Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Apple of My Pie

Pecan pie is my favorite, but I've never made one.  Apple is the one that rolls through my kitchen more frequently than any other.  But even apple pie has made only guest appearances at our table over the last few years. The most recent five or six apple pies I've made were less than excellent, and excellent apple pie is the only kind worth eating.  You don't find them very often--seldom in a restaurant and never from the grocery store. That's not a problem for some of you, but apple pie is my husband's favorite dessert.  At least one a month might be a good number in his mind, but I, the pie maker, had sort of lost my touch.  However, as a special treat, for a special day, for my very dear and special husband, making excellent apple pie is one of the Things I get to do today.

I wanted this birthday pie to be the kind I used to make so I took my time.  The most important ingredient I finally realized was loving the process.  If I was struggling with or grumpy about the process of this creation, it wouldn't sit with delight on anyone's tongue.  Fortunately, I had just cleaned out a cupboard and unearthed my old apple peeler/slicer.   With the cheery prospect of getting to prepare the apples with this grownup toy, I was on my way to the best pie of my baking career.

I must interrupt this narrative to  sprinkle in some pie philosophy.  A pie is nothing, period, without good crust.  Don't even bother to put the filling in if there is too much water or not enough shortening in the mix.  So get that part right.*  And here is where I tell you the most important secret for out-of-this-world apple pie:  it must be a 10" not a 9" pie.  This is extremely important.  It's something about commitment and giving it enough space to make a real flavor statement.  A 9" pie is only a stammering suggestion.  It just won't do.  And don't scrimp on the cinnamon either.

Remnant scraps will be rerolled and sprinkled with cinnamon
sugar for pie crust "cookies"

Having followed all my own suggestions, I had the crust ready to be rolled.  Big decision:  do I use the fancy, modern silicone roll-it-out mat or do I find an old flour sack dish towel like the old days.  Better judgment directed me to the old dish towel.  As my hand smoothed the little mound of flour across the rough cloth to cushion the ball of pie dough for its first couple of rolls, I could feel the perfection of the process returning.  The crust was smooth and supple and cooperative.  I was in the groove, my skill refreshed.
Pure genius this toy is!

I played with the peeler and the apples until I had a little mountain of red and gold and greenish curls and a pie pan of thinly sliced apples heaped and ready for the sugar and seasoning and dots (lots) of butter.

Ready to be sprinkled with sugar, cinnamon and cardamom and
dotted with butter.  Don't scrimp with the cinnamon or butter.

The rest was easy.  Put on the "lid" crust with a few pretty slits so the sugary juices can bubble out to tell you when the pie is done.  Put it in the hot oven and wait for their signal.


This may look like the picture of success.  It's not.   A deliciously excellent apple pie is best shown by an empty plate with a dribble of melted vanilla ice cream on it.

*Perfect Double 10" Pie Crust

2 1/2 c King Arthur Unbleached white Flour
14 Tablespoons Shortening (use the foil wrapped pre-measured kind and just count to 14 and cut--easy)
3/4 teaspoon salt

Work the above by hand with a wire pastry blender until the mix resembles a very coarse corn meal

6 Tablespoons cold water and toss lightly until evenly distributed.  Form into two equal balls.  Roll, etc. etc. etc.

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