crust is a golden brown color and the caramel looks bubbly. NOTE: When you take it out of the oven, the caramel may look thin - that's ok. It will thicken completely but it needs to cool. If you serve it now it will be goopy - but delicious! If you want attractive looking slices, allow it to cool (on your kitchen counter) for 5-6 hours. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream and a drizzle of salted caramel.
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