SPANISH APPLE PIE
Seasonal Spanish Food
by Jose Pizarro
This version of a classic dessert popular in the Basque Country is the invention of my friend and fellow chef Rafael. There are several components to this pie and it's a good idea to make the crust the day before you want to eat it to allow the flavors to develop.
Serves 6 to 8
· 4 tablespoons butter
· 1/2 cup superfine sugar
· 1/4 cup ground almonds
· 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
· 1¼ cups flour
· 1 vanilla pod, split lengthwise
· 1 large free-range egg yolk, beaten
· 2 tablespoons good-quality dark rum
· 1 lb apples, such as Granny Smith or Mclntosh (cubed and peeled weight)
· 1/4 cup superfine sugar
· 1 vanilla pod
Vanilla Pastry Cream
· 3 large free-range egg yolks
· 1/4 cup cornstarch
· 1/3 cup superfine sugar
· 2 cups whole milk
· 1 vanilla pod
First, make the crust. Combine the butter and the sugar in a mixing bowl until smooth and pale. Mix together the ground almonds, baking powder, and flour, and then slowly add these to the butter mixture. Keep beating until the mixture looks like sand.
Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod, then add these to the bowl along with the egg yolk and rum; work the dough just enough to blend everything together. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside to relax in the fridge for at least 12 hours.
Just cover the apple cubes with water and stir in the superfine sugar and vanilla pod. Bring the water to a gentle simmer and poach the fruit until it is tender, which will take 5 to 7 minutes. Scoop out the cubes and set aside; reduce the liquid until it takes on a syrupy consistency—you will use this on the pastry crust.
Now make the vanilla cream. Mix together the egg yolks, cornstarch, and superfine sugar in a bowl. Bring the milk to a boil with the vanilla pod and gradually add this to the egg and sugar mixture (vanilla pod included).
Transfer the custard to a clean, non-stick saucepan and cook it for at least 5 minutes, stirring continuously. Once the custard has thickened (which you can judge from the slight spoon trails left in the sauce, or from whether the custard coats the back of the spoon), remove it from the heat and let cool. Remove the vanilla pod only when you are ready to assemble the pie
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Spread the apple cubes in one layer over the base of a 9in pie or tart dish (or you can use a deep baking sheet for ease). Pour the custard over the top. Roll out the pastry to a thickness just less than 1/4 in. and lay this over the custard. Use a toothpick to prick some holes into the pastry.
Bake for 30 minutes until a nice golden color. Brush some of the sugary apple syrup over the crust and let cool on the counter for about 5 minutes before serving.