Sweet New Year Apple Pie

On the High Holidays, we pause and reflect, paying close attention to the promise and splendor of autumn. The hope for a sweet New Year is echoed in the desserts associated with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, traditionally cakes and pies featuring an abundance of apples. For a certain generation, Rosh Hashanah conjures an image of crimson red candy apples perched atop wooden sticks.

When I was a child, at the conclusion of children’s services the sound of the shofar echoed through the stillness of the stained glass synagogue. Filing out into the bright fall sunshine, we were handed a crimson candy apple as a symbol of the sweet New Year. They were as shiny as the patent leather pocketbooks our mothers carried and the dress-up shoes we wore. Arriving at the sweet apple beneath the hard sugar coating required perseverance, our chins and fingers sticky with sugar. The celebration continued at home around the dining room table. Stemmed glasses sparkled with wine for the grown-ups and sweet apple cider for the children. Memories were created from desserts filled with apples, fragrant with cinnamon and laced with honey.

The following pie combines the flavors of the holiday beneath a buttery crust. A pie large enough to embrace a holiday crowd, it contains a generous three pounds of apples cozied up in a cookie-like crust with apple cider-spiked honey caramel.

If the number of components concerns you, fear not, as most of the elements can, and should, be prepared ahead of time. The caramel and pie pastry should be prepped in advance and refrigerated. Apples can be peeled, cored and sliced one day before baking. Just be sure to add one tablespoon of lemon juice to the sliced apples to prevent discoloring, then place them in the fridge in a sealed, airtight container.

If you like, as a nod to High Holidays gone by, the pie can be garnished with or served alongside a version of the candy apples I grew up with. They still have a hard sugar coating, but this one is made red with pomegranate juice.

Sweet New Year Apple Pie

Serves 12 generously
Total Cooking Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Active Cooking Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Cook’s Note: this recipe contains butter in the crust and cream in the caramel which may preclude it being served following a meat meal.

  • 3 pounds of baking apples, preferably a combination of tart and sweet (Granny Smith, Ginger Gold, Macoun are all good choices) peeled, cored, thinly sliced
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • pinch salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¾ cup Cider Honey Caramel (taste the apples; if you prefer a sweeter pie, add an additional tablespoon or two of caramel)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 batch prepared Sweet Pie Pastry
  • egg wash made from 1 egg yolk beaten with 2 tablespoons heavy cream or milk

Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, toss the sliced apples with the lemon zest, juice, salt, spices and caramel. Let the apples sit for half an hour until they release some moisture. (During this time you can prepare the Crimson Candy apples.)

Drain the apple mixture in a colander; saving the liquid. Cook the liquid over low heat until it reduces a bit and becomes syrupy. Return the drained apple slices to the large bowl and toss with the cornstarch. Add the cooking liquid to the apples and combine well. Retrieve the bottom and top crusts from the refrigerator. Mound the apples in the pie plate and carefully place the top crust over the apples. Seal the top crust with the bottom crust, turn the edges under and crimp decoratively. Brush the top crust (not the edges) with the egg wash. Place strips of aluminum foil around the edges of the pie to prevent over browning. Use a small cookie cutter or paring knife to cut a few vents in the top crust allowing steam to escape. Place the pie on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake on the bottom rack of the pre-heated 375°F oven for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for an additional 50 minutes, until the apples test tender with a knife and juices begin to bubble through the vents. Let the pie cool on a rack for at least 2 hours before slicing. Wrap and refrigerate any leftovers.

Sweet Pie Pastry

Yields enough for one double crust 10” pie (10” x 1½” deep pie plate)

  • 2½ sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Place the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, (alternatively place the butter in a large mixing bowl and use a hand-held electric mixer) and beat on low until creamy. Gradually add the sugar, mixing until combined then add the beaten egg and vanilla. Mix until incorporated, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the baking powder to the flour; whisk to combine. Gradually add the flour to the butter mixture, beating on low speed until incorporated. Scrape the pie pastry onto a large sheet of plastic wrap, divide it in half and shape each half into a disc. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.

On a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper, roll one disc of pastry into a circle 12” in diameter and ⅛” thick. Ease the pastry into a lightly buttered and floured 10” x 1½” pie plate, fold the edges under and crimp as desired. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Roll out the second disc of pastry on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper into an 11” circle, ⅛” thick. This will be the top crust. Slide the parchment paper with the top crust onto a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

Cider Honey Caramel

Yields 1¼ cups

  • 1 cup apple cider, preferably not heat pasteurized
  • ½ cup honey, preferably local
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 oz. unsalted butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Place 1 cup of apple cider in a medium (3 quart) heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat until reduced to ¼ cup. Add honey, brown sugar, salt and butter to the reduced cider. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally with a wooden or silicone treated spoon. Allow the caramel to cook until it deepens in color, about 8 minutes. Slowly and carefully add the cream; the mixture will bubble up and get foamy. Stir gently to combine, add the vanilla then cook until the caramel thickens. (On a candy thermometer, the caramel will register 234°F) Let the caramel cool before using it in the pie filling.

Crimson Candy Apples

Serves 6

  • 6 small apples, rinsed, dried
  • 6 wooden food-safe craft sticks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ⅔ cup light corn syrup
  • ⅓ cup water
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2-3 tablespoons pomegranate juice

Line a baking sheet with aluminium foil and grease well. Insert a wooden stick into the top of each apple, pushing it halfway through. Set aside and prepare the sugar syrup.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water and cinnamon. Cook over high heat until the syrup registers 300°F on a candy thermometer. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add 2 (or 3) tablespoons of pomegranate juice to tint the sugar syrup, swirling to combine. Working quickly, dip the apples in the syrup. Transfer to the lined baking sheet. Cool completely.

Recipes and photos by Ellen Gray

Ellen Gray is a freelance food writer and a professional baker at a small bakery in the Garden State. She wields a rolling pin by day and pens observations about pie by night at No More Mr. Nice Pie.


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