The first time I made this dessert was in 1992, and after a 22 year hiatus, I decided to give it a go again last weekend. Surprisingly, I remember my very first attempt with great clarity. I was 16 years old, had recently finished GCSE exams and invited some friends over for a meal when my parents were away. I bought a copy of French Cooking Made Easy – in a local bookshop (now closed down, sadly), and found the recipe there. I remember it being challenging to say the least – but certainly satisfying based on the appreciation received on the end result. Sadly, I mislaid my original copy (over the years I have moved around a fair bit) and by chance, managed to track down a second-hand copy online (from Amazon, who else!) My memories came flooding back – and I did not have any excuse not to make it again.
I’ll be honest – I do not possess a sweet tooth and seldom eat a dessert. Give me something savoury over sweet any day. I also have a vast amount of respect and admiration for trained pastry chefs – it really is a craft. The patience, attention to detail, and ability to create objects of beauty – all things I really need to master a lot more proficiently. Right, I’ll stop beating myself up – I am an amateur who taught myself and have never been trained or taken a lesson in my life. I was also really bad at home economics at school (most likely because I was not too impressed by the stock recipes on offer in the curriculum and wanted to do things my way).
My best presentation effort would probably score a pathetic 2/10 in a local village fete baking contest. I am not trying to dissuade you from giving this a go – I think the flavour and texture of a home made apple pie is so much more pleasant than anything bought commercially. My main criticism is that I need to up my game in the world of pastry making and presentation. It is not a 10 minute job, but, and I sincerely believe it, worth the effort. Maybe I will not wait another 22 years until the next time, or, knowing me, will adapt it for fun. Fans of Mr Kipling’s will be sorely disappointed – this is far from sweet, sickly or synthetic in flavour.
French Country Apple Pie
- 1 3/4 cups strong white flour
- 1/4 cup self-raising flour
- 1 tbsp icing sugar
- 125 g butter, chopped
- 1 medium egg, beaten
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 egg white
- 2 tbsp apricot jam for brushing
- 5 large apples, I use Braeburns peeled, cored and finely sliced
- 1/4 cup water
- zest of 1 lemon, grated
- 2 tbsp castor sugar
- First, measure out and sift the flours and icing sugar into a large mixing bowl.
- Then, add the chopped butter and rub into the flour until there are no more lumps of butter in the mix. Rub the butter and flour between the tips of your fingers. The texture of the flour will become powdery and feel a little greasy to the touch.
- Make a well, and add the beaten egg. Using a spoon or spatula, blend the ingredients together, slowly add the lemon juice and mix together ( at this point, you may find it easier to use your fingers) until a firm dough is formed.
- Create a dough ball, and put in in a plastic Ziploc bag and refrigerate for 30 mins.
- Remove dough from fridge, flatten ball, and place it between two large sheets of cling film. Using a rolling pin, roll out dough into a 3mm thick circle. Carefully layer it over a 23 cm diameter flan dish (with removable base), mold into shape and trim off the excess dough. Roll this into a ball, return to bag and refrigerate along with the flan dish for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 180C, and line the flan dish with greaseproof paper. Carefully, fill the with ceramic baking beads, and bake in oven for 7 minutes. Remove beads and paper, then continue to bake for a further 7 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
- Meanwhile, add the apples and water to a pan, bring to the boil, then reduce to simmer for 5 minutes or until tender. The apple slices need to be soft, but not pulp. Turn off heat, stir sugar and lemon zest, then allow to cool then drain.
- Once filling has cooled, fill pie case and spread evenly using a spatula. Then, using the same method as before, roll out the remaining dough and into a long rectangular shape which will be used to make the lattice. Carefully, cut the dough into 1 cm wide strips and lay over the filling in a criss-cross formation. Pinch the ends of the lattice strips into the edge of the pastry case being careful not to push too hard as you may crack the case. Brush the edge of the casing and lattice strips with egg white as this will help brown the dough.
- Place in a medium shelf of a fan-assisted oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the dough has turned golden brown.
- Finally, brush the dough warmed sieved apricot jam.
- Combine whipping cream with a splash of brandy and whisk until soft peaks are formed. Best served warm.