Sunday, October 15, 2006
A Pastry Breakthrough
On the night of the Apple Harvest Festival, after being surrounded by all sorts of apple products and happy people eating them, I decided to dive into my 1/4 bushel and make my very first apple pie. I've had my mom's crumb top deep dish pie recipe for a couple years; I just haven't been ambitious enough to make my own crust, plus I'm not always partial to desserts that aren't made with chocolate. I was also inspired by Shannon, the friend I went to the festival with, because she was planning on baking that night too.
One of the differences between Shannon's endeavors and mine was that she has an apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer, and I don't. I didn't even have a recipe for pie dough, but the Food Network website came to the rescue (as it often does). Barefoot Contessa's "Perfect Pie Crust" - the link is at the bottom - has both butter and Crisco in it, which I remember my grandma using, so I figured that would be worth a try. The instructions also said that she uses a food processor, which seemed much easier for a beginner like me.
The dough seemed to turn out alright, and while it was in the fridge I mixed the crumb topping (more butter...the pie couldn't be that bad). Then I realized that my mom's recipe involved lemon juice to keep the apples from turning brown. I only had orange juice, which worked just as well, although it definitely made the pie sweeter.
I didn't have enough of just one kind of apple, nor did I have the recommended varities, so I ended up using a special blend of Fuji, Staymen, and whatever else happened to be on the top of my overflowing produce drawers. As I worked on the apples, I kept hearing the words "apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer" in my head. My first attempt at peeling was with a paring knife, which was OK for a small red apple with soft skin, but some of the others were tougher. I'm not sure if I committed some kind of baking sin, but I got out my vegetable peeler and from then on I could strip the apples more quickly (though not as quickly as an apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer probably could).
Cutting wasn't too bad, and soon I had coated the apple pieces in orange juice. That was when I realized that I don't have a rolling pin. I do, however, possess various types of liquor. My Triple Sec bottle still has some flour on the outside, but it did the trick, and I assembled the crust, apples, and crumb topping just as my oven reached 400 degrees.
After a few hours of work, the smell of the pie baking was enough to make the whole experience worthwhile. I enjoyed eating it too, because it was very sweet and had an equal ratio of topping and crust to apples. It wasn't the same as my mom's or grandma's pies, but it was the way I like my non-chocolate desserts, so I consider it a personal baking victory. The only problem is Barefoot Contessa's "Perfect Pie Crust," which makes enough for two pies. I might need to borrow an apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer for my second attempt.