Skillet Caramel Apple Pie for Election Day and Words From a Wise Woman

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

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Years and years ago, when I was first married, someone gave me a cast iron skillet as a wedding gift. I’d never used one before.  My mother never had one, so I didn’t even know what to do with it.  And, with my shiny brand new set of high end stainless steel pots and pans, my new slow cooker, pressure cooker  and steamer, I never gave that big, ugly, heavy black skillet a second thought.    In fact, when we moved into our first house a few years later, I stuck it in a box out in the garage and promptly forgot about it.   Eight years later, we moved; and the box moved with us.  As we unpacked, my mother-in-law, who was helping, pulled out the skillet and asked where I wanted her to put it.  I told her that I’d never used it and that she could keep it if she wanted.  Her eyes got all wide and she asked, incredulously, “You mean you’ve never used it?”  “Nope,” I replied.   “Not even for frying bacon?” she queried.   “No.” was my response.  “But, how do you cook eggs?”, she persisted.  (Oh boy!  She was not going to let this drop!)  “Teflon,”, I answered.  She shook her head sadly and put the skillet aside.

The next morning, I woke to the smell of bacon sizzling.  When I stumbled into the kitchen, I was greeted by my mother-in-law’s beaming face and a large platter of bacon and eggs.  On the stove was my cast iron skillet, still glistening with the remnants of freshly rendered bacon grease.  At first, I was kind of annoyed.  I mean, how many times did I have to tell her that I did not like that skillet?  But at the same time, that pile of food looked pretty enticing.  I was intrigued.

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While we ate, my mother-in-law sang the praises of cooking with cast iron.  She shared how her own mother had used her skillet to feed her family almost daily.   And how, as a young bride, she continued the tradition when gifted with her own cast iron skillet.  She explained that the best things aren’t always the ones that are shiny, pretty and new.  I think I already knew that.  I just needed to be reminded.  She’s a wise woman, that mother-in-law of mine.

After breakfast, she showed me how to clean and care for my skillet.   She told me that the more I used it, the better it would become.  That was sixteen years ago.  Since then, I’ve used that skillet more times than I can count – and I’ve grown to truly love it.   I can’t imagine cooking without it.  And to think I almost threw it away!

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Over the years, I’ve discovered that a cast iron skillet is good for a lot more than frying bacon and eggs.  Among other things, it’s also great for frying and roasting chicken, searing meats, making pancakes  and baking cornbread and cakes .  It even makes a damn fine tarte tatin!  So, when I found myself with an abundance of apples just begging to be baked into a pie, I thought, why not try it in the skillet.  

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One reason that I decided to bake this Skillet Caramel Apple Pie is because it’s Autumn, and Autumn is practically synonymous with apples.  It is also Election Day here in the United States.  And, nothing is more  quintessentially American than apple pie.

The pie is actually assembled and baked right in a cast iron skillet.   It might sound a little unorthodox, but it really does work beautifully.  The skillet works wonders in creating the lightest, flakiest crust, while baking the filling into a soft, jammy mass of caramel apple goodness.   Caramel is used in two ways in this pie.  First of all, a thick layer of caramelized brown sugar lines the skillet underneath the bottom crust.  While you might think that this would make the crust soggy – it doesn’t.  In fact, during baking it hardens up and makes the bottom crust quite crispy.   Then, a rich, buttery caramel sauce is mixed in with the apple filling and also poured right over the top crust of the pie.  It’s a caramel double whammy!  And, in my opinion, the only thing that goes with apples better than caramel -  is more caramel.

So, let’s make some pie!

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The first thing you need to do is get your apples ready.  I’m totally crazy about this new little toy I got.  It’s an inexpensive, plastic apple peeler – and it works like a dream.  Seriously!  You need this, people!   It costs less than twenty bucks and it skins an apple in under ten seconds flat.  It’s compact and lightweight, and has no parts to assemble.   To clean it, just rinse with warm water and you’re done.   So peel, baby, peel!

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Once you have your apples peeled, cored and sliced, toss them with a little lemon juice, flour and cinnamon.  Then, set them aside.

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You’re going to make two kinds of caramel sauce for this pie.  One gets poured over the apples, and the other stays in the skillet to caramelize the crust.  Both start with butter.

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The caramel sauce for the apples is made by cooking butter, sugar and brown sugar together until it is bubbly and a nice amber color.  For the pie, brown sugar is added to melted butter and cooked a few minutes until it turns thick and gooey.

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See?  Thick and gooey!  Now, here’s the tricky part.  That skillet and the caramel inside is hot, hot, hot..  And, you have to lay a pie crust in there!  So you’re gonna have to work fast, fast, fast, or else the crust will disintegrate on contact.    I recommend doing two things to minimize this problem.  First, freeze your pie crust for about 10-15 minutes after you roll it out.   The colder it is, the less likely it is to fall apart.  Make sure that it’s still malleable though, or it might break.     Second, let the skillet cool down for a while before attempting to place the crust in it.  I let mine sit for about twenty minutes, and it did help.  I think you could even get away with letting it sit longer.

