I’m always on the lookout for new apple pie recipes. Lattice, crumble or dutch; salted caramel, cider or cranberry … I’ve made them all. I’ve experimented with all types of pastry too … butter, shortening, lard and various combinations of each. Every year when I find myself with a pile of apples, I’ll try something new or go back to an old favorite. Just depends upon my mood. My middle godson, the lover of apple pies, is often a recipient as an enthusiastic and receptive audience is always welcome in my book. A few months ago it was his birthday and it just so happened that his parents were out of town so I hung out with him for a few days. I think I was there pretty much to make sure the house was still intact when the folks came home but I didn’t mind a bit as hanging out with this kid is fun. He took me out to dinner (so sweet!) and I took him to the movies (Deadpool. He had to explain a lot of backstory for me.) To celebrate his birthday, I made him an apple pie.
I originally thought about making a cake, because you know, birthdays. In searching for ideas, I came across this idea for a French Apple Pie. It was baked in a springform with a sturdier dough than the traditional pie pastry and was packed with slow cooked apples and raisins. A pastry top seals everything in and once cooled, a flavorful glaze is spread on top. It had all the flavors of a pie but in a cake form. A pie-cake! Perfect. He loved it.
I was curious about the name. Why a French apple pie? The French don’t really make pies so what was so French about this thing? I went back to the source, David Lebovitz’s site, and found that there is nothing particularly French about it all beyond the use of apples and pastry which are quite common. The recipe is from pastry chef Nick Malgieri and he notes that it used to be a mainstay in French pastry shops about 50 years ago but seems to have disappeared. That’s a shame because not only is it delicious, it holds up really well. I typically don’t travel with pies because it’s a pain. The biggest issue is the damn pan. Bake in a pretty pie plate and you have to deal with getting the thing back. It’s so awkward. Do you leave it and try to get it back later? If you take it at the end of the meal, what do you do with the inevitable leftover slice? To avoid this, many use disposable foil pans but those are flimsy and tacky, not living up to the specialness of a homemade pie. Once I bought an inexpensive metal pan at a restaurant supply store with the intention of leaving it behind. Great idea but I’ve never been organized enough to pull that off since. This “pie” solves these pan concerns because there is no pan. The only trade off is the pastry is more tart-like, therefore sturdy rather than flaky but I think the tradeoff in portability is worth it.
In the original recipe, the pie is turned upside down after cooling so the folded pastry seams are on the bottom and then the top (formerly bottom) is iced with a nice smooth coat. I rather like the look of the folded pastry on top so I don’t usually mess around with flipping the thing but to each his own. The original recipe also calls for dark rum but I like Calvados, an apple brandy from Normandy, so if you have it use it! It’s lovely and if you served a nice glass alongside, all the better.
One note: below I call for all golden delicious apples which makes a great pie, however, I’m a big fan of mixing apples. Mix a sweet apple with a soft apple and throw a couple tart ones in there for good measure and your pie will be better for it.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: I’M LIKING THESE APPLES. So here’s the thing: Thanksgiving is less than a week away. As we all know and are loathe to admit, cooking for Thanksgiving can be a stressful thing, very last minute and crazy not matter your skill or organization levels. What you have here is a dessert that is 100% holiday appropriate, can be made ahead by a day or two and travels exceptionally well with no damn pie pan to worry about. If you break the process into stages, it is virtually stress free. And the satisfaction of bringing a delicious, homemade pie to your in-laws Thanksgiving fiesta is enormous. Here’s a tip: if you have a cake plate, that’s lovely but if you really don’t want to worry about dealing with a plate, cut a cardboard circle the size of your springform pan. Cover it with foil and tape on the bottom to secure. Ever so carefully, ease the pie off the pan bottom onto your foil lined cardboard circle. You now have a disposable cake plate. You’re welcome.
other apple pies on this blog: Classic Apple Pie, Lattice Love, Lessons in Pie Crust, Simple Apple Tarts, Salted Caramel Apple Pie, Cider Apple Pie, French Apple Tart, German Apple Cheese Torte
Seven years ago: Cider Donuts
Six years ago: Blue Cheese Dressing with a Wedge Salad
Five years ago: Maple Buttermilk Spoonbread with Glazed Pears
Four years ago: Kale & Squash Salad
Three years ago: Maple Bourbon Carrots
Two years ago: Roasted Delicata Squash – 4 Ways
Last year: Maple Mustard Glazed Delicata, Brussels Sprouts & Shallots
FRENCH APPLE PIE – adapted slightly from this recipe
Make one 8-inch pie, 8 servings
for the apple filling:
2 ½ pounds golden delicious apples (or a mix of apples)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ cup golden raisins
1 Tablespoon Calvados (or dark rum)
for the pastry:
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold in ½” pieces (1 stick/4 ounces)
2 large eggs
for the egg wash:
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon heavy cream or milk
for the icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon Calvados (or dark rum)
1 ½ teaspoons water
pinch of kosher salt
- For the apple filling: peel, quarter, core, and cut the apples into thin wedges.
- Melt the butter over medium heat in a large, wide saucepan with a lid.
- Once the butter is sizzling, add all the remaining ingredients except the Calvados (or rum). Stir well.
- Cook until the apples start to sizzle, then cover the pan and decrease the heat to low.
- Continue to cook until the apples have given off their liquid, between 5-10 minutes, uncovering the pan and stirring occasionally as the liquid evaporates.
- Remove from heat, add the rum, and spread the filling in a shallow bowl to cool.
- Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
- For the pastry: add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt to the bowl of a food processor and pulse to mix. (You can also make this by hand, in a bowl.)
- Add the cold butter and pulse until the butter is no longer in visible pieces.
- Add the eggs and pulse until the dough starts to form a ball.
- Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead a few times to work in all the dry bits.
- Divide the dough into 2 pieces, 2/3 and 1/3 of the dough, wrap both tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days (can be frozen, tightly wrapped, up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight.)
- to assemble the pie: set a rack in the lowest level of the oven and preheat to 350ºF.
- Lightly butter an 8″ springform pan and set aside until needed.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the larger piece of dough to a 12” circle, flouring the top and moving the dough frequently to prevent sticking.
- Ease the dough into the prepared pan, making sure to press it down carefully into the pan edges.
- Trim off the excess dough along the top of the pan edge.
- Turn the chilled filling into the dough lined pan, smoothing neatly.
- Make an egg wash by whisking together 1 egg and 1 Tablespoon heavy cream or milk. Set aside.
- Roll the remaining, smaller piece of dough in the same manner to an 8” circle.
- Place the filled pan on top of the dough and with a sharp knife, trim a neat circle.
- Set the filled pan to the side and carefully fold the pastry circle in half or quarters, transfer gently to the pan and unfold to cover the apple filling.
- Brush the pastry circle with egg wash, taking extra care to cover the edges of the circle.
- Carefully fold down the pastry overhand from the sides of the pan onto the circle, pressing lightly to adhere.
- With a light hand, brush the pastry edges with the egg wash; be careful with the pastry along the pan edge. You don’t want to glue it to the side of the pan.
- With a fork, pierce the pastry circle several times to create steam vents.
- Bake until the dough is dark golden brown, about 35-40 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.
- Carefully release the hatch on the side of the springform pan to release the cooled pie and place on a platter.
- For the glaze: sift the powdered sugar into a medium bowl and whisk in the Calvados (or rum), water and salt until smooth.
- Spread the icing on the top center of the pie and let set several hours before serving.
- The pie is best served within 2 days of baking. Keep any leftovers well wrapped at room temperature.