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Hello everyone! Happy March. The most recent addition to ye olde Pie Gallery is…Calvados-Apple Custard Pie.

There are several reasons that certain recipes in Pie have languished for so long without being tried. One that I’ve mentioned previously is how elusive certain fruits are (loganberries, for example). Another common roadblock is that the pie requires a liqueur or liquor that we don’t have handy. Like apple brandy.

Calvados was brand new to me! If, like me, you need a bit of background, Calvados refers to apple or pear brandy from Normandy (apple, for the purposes of our pie of the day). It has a really pleasant flavor, and we’ve discovered that it’s quite nice just mixed with sparkling water. I’m going to be honest here: I just spent about 7 minutes perusing the Calvados Wikipedia article and found it super interesting. Take a look if you’d like (i.e. if you’re a nerd like me).

On to the pie. A partially pre-baked pastry is needed (I had two takes this time – read to the end of the post to see my faux pas). The filling is made by first sautéing large slices of apples (I used Honeycrisp) in butter, a little sugar, and a quarter cup of Calvados. The apples are placed aside to cool and then arranged in the bottom of the pie pastry. In a small pot on the stovetop, cream, more sugar, eggs, salt, vanilla, and 2 more tablespoons of Calvados form the custard. The custard is still a thin liquid when it is poured into the pie shell – it sets as it’s baking. Here’s a little photographic representation for ya!

The finished product as it came out of the oven was puffed slightly and had a gorgeous golden color. We cooled it to room temperature before partaking, and it did not disappoint; most especially for a pie we had mainly curiously and no real expectations towards! Levi threw in an overly superlative comment (“I think this really must be at least in my top five…”). However, if this was true every time he said it, we’d be looking at 57 pies in his top five. The flavor profile was complex, yet refined – despite the amount of brandy, it cannot be described as boozy. On the whole, this pie is a very elegant dessert, something I could imagine myself enjoying at a non-fussy French café.

In other news…I have pie failures sometimes! (I hope you’re not too surprised.) Let us analyze the poorly lit photo of a sad partially pre-baked pie crust, below, and see what we can learn together.

Observations: The crust has shrunken, while baking, to a shape that would never contain a custard filling. The edges are poorly defined (no attempt at fluting and very little at crimping). There is also a color/pattern that I might call “Pie Stretch Marks”.

Hypotheses: This was an All-Butter Pastry. I rarely use this recipe, as I like the flakiness that comes from half butter and half shortening or oil, not to mention that plowing through a whole stick of butter per single pastry isn’t super cost-effective. However, the Calvados-Apple Custard Pie recipe did suggest using this recipe based on the unbeatable flavor of the purely butter crust, and I liked that idea. The real thing I’m not sure of is how often I’ve pre-baked an only-butter crust. It’s probably not happened many other times, and I’m curious if that’s a factor. My other thought was that this pastry was probably a little bit overworked, and tighter gluten strands started to form, causing the crust to pull together and shrink. (Hence, Pie Stretch Marks). Finally, I know for sure that I did not roll this pastry out as wide as I should have. When you put a pie crust in a dish, you want it to feel very roomy- if you’re pulling and stretching at the edges to try to make your pie tall enough (as I was here) you can anticipate problems.

Conclusion: I could have probably done something with this, we talked briefly about getting some whipping cream and berries and making a funny pavlova-type situation, but the bottom line was that it was a busy day, we didn’t really need more dessert, and it was best to just move on. Bye bye, shrunken buttery pie.

Here’s an aerial shot to sign off with. Peace, love, and board games. ✌️