I didn’t dare take any photos of actually assembling the pie.  Suffice it to say that I didn’t want to waste a second!    By the way, if you get cracks and tears in the crust – and you inevitably will – just patch them with the scraps you get from around the outer edges of the skillet.  It should all fuse together in the oven.

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After you line the skillet with a layer of crust, fill it with the apples and pour half of the caramel sauce over them.  Then, place the second crust over them and pour on the rest of the caramel sauce.   Be careful not to let the sauce run down over the edges of the pie.

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Here’s the pie – all ready to bake.  Now would be a good idea to grab a baking sheet lined with foil to set the skillet on in the oven.  You can skip this step if you don’t have a problem with burnt sugar spilling over and forming a hard, black, gunky crust on the bottom of your oven.   I, for one, hate having to chip away at that stuff, so I use the baking sheet.

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TA DA!  PIE! 

Just look at that beautiful burnished crust and those juicy, tender apples peeking through.  Doesn’t it look glorious?   I promise you, it is!

So, make this apple pie.  Then, go out and vote.  And later, reward yourself with a great, big, crusty, caramel-y, apple-y slice of Skillet Caramel Apple Pie for a job well done.

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25 responses to Skillet Caramel Apple Pie for Election Day and Words From a Wise Woman

  1. On November 06, 2012 at 3:25pm, Rosa said...

    I’d love to own a skillet… This pie looks fantastic. I’m craving a slice of it now…

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. On November 06, 2012 at 3:27pm, Karen@Mignardise said...

    Gorgeous! An apple pie for election day is perfect and this one is pretty awesome. Gets my vote!

  3. On November 06, 2012 at 3:37pm, Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar said...

    HEAVEN! This pie is perfect for today :)

  4. On November 06, 2012 at 4:45pm, Julie (@JuliesEatsTreat) said...

    This looks amazing! I love caramel and apple and pie so all three would be fantastic!

  5. On November 06, 2012 at 7:03pm, Doreen said...

    I’m not much of a pie eater – but this pie looks delicious and I want to make it so I can enjoy a slice of it!
    drooling…

  6. On November 07, 2012 at 12:00pm, LizA said...

    Admittedly, the only cast iron I own is a tiny skillet that came as part of a Christmas gift pack of meats & cheeses, but I use it when I bake: placed in the oven to preheat, add ice cubes to crisp the crust of a loaf of homemade French bread.

    I’m a little intimidated, as cast iron wasn’t in the kitchen I grew up in. There are so many sizes to choose from — any suggestions?

    • On November 10, 2012 at 9:32pm, Susan said...

      It all depends on how many you usually cook for. I’d look for a skillet that comfortably fits two nice sized steaks. The size I usually use for cooking is 12-inches. The skillet I use for baking is a 10-inch one.

  7. On November 08, 2012 at 6:30am, michelle @ The Village Cook said...

    I LOVED this story… especially because not only was it written so beautifully, but it also has my three favorites as a bonus: cast iron, caramel and apples. YUM! Thank you for brightening my morning!

    • On November 10, 2012 at 9:32pm, Susan said...

      My pleasure! :D

  8. On November 10, 2012 at 2:29pm, Maggie @ A Bitchin' Kitchen said...

    This looks amazing. I’m a recent cast iron skillet convert, however I’ve never used it for any desserts! That needs to change!

  9. On November 10, 2012 at 3:51pm, Jen said...

    Hi, what size skillet did you use?

    • On November 10, 2012 at 9:34pm, Susan said...

      It was a 10-inch skillet that I keep just for baking things like cornbread, etc. :)

  10. On November 10, 2012 at 7:00pm, Mary Ann said...

    This looks great, but I attempted one like this (from another blog) in my iron skillet last year, and it stuck to the bottom and was one of the hardest things I have ever had to clean up after in my life!

    • On November 10, 2012 at 9:36pm, Susan said...

      Hmmm. Was your skillet well seasoned? This was the first actual pie I baked in it, but I’ve never had a sticking problem with a seasoned skillet. Also, remember that there is a layer of butter and sugar on the bottom underneath the crust. That could have helped.

  11. On November 10, 2012 at 10:21pm, Katrina said...

    This looks delicious, Susan. I think, but I’m not sure because there are just so many, but I think apple pie is my favorite pie. ;)

  12. On November 11, 2012 at 4:15pm, Dee B said...

    Yum! That looks fantastic! I was given a set of cast iron skillets in 3 sizes probably close to 10 years ago. It took me until just a few years ago to do anything more than season them. (I’d seasoned them early on then let them sit…which meant I had to re-season after the dust and cross-country move dirt.) I love them and can’t imagine when I didn’t try them. I like to fry eggs in my tiny one..much easier than my stainless steel fry pants. (We don’t use the coated pans, I call them ‘poison’ pans lol…I don’t like the idea of scratching them and getting the coating in my food.) Hubs bought a huge bag of apples and said “Find a way to use them, these can’t go bad, they cost too much” so yesterday I made apple pie drop cookies. I may have to try your recipe later this week with the rest!

