I’d never heard of this apple pie until I visited the beautiful area of Gers, AKA Gascony. Deep in the hear of rural southern France, it’s like the land that time forgot. Rolling hills, vineyards, orchards and lakes, peppered with tiny villages and medieval towns. It’s a land of plenty and famous for its speciality brandy – Armagnac.
At a market in L’Ile Jourdain, a picturesque little town that’s around half an hour’s drive from Toulouse airport but oh so different from the city, I tried this apple pie for the first time. It was an eye-opening surprise. Utterly, utterly delicious. Sweet apple filling with a hint of Armagnac, under a crispy mountain of water thin pastry, dusted with icing sugar.
Later at a wonderful Armagnac party at the Chateau Millett to celebrate the first distillation (if you fancy that, check out the best Armagnac tours in the Gers) I had it again. That was it, I was hooked. I was given this recipe by a local and I’ve been making it at home ever since. Locally it goes by different names: La tourtière, croustade aux pommes, pastis gascon, pastis gersois or simply tourte aux pommes.
This is quite honestly the most delicious apple pie. Ever. And you won’t be able to make it just once. But since it’s really easy to make, it’s not a problem!
Ingredients for 4 to 6 people in a 25cm tart dish
1 packet (12 sheets) filo pastry
For the apple filling:
About 4-6 apples
3 tbsps sugar
About 75g melted butter
60 ml Armagnac (you can use calvados too but it wouldn’t be Gascon but Norman)
Half a lemon
How to make Pastis Gascon
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (170C fan)/375F/ gas 5.
Peel, core and quarter the apples, then slice thinly and set aside in a bowl tossed in a squeeze of lemon, 3 tablespoons of sugar and the Armagnac. Leave for about an hour.
Brush the tart dish with melted butter.
From the filo pastry pack, take a sheet, brush with melted butter and lay on the base of the dish. Press into the sides leaving the overlap hanging over the edge of the tin. Lay another buttered sheet at an angle to the first sheet and repeat three more times so that the pastry covers all round the edges. Keep the packet covered with a damp clean cloth to stop the pastry drying out.
Spread the apple mixture over the base.
Brush a sheet of filo with butter and sprinkle with sugar (about a teaspoon). Scrunch it up like a tissue and pop it on top of the apples. Repeat with the remaining filo pastry. You’re aiming to create height and texture (like in the picture). The sugar on the pastry makes it very crispy and sweet.
Pop it into the oven for about 30 to 35 minutes. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn on the corners but is golden all over.
The tart is delicious cold or warm – sprinkled with icing sugar (and you can also sprinkle a little more Armagnac if you wish).
Serve and sigh… with happiness