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French Apple Custard Pie with Creme Anglaise Sauce (Heaven on a Plate)
Hi guys! So are you looking for a wonderful, over-the-top, (easy) way to say “I love you!” for the Holidays? Well, here it is. This pie is gorgeous (if I do say so myself), it tastes great – – – and you know what? It’s. Really. Not. That. Difficult.
Come with me and I’ll show you how. There are several secrets to this, and they apply to any pie you’re going to make this holiday season. Let’s do this!
Secrets to Perfectly Baked Pie Crust
This is a 2-crust pie. You can make your own crust – or if you’re in a hurry like I was, you can use ready made crust (the kind that comes in packages of 2 rolls). Looking like this, no one will notice (or even care) that you didn’t make the crust from scratch, unless you tell them. This pie also uses what’s known as a blind baked bottom crust.
There are two times when blind baking is necessary: 1) when you’re making a custard pie or 2) when you will not be baking the pie filling. Sometimes recipes for Pumpkin Pies (which are a type of custard pie) call for blind baking the crust because the moisture in the pumpkin filling can make the crust soggy before it has time to finish baking.
I know blind baking a pie crust can sound somewhat intimidating, especially if the idea of simply baking a pie is already in your category of ‘big hairy task that I’d rather not deal with’. If that’s the case – relax. We can do this together. Blind baking is nothing more than letting the (bottom) pie crust bake partially on its own before you add the filling. It’s really easy – especially once you know a few baker’s secrets.
#1 Use a glass pie pan.
I know there are some pretty ceramic versions out there, but trust me – a clear glass pie pan cooks better. Besides you can monitor the done-ness of your crust in the glass pan, whereas you have no visibility with the ceramic or metal pan.
#2 Use chilled pie dough.
If you’re using a ready made pie crust, you’ll want to let it come to room temperature before unrolling it and putting it in your pie pan, otherwise it will tear pretty easily as you’re unrolling it. But once you’ve shaped it in the pan then it needs to get cold again before you pop it in the oven. This is to help the dough keep its shape.
#3 Use pie weights with an aluminum foil liner.
Once the pie has hung out for at least an hour in the refrigerator, lay a large sheet of aluminum foil over the dough and gently press it down to conform to the shape of the dough/pan. Don’t do this before the dough is cold otherwise you run the risk of the foil sticking to the dough. Some recipes call for parchment paper instead of the foil, but I like the foil because it also serves as a shield to keep the edge of the pie crust from burning. Pie edges tend to burn easily and we don’t want that!
Once you’ve gently molded the foil, add pie weights or pour in sugar to come up 3/4 of the way on the sides of the dish. This is just another step to help your pie keep its shape. Without this step your pie will puff up on the bottom and slump on the sides. (No puffy bottom, slump-y sides on our watch!) Notice we didn’t dock the pie (prick it all over the bottom with a fork). That’s because docking is not necessary with this method and you don’t want holes in the bottom of your crust with a custard filling. Once your pie is ready for the oven it should look like the following picture with the pie weights (little ceramic balls) mostly filling the aluminum foil shield. I’ve pulled back an edge so you can see the pie underneath, but you’ll want to make sure all the edges are covered.
You’ll only need to blind bake the crust at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.
#5 Put the pie on a rimmed baking sheet before you put it in the oven.
I always put my pies on a rimmed baking sheet. It makes it easier to get them in and out of the oven and makes it less likely you’ll get burned or that you’ll damage any decoration. Now that we’ve got the crust under control, it’s on to the filling!
Secrets to a Delicious Filling
#1 Pre-cook your apples to concentrate / reduce juices.
This helps keep the filling from being too loose and watery.
#2 Use an abundance of apples.
I love to serve over-the-top dishes, like miles-high meringue on my Lemon Meringue pies, or decadent layer cakes or luscious sauces – it makes my family and guests feel special and loved! One of the best ways to do this with an apple pie is to use plenty of apples so the top of the pie is domed and bursting with apple goodness.
#3 Custard takes your filling to the next level.
The rich creamy custard is the perfect foil to your tart, delicious apples. I like to start with a layer of about 1/2 the apples and 1/2 the custard to line the bottom crust after it’s done partially baking, like this.
Then a layer of the rich creamy custard.
Followed by the rest of the apples and the rest of the custard. Notice the pie is still on the baking sheet just in case the custard bubbles over the crust. I hate cleaning ovens, and the baking sheet also helps to prevent this!
Secrets to a Beautiful Pie
We eat first with our eyes. This pie is delicious – and one bite will prove it. But before you even put a fork in it, wouldn’t you guess it tastes great? That’s because it looks great. It’s like being at Disney World. You expect an amazing experience before you even begin to explore the park. That’s not by accident. You’re visually being primed for that attitude. Everything you see is telling you at varying degrees of subliminal messaging, “this is going to be AMAZING.” A beautiful dessert does the same thing. And it’s really not hard. Trust me.
#1 Use your ready made pie dough to make a decorative topping.
Ready made dough is generally a LOT easier to work with than homemade if you’re going to decorate a pie. It’s the correct thickness, it’s a consistent thickness and it’s the correct size.
#2 Pre-cut your decoration.
