Monday, November 24, 2014

Salted Caramel Apple Tart

Welcome to Thanksgiving week at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen! Have you seen our Savor the Season page? It's an amazing collection of our seasonal recipes. There's something for every taste.

This recipe started with Williams Sonoma. Yes, it's their fault for putting a fabulous picture of a Salted Caramel Apple Pie in their catalog. It was piled high and gorgeous. I couldn't get it out of my mind. I like apples. I like salted caramel. I like pie! But there wasn't a recipe.

So I went in search of recipes. Most of them are pretty much the same. They make caramel, add salt to it and pour it over the apples in the pie. I liked the idea of salting the caramel separately, so that was how I did it, but I would guess there's not a whole lot of difference.

My searching led me to an online conversation between chefs. Someone complained that the top crust gets too much heat while the bottom doesn't cook. Oh my, the suggestions! Put a tray underneath, put a pre-heated tray underneath, no tray at all, use a black pie pan, use a tray with a rack so there's air flow, and on and on. The interesting thing was that, just like us, they all had ideas and opinions, but there's not one way to do things.

It's like a cave in there!
In the end, though, while the pie was beautiful, it had problems. It didn't particularly taste like salted caramel. It tasted like apple pie. Maybe in a side-by-side taste test one could tell the difference but it wasn't worth all the steps and trouble to make. It also had a hole. America's Test Kitchen wrestled with this issue and recommended their pie crust but said something about it not cutting particularly well.

While I don't think it has to be perfect, I wasn't happy enough with the pie to recommend it for your Thanksgiving dinner.

I moved on. If I wasn't getting the caramel flavor that I sought from pie, maybe a tart would be a better idea. I have to admit that the tart took a lot less time and involved fewer steps, always a good thing.

I used sweet Fuji apples for the tart because that was what they had in my store. I trust Sheila will know what I should have used, but a tour of the countryside in search of apples wasn't on the schedule.

I made the buttery pastry in the food processor and added a dash of vodka to reduce the gluten production when worked and keep the crust soft and flaky. It came together nicely but required an hour of rest in the fridge. There's nothing magic about this particular pastry, so feel free to use your favorite.

Channels of caramel!

When I make this again, I might not bother to make the apples stand up. I suspect you'll get much prettier results if you lay the slices in circles, allowing them to overlap slightly. If you choose to make them stand, like I did, please expect them to lean once they soften through baking. The tart still looks pretty, and I do rather like the channels of caramel. Note that I didn't spread the caramel on the bottom to the edge to reduce the likelihood of it swimming away out of the pan.

In the end, I liked this much, much better than the pie. You can really taste the caramel, and when you get a flake of salt on top – oohlala! Please note that it's quite sweet. After being refrigerated, the caramel firmed up enough for it to cut quite nicely. You can make this a day ahead of time, which I always think is a major plus.

Salted Caramel Apple Tart


1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
1/2 teaspoon vodka
1 large egg

Place dough blade in food processor and add flour, salt, and butter. Pulse until it looks like ground cornmeal, scraping the sides a couple of times. Add vodka, pulse, then add the egg and pulse until it forms a ball. Refrigerate for at least an hour.


1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar

Place all ingredients in a microwave-safe container that can hold at least 2 cups (it will bubble up). Microwave in short bursts from 20 - 50 seconds, stirring each time until it bubbles up and the sugar is dissolved.


5-6 large apples

Peel, core, and slice apples. I sliced each quarter apple into six slices. Don't cut them too thin.

Sugar Topping (Optional)

I wasn't quite sure how this would turn out, so I used this paste on top of it.* Honestly, I think you can skip this step because the caramel adds enough sweetness.

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cups sugar
good pinch salt

Blend together into a lumpy paste.


Malton's shaved salt

A few pinches of salt will be used in the assembly.


Preheat oven to 425. Insert a baking sheet on a rack underneath the middle rack to catch any overflowing juices.

Grease the tart pan, especially the sides so they will release nicely.

Dust your work surface with flour and roll out the dough. Lay it over the tart pan and gently press into place. If something tears, just nip off a bit of the extra dough and press it in place. No one will see it.

Place one layer of apples around the side, overlapping them slightly. Pour about 1/4 cup of the caramel over the pastry in the middle of them and spread with the back of a spoon. Lick spoon and place in dishwasher.

Add the remaining apples in circles, inserting them just a bit between the edges of the apples in the previous row. When it gets too tight to add more apples in circles, place three or four slices in the center together. Go back to the first row and insert more apple slices in any gaps.

Bake at 425 for 20 - 25 minutes. Meanwhile mix the butter and sugar into a paste.*

Remove tart from oven and lower heat to 325. Sprinkle the paste over the tart and return to oven. Bake another 25 - 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

When cool, microwave the remaining caramel 10 - 20 seconds to make it thinner. Drizzle over the cool tart. Sprinkle a generous pinch or two of salt over the top. Loosen the sides gently and remove the outer edge before refrigerating. Refrigerate tart until serving.

If you have a tear or a hole, patch it with a scrap of pastry.

Start at the outside when adding apples.

Spread some caramel on the bottom.

Add the rest of the apples.

The apples will relax as they bake.

It cuts very nicely for serving.

Mmm. Now that tastes like caramel!

Coming December 2nd!

To celebrate, we're each giving away book this week! I'll be giving away the winner's choice of 
In addition, the winner will receive one etched glass Wagtail Mountain mug!

