november 18, 2016
Thanksgiving is a little early this year. Are you cooking or being fed? Traditional pumpkin pie or something a little different? French apple pie, or apple pie with a powered sugar icing glaze, is a delicious old fashioned dessert relegated these days to cafeterias and Mom and Pop pie shops. It would be a great, and easy, addition to the Thanksgiving menu with its buttery cinnamon shortbread crust and tender apple filling. Use gluten free or all-purpose flour for equally perfect results.
This pie is close to my heart. My mom was a baker, a working mother who loved to keep the kitchen stocked with homemade baked goods and, with my dad, made certain we had a balanced hot meal every night of the week. Restaurant dining was for vacations only. Times have changed and enjoying a restaurant meal is a more frequent and welcome treat, if only to see what creative chefs are serving up these days. I do still love a good homemade dessert, and I remember my mom’s French apple pie with longing. Hers was now what we call a slab pie, made in a burnished, warped square bake pan, cinnamon scented apples enrobed with handmade flaky crust and crowned with a glaze of powdered sugar icing. She made this often for her grandkids who still wistfully recall “granny’s apple pie, the best ever”.
I still have that old pan, but now I really love a shortbread crust shaped by hand and not rested and rolled like a classic pastry crust. The food processor makes it all so ridiculously easy and although it may not be as pretty , or amenable to making artful shapes, it sure does satisfy. I add the cinnamon to this crust and cook down the apple filling with butter and brown sugar until tender. Some of the crust is reserved for a crumbly topping, so we can also call this an apple crumble pie. For easier prep, the apples can be cooked ahead by a couple of days and chilled, and the finished pie will last at room temperature in a cool kitchen for several days.
As always, the addition of a good quality vanilla ice cream will boost the nutritional content and make this apple pie a complete meal. That’s a fact. Happy Thanksgiving!
French Apple Pie
makes 8 servings
3 pounds apples. peeled and cored and cut in ½-¾ inch dice*
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup light brown sugar
1 ½ cup gluten free flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1) – you can also use regular all-purpose flour
pinch of fine sea salt
½ cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
one cup powdered sugar
1 ½ tablespoons plus one teaspoon milk
*best apples are golden delicious, jonathan or the jonagold, a cross between those two types; use granny smith apples if you don’t like a sweet filling
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Melt 4 tablespoons butter over high heat in heavy large sauté pan; add apples and brown sugar and cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally and adjusting heat if necessary, until apples are softened and lightly caramelized, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool. May be made ahead 2 days – let sit at room temperature before filling crust.
- In bowl of large food processor, process flour, ½ cup powdered sugar, cornstarch, salt and cinnamon until blended.
- Add 1 ½ sticks butter in small pieces and process until the mix just comes together in a shaggy ball.
- Set aside a scant ¾ cup crust for topping; pat the rest onto the bottom and up the sides of a 10 inch sturdy pie dish that has been lightly coated with cooking spray.
- Bake until lightly golden around the edges, about 20 minutes.
- Gently place apple filling on bottom crust, then crumble the reserved dough bits on top.
- Bake another 40 minutes or until golden around edges.
- Set aside to cool.
- In small mixing bowl, combine 1 cup powdered sugar with milk until a smooth thick paste forms. To make a decorative cross hatch design, place frosting in quart plastic bag, snip off a tiny corner and drizzle atop the cooled pie. Alternately, use a fork or small spoon to drizzle frosting on top.
- Serve at room temperature or very lightly warmed. Pie will last at room temperature in a cool spot up to 4 days.