I like to cut stripes for a lattice and then weave them on parchment paper. This allows me to get them just right before I put them on the pie. Once I’ve woven them I press down at each intersection of dough to ‘weld’ the strips in place. Then I put them in the refrigerator for at least an hour to cool down so they hold their shape. I use dough cutters to cut decorative leaves at the same time. Once you’re done you should have something that looks like this.
Now comes the fun part. (No, really!) Move the leaves aside and position your parchment paper beside your pie. Slide your hands under the paper and lift it up so that the edge of the pie is touching about an inch into the edge of the lattice. Then gently flip the parchment paper over the pie so the lattice is transferred to the the top of the pie. If you’ve thoroughly pressed down at each intersection prior to putting the lattice in the fridge, your lattice should hold together when you do this. If it doesn’t, gently move any strips back into place. It should now look like this.
Simply trim the edges by running a paring knife around the glass and remove the excess dough.
#3 Use an Egg Wash.
If you have any decorative items, like my leaf cut-outs, brushing an egg wash on the top crust will not only help them adhere, it will produce a beautiful brown, drool-worthy crust.
#4 Always use Sanding Sugar.
One of the reasons these pies always catch everyone’s eye is because I sprinkle them heavily with sanding sugar. Not only is it tasty, it sends a subtle message that this golden, flaky, crunchy thing is sweet and delicious. Alway remember the sanding sugar. it really helps take your pie over the top.
#5 Protect your Masterpiece.
Your two remaining jobs are: 1) Don’t let it get broken and 2) Don’t let it burn
You can protect it from breaking (as well as protect your oven from bubble-overs) by placing your pie on your rimmed baking sheet. This enables you to safely move it around without damage.
To prevent it from burning I watch it like a hawk and when the edges get to the desired degree of golden perfection I slap a pie shield on them. I also cover any spots that are getting dark golden brown with small (couple inch) pieces of aluminum foil so they don’t get any darker and burn.
Finally, thoroughly protected, I let it cook until NONE of the top crust has that raw, oily doughy look. Once it all looks flaky and done, you’re rewarded with this.
Believe me it tastes every bit as good as it looks.
The final, over the top, make ’em howl at the moon, step is a simple (it’s easy) Creme Anglaise sauce. You REALLY need this sauce in your life. It’s not low-cal, but hey – it’s the HOLIDAYS. Enjoy!
Pin for Later
Or Make Now
- 1 or 2 packages Pillsbury All Ready Pie Crusts (2 crusts per package (2 crusts per package) the second package is for cut-out leaves, etc.
- 1 teaspoon flour
- 4 1/4 pounds tart apples such as Granny Smith, about 10 large apples
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/2 cup butter , softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 eggs , slightly beaten
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream , optional
- 1 tablespoon water
- 4 + tablespoons Sanding Sugar
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 4 egg yolks
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Dash cinnamon
- Dash nutmeg
- 9 inch glass pie pan
- Aluminum Foil
- Pie weights or sugar
Place 1 of the prepared crusts in the bottom of a 9-inch glass pie pan and gently press up the sides of the pan. Trim edges. Do not prick crust. After shaping the dough in the pan, refrigerate for at least an hour to ensure it's perfectly cold and relaxed.
Cut the other prepared crust in 1/2-inch wide strips.
On a piece of waxed or parchment paper weave the strips into a basket weave pattern. Gently press down at each intersection to secure. Cut leaves or other shapes out of the 3rd prepared crust if desired. Place on a flat baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least and hour and up to 2 days.
Meanwhile peel, quarter, and core the apples, then cut each into wedges about a quarter inch thick. Toss the slices as you cut them with lemon juice to prevent browning. You should have about 10 rounded cups.
In large skillet over medium-low heat, combine filling ingredients. Sauté about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. DO NOT OVER COOK OR YOU’LL MAKE APPLESAUCE. Remove from heat. Set aside.
After the dough in the pie pan has chilled an hour, lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the dough and gently press it down to confirm to the shape of the pan. Fold over the edges to prevent the edges burning and pour in pie weights or sugar. Weights or sugar should come up ¾ of the side of the pie to prevent the crust from puffing up and losing its shape while cooking. Place on a baking sheet (for easy transport) and partially bake crust at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix custard ingredients.
When ready to bake, pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F.
Spoon ½ apple mixture in pie crust-lined pie pan. Pour ½ custard mixture over apples. Add remaining apples and pour in remaining custard.
Gently place the woven crust on the top of the filling. Trim and seal the edges, using a paring knife to trim excess dough and then pressing the lattice gently to the bottom crust to seal.
For the Egg Wash: Whisk egg, water and cream, if using, together in a small bowl, then brush over the pie.
Stick on any decorative pieces and then sprinkle sanding sugar heavily over the entire pie top.
Bake at 425 for 35 – 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown and flaky, with no doughy damp areas remaining. Check frequently and cover as necessary with pie shield and pieces of aluminum foil.
Meanwhile, make the Crème Anglaise: In a medium saucepan, bring cream just to a boil. In a small bowl, combine 4 egg yolks and 2/3 cup sugar. Blend a small amount of cream into yolks. Blend yolk mixture into cream and cook over low heat about 10 minutes or until mixture coats a spoon. Do not boil. Remove from heat. Sift in cinnamon and nutmeg. Crème Anglaise may be made up to 2 days ahead and chilled, covered.
To serve, pour small amount of warm Crème Anglaise onto individual plates. Cut warm pie into 8 – 10 pieces and place on the plates.
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