A little history. As a child, I never liked Thanksgiving dinner. That was a little strange because I was far from a picky eater. I was taught to eat everything my mom served me and, being the rule-following oldest child, I did as I was taught. Thanksgiving was really tricky for me though because I never liked turkey – even as a very young child – and certainly didn’t like gravy. To top it all off, we always had pumpkin and pecan pie for dessert – neither of which I like to this day. Suffice it to say that Thanksgiving was tough for me.
Once I became a vegetarian and it became “ok” for me to not eat turkey, things began to look up. Once I began to cook, it all changed. I started bringing side dishes that I wanted to eat and started making vegetarian gravy which totally changed the meal. I can eat mashed potatoes and stuffing endlessly if there is good gravy to pour over them. Once I started to bake, I would always bring some kind of “other” dessert so that I could enjoy dessert too. Some years I did chocolate, other years I did a Nutcracker Tart from Bon Appetit, but most years I made something apple.
About a month before Thanksgiving this year, I picked up Nick Malgieri’s The Modern Baker and while paging through it, I found the recipe for Breton Apple Pie. I loved that it looked like a cake but was closer to a pie and I especially loved that he said you could make it in advance and freeze it. With so much food running through my kitchen the week of Thanksgiving, I really appreciated being able to make this and forget about it. It was, by the way, delicious.
Breton Apple Pie
Adapted from The Modern Baker
Serves about 12
There is a scary moment right before you unmold this dessert. I looked at it and thought there was no way it was coming out of the pan, but it did beautifully. You have to work quickly to get it back to right side up so it doesn’t crack too much. Just lightly put another cooling rack on top of the bottom of it, and re-invert.
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 1/2 pounds Golden Delicious apples, peeled, halved, cored, and each half cut into 6 wedges
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large egg yolks
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with a pinch of salt
Equipment: One 10-inch wide and 2-inch deep layer pan, buttered and the bottom lined with a disk of parchment paper.
1. For the apple filling, melt the butter over medium heat in a pan that has a tight-fitting lid. Add the apples and sprinkle them with the sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon. Cook the apples covered, checking them and stirring occasionally, until they are swimming in liquid, about 10 minutes. Uncover the pan and let the liquid evaporate, about 10 more minutes. Keep an eye on the apples while the liquid is evaporating, and stir occasionally to prevent the apples from scorching. Most of the apples will disintegrate while the filling is cooking, making it like a chunky applesauce. Allow to cool.
2. Meanwhile, set a rack on the lowest level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
3. For the dough, combine the butter, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat with the paddle on medium speed until very light, about 5 minutes. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a large ruber spatula to incorporate the flour.
4. Place half the dough in the bottom of the prepared pan. Using floured fingertips, press the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan and about 1 inch up the sides. Spread the cooled filling over the dough.
5. Flour remaining dough and press into a 10 inch disk on cardboard or tart pan bottom. Use a long-bladed knife or spatula to make sure the dough isn’t stuck to the cardboard. Carefully slide the dough onto the filling.
6. Brush the top of the Breton with the egg wash and trace a lattice pattern on with the tines of a fork.
7. Bake the Breton until the dough is well colored and baked through, 50-55 minutes.
8. Cool on a rack in the pan for 10 minutes, then unmold and turn right side up again. Cool completely on a rack.
(Keep the Breton loosely covered with plastic wrap at room temperature on the day it is baked. Wrap and freeze for longer storage. Defrost and bring to room temperature before serving.)