Monday, March 8, 2010

As Easy as Pie

Recipe from Taste of Home, October/November 1996 "Perfect Apple Pie"

I don't know where the saying, "As Easy as Pie" came from. Probably from some smug pastry chef of long-ago that could sift flour in his sleep... I love to make pies, but I make them because in all my years in the kitchen they never get any easier. They are to me the Mount Everest of baking--and what's better than scaling the heights with hardly any oxygen and danger of tumbling off a ledge or getting frostbite at any moment? It's thrilling stuff, let me tell you.

Our first step is to add 3/4 of a cup of shortening to a mixture of 2 cups of flour, and 1 teaspoon of salt.
Then it's time to "cut" the shortening into the flour until the mixture begins to look crumbly. Some recipes suggest mixing the shortening into the flour, by using two table knives. I definitely prefer my pie cutter gadget, as I cannot hope to have such coordination in my lifetime...:) Add 4 to 5 tablespoons of ice cold water and mix. I often add a couple of tablespoons of water if it's still dry, but don't go overboard. It's important that the water be very cold, as this, along with a generous amount of shortening, makes your pie crust tender. I just keep balling up the mixture in the bowl with my hands until it sticks together in a ball.

After this, it's time to get out the rolling pin. I take out half of the dough, and gently roll it, while also pressing it to the table with my hands. My pie crusts tend to be very flaky and so this is the touchy part.

I am always amazed at the bakers on TV that roll out such pliable pie crusts that they breezily lay into the pie pan. With mine--and I can't tell you how many countless recipes I've tried-- I invariably wind up usually molding it to my pie pan, after fixing places where the pie crust has torn. It's kind of like my form of dessert "sculpture". Oh, and by the way, that metal spatula works like a charm to slide beneath the crust on the table and loosen it, once I'm done rolling.

Now it's time to get the apples peeled--I like Granny Smiths for pies. I peel and slice about 7-8 cups and toss them with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. I combine 1 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of flour, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg in a separate bowl. This sugar mixture gets stirred into the bowl of apples and tossed. I love the touch of nutmeg in this pie.

Here is the pie without it's top. Now we roll out the top crust and gently put it on top of the sugary apples.

Voila! ready for the oven! Beat an egg yolk, and brush onto crust. And remember to cut a slit into the center, something I obviously forgot to do. Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduce heat to 350 and for 40-45 minutes until golden brown and the filling is bubbly. (And the bigger mess you make, the better it tastes!)

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