American as apple pie goes the saying, but no dessert is more French than tarte aux pommes.  The difference between apple pie and tarte aux pommes?  We are afterall in France, so French apple pie is skinnier, dressed up fancier and topless. French apple pie has less sugar, little or no cinnamon, sports an all-butter crust, and contains no flour or cornstarch mixed in with the apples. Instead, the apples are arranged meticulously as one of those clipped lapdog coiffures, and given a sparse sprinkle of sugar. For this reason, the choice of apples is crucial. The ideal variety of apple to choose is Reine des Reinettes : queen of the queenlets! This is a very tart yet sweet apple that holds its shape when cooked without becoming floury. The Reinette is a French variety not available in the USA, so when I'm back home I look for Fuji, Empire, Gala, or Granny Smith--the latter requires a bit more sugar.

Half the secret to a good pie is in the crust. I make my own all-butter pastry from scratch and roll it out as thin as I can, about 1/8 inch thick. Most of the French women I know buy ready-made pie crust from the grocery store. Here in France there are some tasty ones made with 100% butter. I occasionally give in to temptation and buy them, but more often I make three crusts at a time in my food processor and freeze them, ready to thaw and roll.

A French pie tin --called a moule, (mold, which sounds like a fungus to me)-- has straight sides, so the crust is held up by the apples. The prettiness of the apples is important.  Just as none of my French women friends steps outside without mascara and an impeccable outfit, your tart must have, as the French say, une bonne présentation (nice appearance).  Here is an illustration of my method to cut the apples:

I also found this excellent apple cutting video in French.

TARTES AUX POMMES - French Apple Pie


6-8 apples

3/4 cup granulated sugar, preferably unprocessed (raw)

1/2 cup apricot or rhubarb jam

1/4 cup water


1/ Heat oven to 400 F / 200 C.

2/ Peel all the apples, leaving them whole, then cut in half and remove cores and seeds.

3/ Lay each apple half, core side down, on a cutting board and slice thinly (1/8 to 1/4 inch thick) while holding steady with your hand so that the apple half remains sort of intact. Like a sliced loaf of bread that remains together. Repeat for each apple.

4/ Pick up each sliced apple half and gently fan it out in your hands.  Lay each apple fan over the pie crust so they match and evenly fan completely around the outside.  Spread a second row of apple fans in the reverse direction inside the first row. Finish with a sort of spiral in the center, like a rose or the tower of pisa, use your imagination.

5/ sprinkle the sugar evenly over the entire top of the apples.

7/ place in bottom half of oven and bake 40-50 minutes until golden brown.

8/ In a small saucepan, heat the jam with the water, stirring constantly to a boil. 

9/ brush the jam over the entire tart to give it a sparkling appearance-une bonne présentation!

10/ serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream…in France I'd serve with Creme Fraiche and a glass of sweet white wine such as Muscat de Beaumes de Venise AOC