To enter, please leave a comment
 (click on the word COMMENT a few lines below)
 by midnight Wednesday November 26th.
Don't forget to include your email address
 so I can contact you. 
Good luck and have a very Happy Thanksgiving!!!


  1. I Love your books and can not wait to read The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer !!! Love the Wagtail Mountain mug too !!!

  2. I'd love to read either of these books, and the mug would be icing on the top!

  3. I definitely need to take Pep to Wagtail Mountain!

    My mom used to make apple slices, a lot of work but worth it. This recipe looks that good, have to try it.

  4. That is such a delicious looking pie! I'll have to make it. I love all of your books.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Awesome! I love your books and would be thrilled to win a copy of The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer. The mug is so cute. Please enter me in the contest.


    Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. The pie looks delicious! Will have to consider it for our daughter's birthday as she prefers pie to cake, I need to add both books to my wish list!

  8. The pie certainly looks delicious and I do love salted caramel. I have watched the videos on Pie Academy in my efforts for the perfectly baked pie crust. Ken makes pies look so easy and his enthusiasm is contagious. I love ALL your books and look forward to The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer. The mug would make my tea more enjoyable.

  9. That mug is adorable (you don't have to enter me in the drawing--I already have the book!), and I make a version of that caramel sauce that I usually end up eating with a spoon before it reaches the cake or pie.

    I wish there was a simple answer to "what is the right apple?" Stay away from Red Delicious (little flavor) or Macintosh (turns to mush when cooked). Lots of people recommend Golden Delicious for cooking, or Granny Smith. Me, I'm still using up whatever I managed to grow this year. I've discovered if I just slice or chop a mismatched bunch of them to bake with, somehow they manage to find a balance of texture and flavor.

  10. Love this recipe. i can't wait to try it.

  11. The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer and the mug would be a terrific gift to win. I have most of your books and love them! Hope you keep them coming!

  12. Oh my gosh, Krista, the tart is a masterpiece! xo

  13. If I could remember more than one thing at a time, I would have left my email address when I commented a few minutes ago. I don't want to forfeit the book incase I'm lucky enough be a the winner!

  14. Sounds like a great read.

  15. This pie sounds amazing! And I can't wait to read the new book. I loved the first one. Thanks for the chance to win.

  16. Looks wonderful and am excited to read the new book.

  17. The tart looks amazing!! I'm SO looking forward to "The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer" and would love to win a copy and the mug.

    patucker54 at aol dot com

  18. I love the mug. I am adding both of these books to my list of books to read.

  19. Oh, my how yummy is that?!
    Thanks for taking the time to experiment for all of us.

  20. The mug is awesome!

  21. Thanks for the great recipe!! I may have to try this.

  22. Caramel apples are a favorite with me so I've just got to try this recipe. I'm drooling already!
    I'd love to win your contest, too.

  23. Excellent pie, mug, and book! Wow! Wishing you an early Happy Thanksgiving as well.

  24. I think by the time I stopped taste-testing the caramel sauce there wouldn't be enough to put in the tart, but maybe enough to put on ice cream! Maybe!!
    The Ghost and Mrs Mewer is on my wishlist. Love the mug.

  25. Can't wait for this book to come out!

  26. This looks fabulous! Krista, can you convince Kendra to make it for me? ~ Phoebe

  27. The books look like great reads . Plus I adore the mug !! Happy Thanksgiving :-)

  28. would love to read the ghost and mrs. mewer. thanks for the chance.

  29. I am going to have to try this recipe it looks so good!! Thanks for the chance to win the book and the mug. My email is

  30. The pie looks delicious, and I love both this series and the Diva series. Thanks for the opportunity.

    dmskrug3 at hotmail dot com

  31. looks like a really yummy recipe I would love to read the ghost and Mrs. mewer my email is great contest!

  32. The sugar topping looks like a good idea!

  33. I loved Murder, She Barked, and can't wait to read this one as well. And the mug is adorable!

    Thank you!

  34. I may just have to attempt this pie. It looks amazing! Would love to win the book and mug!

  35. What an awesome looking pie, my grandma used make apple pies but nothing like this. Would love to win The Ghost & Mrs. Mewer.

  36. I would love to win either one!

  37. You have so many delicious recipes it is hard to choose what one to try. I would love to have a copy of your book, The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer to read.

  38. Looks so good. Would love to win.l Love the mug.

  39. That pie looks so yummy :) can't wait to see more of these kinda goodies at Thanksgiving.

  40. Would love to start this series. Thanks so much.
    The pie looks lovely but out of my range of culinary abilities.

  41. Well this looks like a lovely and delicious recipe! Thanks so much for the chance to win the mug or the book. Happy Thanksgiving!

  42. Krista, I truly appreciate all your taste testing and baking to figure out the right recipe. This is absolutely gorgeous and I can make it gluten-free, because a tart crust is super easy! Yay. I'll be offering this at Christmas, since Thanksgiving is already figured out.


    Daryl PS The mug is adorable!!

  43. What a delectable and gorgeous pie. Happy Thanksgiving. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  44. A recipe that is gorgeous and so appealing. Love to try it. thanks. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  45. Looks scrumptious! Thanks for testing it and sharing!

  46. This is amazing! Love the idea! Everything here is just ... purrrrrfect!

  47. My husband would love this pie. Sounds so yummy. Love the mug and would love to have one. Happy Thanksgiving!