Quintessentially… British

You’d be forgiven to think this is a typo. Despite the saying that goes “as quintessentially American as apple pie” this humble dessert is actually… well, British.

The first documented recipe goes back as early as 1381 and I personally believe the Pilgrims took it with them to the New World some 300 odd years later and it was so good that the Americans adopted it as their own.

Dutch people also have adopted it as their own although there are some subtle differences: Dutch apple pie (or appeltaart) can also include raisins.

You might be surprised to realize that the original pastry dough is not sweet like a pate sucrée (sweetcrust pastry) but it is a brisée (shortcrust pastry) so it can double both for savoury and sweet fillings.

It does seem to work though. I personally prefer it wafer thin to leave room for the cinnamon-apple mixture to come out in all its glory. Plus it’s dead cheap to make so there’s no excuse not to try it!


Apple pie

For the pastry:

Plain flour, 200g

Cold butter, cubed, 100g

Pinch of salt

Very cold water, as needed (about 4 or 5 tbsp.)

For the filling:

Apples, peeled, deseeded and cut into paper-thin slices, ½ kg

Sugar, 120g

Zest of ½ a lemon

Pinch of cinnamon

Melted butter, 30g

1.      Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2.      Sift the flour and salt on the worktop or into a big bowl.

3.      Add the cubed butter.

4.      With very cold hands (dip them in cold water if you must), rub the butter and flour until you get a grainy consistency. The butter should not melt with the flour. If you notice it’s melting, place the bowl in the freezer while you make the filling.

5.      Mix the sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon and pour this over the apple slices. Mix thoroughly to make sure everything is evenly coated. It does not matter if the apple slices break, they will melt to a soft purée anyway. Set aside.

6.      Take the bowl from the fridge and add enough cold water to form a dough. You can do this with a fork to avoid touching the dough too much.

7.      Form the dough (it should be soft and even, without lumps) and divide it into thirds.

8.      Use 2/3 of the dough to line a pastry case (buttered and floured). I really like to roll mine out very thinly. The dough is, after all, just holding the filling together, you don’t really want to be eating more crust than filling, or do you?

9.      Place a layer of the apple mixture and dot with some melted butter. Carry on repeating this apple mixture-melted butter layers until you have used it all up.

10.  Roll out the remaining 1/3 of dough. Cover the pie, seal the edges together and cut off any excess pastry.

11.  Make four (or more) concentric lines on the pie surface (this is to let the steam out and keep the dough from rising too much).

12.  Bake in a moderate oven until the dough is golden and crunchy.

13.  Serve warm with some chantilly or, even better, vanilla ice-cream.


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