Frenchified Apple Custard Pie

So I have to say, I’m pretty proud of this one guys. I still have Meyer lemons and I was looking for a fun, new way to use them. Don’t get me wrong, I could make recipes from Piece of Cake for as long as I live and be totally happy, but it probably doesn’t make for an all that original blog. In poking around my kitchen, I realized I had all the ingredients to make an apple custard pie that I really love and boom! this idea was born. The original recipe is for the pie pictured in my previous post and I put a link to it there. If you’ve never done an apple custard before, I would definitely recommend it! I have to give credit where credit is due and say that my friend, Chef Susan Holding, was a major influence on this idea. She has a blog too, and you should really check it out! Last fall, she did a post about apples where she talked about making a French-style apple pie by leaving out the cinnamon and adding a splash of vanilla. I took this a step further (since the recipe already used vanilla) and also added in the zest of one Meyer lemon, sort of erasing the spiciness of a traditional apple pie and replacing it with a creamy lightness. OH. MY. GOODNESS it turned out to be a really good notion!

It may not have become apparent yet, but I am a HUGE Le Creuset fan and collector and I have tons of pieces of the stoneware, the cast iron, and the enameled steel and I chose to use one of my larger Le Creuset pie dishes for this experiment. They are similar in size to an Emile Henry pie dish, so if you have one of those you could use that too. They are a lot larger than a normal 9″ pie dish, so take that into consideration when making your crust. If you use a store-bought one, you might have to roll it out a little thinner to fit in a larger pie dish. I already had a round of pie crust dough in my fridge from an earlier baking project so I brought that baby out and got to work!

I used Piece of Cake’s recipe for the crust and I might be an all butter pie crust convert now, which you would think I already would be, based on the name of this blog…..interesting. Anyway, in my very first post a few years ago, I talked about my favorite cookbook (Pie by Ken Haedrich) and I normally use his half butter, half shortening recipe for pie crust but I wanted to try something new and boy howdy, I’m glad I did! The all butter crust just seemed so much smoother and easier to work with. It was a dream. I used my Kitchenaid to mix it up and I think that also really helps with getting an even consistency to the dough.

Maybe you can’t tell, but this looks beautiful! Have you ever seen the movie Waitress? If you haven’t, please do because it’s really cute and funny and then you will get what I’m talking about when I say that this crust looks just like the perfect crusts in that movie! Whenever she was working with the dough in the movie I always thought, why doesn’t mine look smooth like that?? Well, guess what – it does now! Sorry, Ken. On a little side-note, both the pastry rolling sheet and the rolling pin in the picture above belonged to my Grandma Hanson and I think of her every time I use them.

So now, onto the meat and potatoes of this recipe! Basically the big change was leaving out that oh so American and delicious ingredient – cinnamon – and putting in Meyer lemon zest. I zested the lemon right into the sugar and salt and mixed it with my hands until the whole bowl looked lemon-y & yellow-tinged and smelled AMAZING. I also added about a full cup more heavy whipping cream than the original recipe called for and another whole egg because I had to fill up that big, beautiful pie dish. In place of the kosher salt I normally use in everything, I used fleur de Sel to really up the Frenchy-ness and because I’m just kind of in love with it right now. To make things super-duper easy, I mixed the cream, eggs and vanilla together in my largest glass measuring cup to make for easy pouring.

One of the things I like about this recipe is that you don’t mix the apples up with anything, you just peel and slice them and arrange them artfully (hopefully) in the pan, like so:

After you get the first layer down, you sprinkle it with half of the sugar mixture and pour half of the egg mixture on and then just repeat! You also dot the top of the pie with little pieces of butter to really make it super delicious. I added an extra tablespoon because I had a 3 tablespoonish piece around and I didn’t want to have one lonely tablespoon of butter hanging out in the fridge and hello! (see blog name) that’s kind of what I’m all about. This is how it turned out:

Beautiful, if I do say so myself! The custard was unbelievably creamy and tasted more like vanilla than lemons, which surprised me. There was a nice hint of brightness though, which is due to the zest. I think if I had used a regular lemon, the flavor would have been more pronounced and I’ll probably give that a try at some stage but I really liked how light and delicate this turned out. Like I said, pretty proud of this little beauty!

Frenchified Apple Custard Pie

1 unbaked pie shell (I used this one)
4 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into thin wedges (enough for two layers)
1 cup sugar
zest of 1 Meyer lemon
1/2 teaspoon fleur de Sel
2 cups heavy cream
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Set the oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Roll out your pie crust and get it all set up in your pie dish. I usually use the crimping method but lately I have been finding lots of really cool things to do with pie crust on Pinterest. It might look cool if you braided it…but I digress, once you have your crust ready to go, pop it in the freezer to stay nice and cool and unmelty while you get the other ingredients ready.

Mix together the sugar and salt in a medium bowl and work the zest into the mix with your hands. Take out a big glass measuring cup and blend the eggs, the cream and the vanilla together. Then take the pie crust out of the freezer and arrange half the apples in the bottom in a nice-looking pattern. Sprinkle half the sugar mix over the apples, then pour half the cream mixture over that. Use the rest of your apples to create another pattern (try to make sure they lay pretty flat. I had a few really brown apple tips I had to cut off before I took the pics), then sprinkle the rest of the sugar and pour on the rest of the cream mixture. Dot the top of the pie with the butter pieces and pop it into the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temp to 350 degrees and bake for about an hour.

Start checking it at 50 minutes and then check at five-minute intervals until the center is no longer wobbly and things are nice and brown around the edges of the custard. I cover my crust with metal crust protectors for most of the baking time so it doesn’t get too brown. If you don’t have those, you can use aluminum foil fashioned into a circular shape to protect the crust from over-browning. Take that sucker out and let it cool on a rack for about 2 hours before slicing. I couldn’t wait that long and tried it after about an hour (it was late people and I needed to know if I made a winner or a poop sandwich!) and it tasted amazing but didn’t slice as cleanly as it would have if I’d waited.

If you can restrain yourself and you don’t eat the whole thing, just cover it with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge. I can personally attest that it tastes really good the next day…twice.

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