  13. On November 11, 2012 at 9:22pm, Shanna C said...

    I grew up with cast iron…my mother and both grandmothers cooked in them. Guess it’s a Southern thing! I inherited both my mother’s and my mother-in-law’s cast iron skillets, well seasoned. And now they have been passed down to my daughter and my daughter-in-law, who are continuing the tradition of cooking in cast iron. By the way, the best cast iron skillets are made right here in Tennessee at Lodge Manufacturing in South Pittsburg.

  14. On November 12, 2012 at 9:16am, Loretta | A Finn In The Kitchen said...

    I’m so in love with my cast iron! I have two and one is always dirty…

    This pie looks incredible!

  15. On November 12, 2012 at 4:29pm, The Food Hound said...

    Yes, MORE caramel, indeed! I have to admit I gave away my cast-iron skillet two years ago and I have come to seriously regret it. I think it was a bad pregnancy-related decision :) But still, I could totally make this is a stainless skillet. I mean, with that much caramel it’s bound to be amazing. And I need to conquer my fear of pie crust, anyway.

  16. On December 05, 2012 at 9:32pm, Margaret said...

    I found this site looking for images of pie in cast iron skillets. I adore my cast iron and have more pieces than Julia Child had. I grew up 20 miles from the Lodge factory plus I inherited some. My favorite piece is a cast iron wok which I stir-fry in a couple times per week. It is indeed time for me to venture into desserts in cast iron. My hubby usually takes the Dutch oven on Scout camping trips and does peach cobbler or choco-tacos (flour tortillas with melted chocolate chips and marshmallows). They have replaced smores as a camp favorite for the boys.

  17. On January 27, 2013 at 8:04pm, Shelby said...

    Love the name of your site. This is my first time here. Had to tell you that my experience with cast iron skillets is very similar to yours. Instead of my mother-in-law, it was a new neighbor who became and is still my BFF,who knew about cast iron. She grew up in the country while I grew up in the city(16,000 pop.) Still, I find that the older I get the more I appreciate mine. I use them the same as you: 10 inch for baking,other sizes for every thing else. Thanks for this wonderful sounding recipe. I’ll be back!

  18. On September 02, 2013 at 12:35pm, Brenda said...

    I asked my love to pick me up a couple apples near where he works because in Amish country you can be sure to get quality fruits this time of year, he brought home 2 BUSHELS OF APPLES, um, ok, now what. Then I found this and I just made this recipe, I did use my own pie crust recipe for the crust instead of premade, why go to all this trouble and skimp on the crust! I have to say I wanted to LICK MY CUTTING BOARD CLEAN, some of the caramel sauce was dripped on it when I covered the crust and I don’t want to be crude but orgasmic is how I would describe that sauce! It was smooth and creamy and just wonderful. I have the pie in the oven now, I am praying for no sticky mess to clean, and that it comes out as well as yours looks. I will post the end result later. I think I am going to have to become a follower of your blog, this is amazing! Thank you so much.

  19. On September 15, 2013 at 9:22am, Linda said...

    Make pie crust first. Before cooking in pan, put crust in cold pan to form to shape and freeze. When frozen take out of pan and keep shaped dough in freezer until caramel in pan is ready. Already shaped crust and colder crust gives you more time so no rushing needed. My mom made a pie like this and that’s what she did.

  20. On September 18, 2013 at 8:57am, Janet said...

    Have been looking for a Skillet Apple Pie recipe and so glad I found yours. As for my input on iron skillets, can’t imagine life without them. Being from the country in the heart of the south learning to cook usually begins with an iron skillet. Over 30 years ago I married an only child. As traditionally expected I received a couple of skillets as wedding gifts. While I knew how to cook when I first married it wasn’t until I spent some time with my mother-in-law that I really learned how to improve my skills, and truly appreciate my iron skillets and my mother-in-law. She and I grew to be closer than I ever imagined. I had the best mother-in-law in the world. I loved her dearly. She died in 2004 and I still miss her so much. When I married her only son I became her daughter. Now I have her precious collection of iron cookware that grew to be quiet a collection. I use it dailey with the fondest memories of her every time. Who would have thought such a blessing would have cooked up from an iron skillet?

  21. On November 10, 2013 at 11:28pm, Leslie said...

    Made this recipe today for my Dad’s bday as he loves pies. It turned out fabulous- a very pretty pie and super delicious. Everyone really liked it & my Dad kept saying how good it was. It was very tricky to put the pie crust into the warm pan… I tried the freezer trick listed in another comment & that would have been perfect if my dough also didn’t have the saran wrap on it… trying to peel that off caused it to break & then I had to roll it out all over again. :( Then it tore in lots of places & I had to patch quite a bit. BUT after that was fixed, it went smoothly. The crust did stick on the sides of the pan but not the bottom. THanks for the yummy recipe!

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Hello and welcome to SGCC! I’m Susan, a professional writer, food columnist, recipe developer, wife, mother, daughter and sister, who used to be a lawyer in a previous life. My love of food comes from a long line of wonderful and creative Italian home cooks who didn’t always have a lot, but knew how to make a lot out of what they had. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and visit often! read more >>

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