Is there anything more American than apple pie? Well, I’m sorry to say that I think the French may outdo the Americans on this point.
My husband heard a man on NPR once talk about the best apple pie he had ever tasted. The recipe was from Julia Child’s cookbook, he said. My husband, being a huge fan of anything sweet, immediately told me about it. Julia Child is not a household name in Norway where I grew up (or so I think–at least I had never heard of her before moving to the States at 21), but I remembered that I had a French cookbook I bought for my allowance at maybe 11 years old that I had NEVER used. Not once. Ever. I grabbed it from my cookbook shelves and, lo and behold! It was Julia Child’s.
The basic concept of the pie is that the apples are parboiled into a texture similar to a chunky apple sauce, before baked in the prebaked pie shell with a decorative crunchy apple slice top. When done, the top is glazed. Each bite is therefore layered with flaky crust; soft, but chunky apple sauce; crunchy, thin apple slices; and slightly sticky apricot marmalade. Deliciousness!
Since I am usually pressed for time, I tend to use pie dough from Pillsbury as it’s dairy free and so much easier to just roll out and place in the pie pan than making my own. However, whenever I actually have a little time, I make my own pie crust as the flavor is always better than store bought. I do not care for the frozen pie crusts: I think they’re too salty for me.
The signatures of French cooking are butter, butter, and more butter, and this recipe was no different: the pie crust is made with butter, of course, and there’s butter in the filling, too. To dedairyfy, I either use a store bought pie crust that doesn’t contain dairy or a crust recipe that relies on shortening instead of butter. I have tried using vegan butters, and though Earth Balance works great, I can’t eat it, and Melt and Nutiva have too low melting points to be good substitutes. They do, however, work great in the filling.
1 premade pie shell/recipe for pie dough
6-7 apples (I use honey crunch)
1/3 C / 0.75 dl strained apricot marmalade
1/4 C / 0.5 dl rum
2/3 C / 1.5 dl sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla paste
3 tbsp / 45 g butter alternative
1/2 C / 1 dl strained apricot marmalade
Place the pie shell in the pan, prick the bottom with a fork, cover the bottom with parchment paper and pie weights, and bake at 350 degrees F/180 degrees C for 20 minutes.
To strain the marmalade: heat up the apricot marmalade until runny and press it through a fine sieve; discard the solids.
Peel the apples, cut them in half lengthwise, and remove the core–I use a melon baller to make a visually pleasing circle in the middle. Make very thin slices (about 60 semicircles total) from the middle of each apple (using a mandoline will give beautiful, paper thin slices, perfect for the top of the pie). Toss the apple slices with a little lemon juice to prevent browning, cover them up, and place them in the fridge.
Cut up the rest of the apples into chunks or thick slices and cook, covered, in a thick bottomed pot over medium heat about 20 minutes or until they are soft. Remove the lid and add the rum, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon, 1/3 C / 0.75 dl apricot marmalade, and butter substitute. Increase the temperature and stir frequently until the applesauce is thick. Mash any large chunks of apple until desired texture. Pour into pie shell. Place the apple slices on top in concentric circles. Bake 25 minutes or until the apple slices are slightly browned.
Reheat and pour the remaining apricot over the top and use a brush to cover all the apple slices. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in the fridge.