When you start, pastis gascon, which is also known as croustade gasconne, seems to be the simplest of dishes: the pastry consists merely of flour, salt and water. But then comes the sleight of hand of one of the few remaining croustadières – ladies who perpetuate a centuries-old skill whose origins are uncertain. One theory is that the recipe for pastis gascon was brought to Gers by the Moors, along with the still, which is used to this day to make Armagnac.
The pastry is drawn out, in spectacular fashion and with infinite patience, on long tables until it becomes translucent. The thinner the pastry, the better the resulting croustade – the yardstick for a good pastis gascon being that it should be the thickness of a bride’s veil. An experienced croustadière can produce a ribbon of pastry 8 m long and just 1 mm thick.
The pastry is then cut up and arranged in a series of layers inside a mould, to form a soft bed that is filled with sweet-smelling apples whose fragrance comes from a subtle blend of vanilla and Armagnac. This work of art is then crowned with fine strips of tightly-packed pastry which, when cooked, turn a magnificent golden hue.