RECIPE: FRENCH APPLE PIE
When Adélaïde started her pastry classes, the first thing she was taught was how to make a good pie crust. A beautiful golden color, crunchy at first, then crumbling in your mouth, enhancing and magnifying the fruits without sticking to the palate. The crust is the pie’s soul. If you want to make a good pie, make your own crust. It doesn’t take much time and is infinitely more rewarding than the ready-made ones. All you have to remember is that you need to progressively incorporate the butter into the flour and the other dry ingredients (almond powder, powdered sugar and salt) before adding the egg. In French, this is called sablage: the flour and the butter have to turn into sand and darken into a rich yellow shade.
It’s been apple season here these past weeks and one of the fruit trees in our garden has been getting heavier and heavier under the weight of dozens of green and reddish sweet globes. We had to relieve it of its embarrassing offspring. So we decided to bake a traditional apple tart, French style. Any pastry shop here sells these. It started out as a misty morning but eventually, as we were ready to fill up our basket, the sky had cleared up, brightening the garden and its century-old stone walls.
Not so long ago in the spring, we used to watch our cats climb up this tree as we picked some of its branches to make beautiful bouquets. Adélaïde once told me she couldn’t help but feel a little sad for those flowers that would never become apples. Now as we eat this apple pie, it reminds me of the fact that it is a little bit like biting into a bunch of flowers.
French apple pie | Serves 6
To use a whole egg, use this recipe and freeze the remaining crust for your next pie.
- 100g good quality flour
- 60g unsalted butter
- 40g powdered sugar
- 8g almond powder
- 20g egg
- a pinch of salt
- On a clean work surface, directly sift the flour, powdered sugar, almond powder and add a generous pinch of salt. Mix gently with your fingers to blend the ingredients. It is important that the powders are sifted to avoid lumps and to get a smooth pastry. Cut the butter into small cubes and start mixing to the powders. Sweep up and gather the blend in your hands and gently rub them against each other until the butter is integrated into the dry ingredients. The blend should look like rough sand and turn into a rich yellow color. This sablage should take a few minutes.
- Form a well and add in the beaten egg. In circles, rub the egg into the flour/butter blend until it forms a homogenous dough. The pastry should be smooth. Knead as little as possible. Shape into a ball and flatten it down a little so it’ll be easier to roll out. Wrap in film and refrigerate for at least an hour. You can even start by putting it in the freezer for 15 minutes.
- Dust your work surface with a thin and even layer of flour. Roll out the pastry until it is app. 3mm thick. Make sure the pastry doesn’t stick by rotating it regularly by a quarter of a turn. Line an app. 18cm buttered pie plate or tart ring and poke holes into the bottom of the crust with a fork. Store in the freezer for 30 minutes before using.
Note: if you have a stand mixer, you can sift the powders and add the chopped butter directly in the mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed with the paddle until the blend gets the desired consistency. Then add in the egg and keep beating until it starts forming a ball. Finish smoothing out by hand, shape into a ball and flatten it down. Wrap in film and refrigerate.
- 2 apples (app. 300g), peeled, cored and chopped into very small cubes
- 10% sugar (app. 30g)
- Vanilla beans (or extract)
- Ground cinnamon
- In a pot, heat up the chopped apples. Add the sugar, the vanilla and / or the cinnamon, stir well and cover.
- Let it melt and reduce on low heat until it gets a nice color, stirring frequently and adding water if necessary so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Wrap in film and refrigerate before using.
- 4-5 apples
- Preheat your oven at 160°C.
- Peel, core and cut the apples in half. Cut each half into thin slices.
- Once cold or lukewarm, take the previously prepared applesauce, pour it over the lined crust and even it out.
- On the applesauce, lay out the apple slices in a snail shape, starting by the outside part of the pie and going inwards in circles. If necessary, cut the slices into smaller pieces when you reach the center of your spiral.
- Bake for 40 min at 160°C in a convection oven.