We’re sitting Shiva today with the family of a friends of our’s and so I decided to make an apple pie. There’s nothing more welcoming than an autumn apple pie and the family always liked my pies when they came to our parties.
A confession must be made: I wrote a book about pies–Pies Every Day. It’s really a collection of stories rather than a cookbook but it resulted in being dragged on stages, television, and book tours, all to showcase my skills and sell the book. Truth is that, while I have fillings down, my crusts, tender and delicious though they may be, are very very often awful looking. I’ve made a ton of pies since the book came into print twenty years (here, I’d like you to think that I wrote it still in the cradle) but few have come out camera ready. I had to learn very fast how to compensate for my dough inadequacies. And now, in service to all the klutzy cooks out there I will embarrass myself and pass my pie fixes on to you.
First: I use a food processor because it quickly mixes the ingredients without the heat of your hands beginning to melt the fats (I always use butter and lard). Pulse a few times. Watch carefully when you start adding the cold water watch .
See those clumps? My short attention span results in adding too much.
Fix: Pile some flour on your work space and as you shape the dough, add a little at a time until it isn’t so sticky. Wrap it up and throw into the freezer. (Tip: if you don’t have the time to chill the dough properly, place it in the freezer–just be careful it doesn’t freeze freeze.)
Out from the freezer, dough divided into halves and what you’ll use for the top crust goes back into freezer. Start rolling out the bottom.
Nothing’s going right: dough sticking to the rolling pin. Add more flour but I can’t control the thickness and it becomes too thin. The only thing this sorry mess has going for it is the visible chunks of lard and butter which means, if nothing else, the crust will be flaky.\
Into the pie plate I bravely go. Note it doesn’t at all resemble what you’re been shown countless times in print and television. Also it has a hole. Ignore those cheery type A’s!
The fix for the type Bs through Ds: Pinch off some of the dough around the edges to patch up holes and thicken the bottom and walls–it’s like plastering a wall. But do it fast, with the lightest of touch. You don’t want the dough out for long or toughened by over handling.
The pie plate goes into the refrigerator while you peel and cut the apples. I like to use a mix. The corner vegetable store didn’t have the best like Golden Delicious or Honey Crisp. So I used, Fuji, Granny Smith, and something called Australian I never heard of before but don’t recommend. They’re a little too mealy.
Apple slices are sprinkled with cinnamon and a little sugar then piled into crust. Use more apples than you think necessary because they’ll melt together in baking.
Okay, full pie returns to the refrig. Top dough comes out of the freezer. Right away, I can see this is a much better piece. It’s rolling out nicely and I can control the thickness. It’s still not round but, as I impressed upon you, mine never are. But that’s ok.
Decision time: I better use this as the bottom. Dig out another pie plate, shift apples to new crust (you can see in the background the totally miserable dough in the back).
New problem: I no longer have a top crust. Fold the misshapen flaps over the rim and sort of makes peaks and folds. Beat an egg and brush over the dough and sprinkle some sugar. You will now tell everyone you intentionally baked a rustic pie.
Pop in oven and go relax with a much needed drink and catch up on the pile of New Yorker‘s.
And, Ta! Da! An hour and fifteen minutes later out comes a steaming hot, tawny brown delicious pie!
I pretty much guarantee everyone will be happy to dig into it. With this one, I’m hoping it will bring some comfort, too.