This recipe is close to my heart for many reasons. First of all, it's French. And I prefer calling it Tarte Aux Pommes rather than French Apple Pie ... because c'est francais, after all! And it's what I grew up calling it so it's deep in my soul. Almost in my DNA.
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Secondly, it was given to my mom by a French friend when we lived in France during my childhood… which means to me that it's culturally authentic. Knowing the French home bakers that I did, it was likely served slightly burnt! However, to be fair, they had tiny, unreliable ovens and I have to give them so much credit for baking when they could go to the patisserie around the corner and get a delectable treat!
Thirdly, I have so many memories of gouter (which literally means to taste and refers to the French afternoon snack time … roughly 4 PM daily), roadside picnics during trips (because it's so easy to pack!), lunchbox treats (after we returned to the US) and even late night munchies! Tarte aux Pommes to the rescue!
And fourthly … I made it for my own kids while they were growing up hoping they'd remember it with the fondness that I did. I'm pretty sure that at least one of them did!
This easy, down-to-earth tarte aux pommes starts with a sweet crust, known as a pate sucree in French. It's just flour (see below for substitutions, if needed), sugar, egg, and butter. According to the photo above, copious amounts of butter! When we make this, we revel in the boulangerie fragrance in the air. And it's the butter's fault, as if any can be cast!
I like to use a quiche or tart dish which is slightly larger than a standard American pie plate. However, if all you have is that American dish, just go ahead and use it!
What kind of apples should I use?
Good question! I honestly don't know what apples my mom used in France, but I've usually used Braeburns or Gravensteins here in the US. You could try Granny Smiths, but I prefer a bit of red in the peel since it's not removed. It really adds a pretty, if not slight, accent to the finished tarte.
My daughter is the Apple Slicing Queen. Seriously, she deserves a crown or at least a medal on a royal blue sash! She's methodical about it and even though I don't think I do that poor of a job of slicing, I'll usually defer to her if she's around. And she usually is when she knows I'm making French Apple Pie!
See what I mean? Yep … precision!
The last bit of this recipe is the custard that tops the apples. It is simply eggs, sugar, butter, and vanilla extract. Just for the record, a Little Lady is an expert whisk-er so if you have one around, invite her to help!
Pour the custard topping over the apples and be sure that Little's hand is guiding the bowl so you don't spill any over the side!
Can I make substitutions for ingredients?
Of course! I use a gluten-free flour blend that the French friend who shared the recipe with my mom would never have known about. I also have used organic cane sugar and coconut palm sugar rather than refined white sugar and have not been disappointed at all in the results.
In the photo below, the Tarte Aux Pommes on the right was made using the traditional recipe, but substituting Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten Free Baking Flour for the crust and using organic cane sugar where sugar is called for.
The Tarte Aux Pommes on the left was made using a gluten-free cookie dough recipe for the crust and using coconut palm sugar where sugar is called for. I DO NOT recommend the cookie dough crust at all because it was way too soggy and nothing like the original tarte, but the coconut palm sugar was a caramelly, delicious substitution that I would certainly recommend even though there is quite a variation in the color.
Either way, this dessert … or snack … hits me with all the feels. I love being transported to the days of my childhood through a simple taste. And to the days of sharing it with my kids. I continue to make it with the hope that my grandkids will love it enough to remember it when they are adults.
Make your own French-inspired dinner using these recipes:
- For the main course: Boeuf Bourguignon, bien sur!
- For the salad, make a vinaigretted green salad, or this Carrot Salad.
- Be sure to have some cheese and bread and end with this Tarte Aux Pommes.
- Bon Appetit!
French Apple Pie (Tarte Aux Pommes)
For the Crust
- 1 cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free 1:1 baking flour
- ½ cup butter room temperature, cut into cubes
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- pinch of salt
For the Apples
- 1-2 apples, Braeburn or Gravenstein cut into wedges, then into thin slices
For the Custard Topping
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup sugar
- 6 Tablespoons butter melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Mix all the dry ingredients for the crust in a bowl. Add the cubes of butter and the egg and use a fork to cut it into the flour mixture. Put it into a baking dish and spread it out with your hands so that it is smooth and even. I like to use a flat quiche dish.
- Layer the sliced apples all around in the shape of a flower.
- Mix all the ingredients for the topping and pour over the apples evenly.
- Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes or until set and browned.
- I use Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten Free Baking Flour instead of all-purpose.
- I like to use organic cane sugar when sugar is called for, but to further lower the glycemic levels, I recommend coconut palm sugar. It is a darker color and as such, will affect the appearance, but that's not a bad thing!