If it’s October–that great time of year when apples are abundantly in season and kids chow down on a myriad of sugar-covered sweets in preparation for Halloween–then you know a combination of the two is somewhere close at hand. There are actually two October holidays dedicated to taking an incredibly nutritious fruit like the apple and covering it in sweet, gooey, unhealthy candy, making it palatable beyond dipping it in a jar of peanut butter: Halloween is designated as National Candy Apple Day, while today celebrates a different kind of candy coating, Caramel Apple Day. They may sound very similar in the spirit of the holidays, but contextually, they’re quite different things! Caramel apples are rolled or dipped in a batch of hot caramel, which will stick to the outer skin of the apple as it cools. Caramel, of course, is just sugar that has been slowly heated to the point of caramelization, making for a warm, almost nutty flavor and a goopy consistency. The liquid candy used in candy apples is far less pure, and often has an artificial fire-engine red color added for effect–but more on those for National Candy Apple Day 😉 Caramel apples tend to be the more “natural” choice for sweet treat apples in the fall, and once they’re covered in the caramel, diners love to roll them further in tins of crushed nuts, sprinkles, or chocolate. And the demand for gourmet caramel apples is rising more and more every Halloween!
Caramel apples might be perfect for kids to eat their fruits (even if they’re covered in candy), but discerning adults and foodies want something more than an apple covered in caramel–especially when you live in an inventive city like New York. For the same great, nostalgic taste of a caramel apple on a stick, try out Four and Twenty Blackbirds’ salted caramel apple pie. Their signature dish is one of the bakery’s most popular items, for both critics and patrons alike. 4&20 only uses seasonal, local apples that ripened naturally on the tree for their pies, so this is the prime time to sink your teeth into one. Just as much care is taken in preparing the salted caramel filling, seasoned with cinnamon, allspice, and Angostura bitters–the twist in the recipe that elevates this from a simple apple pie. Stop in today and try a slice, and if you get hooked, you can order a whole one for pickup or delivery…just give Four and Twenty 48 hours in advance to make it. You could even have it twice this month: once today, and again for Candy Apple Day!
Four and Twenty Blackbirds
439 3rd Ave (between 7th St & 6th Ave), Gowanus
“The two South Dakota–reared sisters who opened Four & Twenty Blackbirds learned pie-baking from their grandma, and her expert instruction is evident in varieties like lemon chess, rhubarb custard and salted caramel apple enveloped in an exquisitely flaky crust. Linger at one of the comfy communal tables long enough, and your kids are bound to request a second slice—but if you want to take home a whole pie, you’ll need to order it at least 48 hours in advance.”–Time Out New York
“Four and Twenty Blackbirds even got us loving apple pie again, with their Salted Caramel take on that usually tedious staple. Again, it’s all in the balance–between crust and filling; among salt, tart and sweet; between soft and crunchy–and Four and Twenty Blackbirds nails it every time. And the Four and Twenty Blackbird’s Brooklyn bakery is welcoming and cozy, all soft light and wooden tables. True, that corner of Gowanus, like many corners in this area of Brooklyn, NY, is notable more for its gritty industrial character than its country charm, but once you’re inside Four and Twenty Blackbirds, with a piece of the best apple pie (or any of their creations!) set in front of you, suddenly nothing else really matters.”–Glenwood NYC
“A Brooklyn staple, Four & Twenty Blackbirds prides itself in using local, seasonal apples in their popular Salted Caramel Apple Pie. “The longer the fruit stays on the tree to ripen the better,” co-owner Emily Elsen told CBSNewYork. Made with homemade sea salt caramel, allspice, cinnamon, black or white pepper, Angosturra bitters, butter, flower, salt, brown and white sugar, the pie’s sweet consistency has customers coming back for more.”–CBS New York
“The apples are from Wilklow Orchards, which is in Highland, New York in the Hudson Valley. The salted caramel is homemade and the pie also has a mixture of spices, Angostura Bitters (usually used for cocktails but adds a nice aroma), sea salt and raw sugar and sits in a butter piecrust, also made by hand. The pie is delicious, sweet and savory. The apples are fresh, but soft. The salted caramel is amazing is so good that you will be singing carols between each forkful.”–Park Slope Patch
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“The salted caramel apple pie and the cranberry sage were delicious. I’m going to have to limit my visits to once a week. I’m continually amazed at how lucky I am to live in a neighborhood with some of the best food within easy walking distance. Thank goodness the gym is also close by.”–Chris O.
“Alright, I gave in. I bought into the hype and made it out there to both, stand in line on Thanksgiving Day, and to pick up another two pies on Christmas Eve after my family enjoyed them the first time around. What did I get…Salty Caramel Apple, Cranberry, and Chocolate Pecan, all were spot on. Yeah, they’re a little pricey at ~$35 a pop. But if you’re in charge of bringing dessert to a feast, this is the perfect choice, everyone will be impressed. The crust is what stands out most to me. Most pies I’ve come across have a dry crumbly crust that you almost cough up, basically an afterthought after the filling. But these pie crusts, nice and flaky. This crust definitely doesn’t take a backseat to any other part of the pie.”–David W.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!