Apple Of My Pie

Its been awhile since I have written something here, I have thought about writing something a lot, and somehow never did. I find it hard returning from my travels, I think I always have. I have this problem with inertia – I find it hard to get started on things but I find the stopping and staying still so much harder. Since coming home I have been trying to sit still with all of the questions and chaos that I usually try to drum out by moving; you know not asking those awful questions that have chased me my entire life – what next, what now, where to. I haven’t liked it but I keep trying. And when all of that sitting has made me hungry I do some cooking and baking, including pie.

When I think of pie I think of Zelda’s mother Ruth. I didn’t know Ruth very much, I do have a few memories of her but her influence and presence in my life seems to loom larger than most of the memories. We usually stayed at Zelda’s Aunt Rose’s house when we spent our summer weeks on the farm. I loved Aunt Rose’s house, the carpeted stairs that led up to the second floor which was entirely wood paneled, the bedrooms with flowery wallpaper, the old time water pump out back, and the kitchen that always smelled of meat balls, sausage, cookies, or her amazing brownies (there is a recipe I have to share). But a few times we stayed at Ruth’s house with the kitchen right off the big stone front porch, the wood stairs to the second floor, and what seemed like all this quiet.

My memories of Ruth stretch from vague images of white washed and silent halls in hospitals to this house and the few times we spent the night. But the memory that stands out the most to me of Ruth is of the pie we made and ate one summer. I remember it was a pie of some kind of berry perhaps blackberry or blueberry. We had made it together, the only time I remember Ruth cooking around me was this pie. While the pie baked in the oven we ate a dinner of tuna melts. Zelda and I had plans that night and since the pie wasn’t ready by the time we left Ruth promised  we could have some when we got back. We returned late and must have gone straight to bed, but all I remember was there was no pie that night. But the next morning we had breakfast and with it Ruth served me a huge piece of that summer berry pie. I remember it felt like magic, pie for breakfast! It felt exactly like an experience one doesn’t have very often in their life.

Ruth has always remained a mystery and a symbol for me of the generation of women that gave birth to the generation of women that gave birth to me. She has always filled my mind with stories but this memory is always a fond one of us around a table eating that pie for breakfast.

So here I am baking a pie for the holidays, an apple pie and thinking of summer days with Ruth; and of course of three generations of fabulous women and girls that have come from Ruth (many of whom I love baking pies next to!).

Apple Pie

Ingredients

3 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and sliced ¾ inch thick. I like to use a variety of apples for both texture and taste diversity.

1 lemon, zested

2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon to sprinkle on top

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Pie Crust, recipe follows

1 egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon water, for egg wash

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine apple slices in a bowl with the lemon zest and juice, ½ cup sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Roll out half the pie dough and drape it over a 9- or 10-inch pie pan to extend about 1/2-inch over the rim.  Pie crust recipe below.

Fill the pie with the apple mixture. Brush the edge of the bottom piecrust with the egg wash so the top crust will adhere. Top with the second crust and trim the edges to about 1-inch over the rim. Tuck the edge of the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust and crimp the 2 together with your fingers or a fork. Brush the entire top crust with the egg wash, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar, and cut 4 or 5 slits or a shape (I used a star cookie cutter for mine).

Place the pie on a sheet pan and bake for 1 to 1 ¼ hours, or until the crust is browned and the juices begin to bubble out. Serve warm, or the next morning for a special breakfast memory.

Pie Crust:

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter

2 ½  cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening

6 to 8 tablespoons (about 1/2 cup) ice water

Martha Stewart Magazine says to make sure all of your ingredients are thoroughly chilled before you begin (this includes the flour). Dice the butter and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl, and stir to combine. Using two knives cut the cold butter into the flour mixture by pressing down quickly, using as few strokes as possible.

Add 4 tablespoons of water. Gather dough and gently press into a ball. It should come together loosely if not, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time.

Divide dough in half; place each on plastic wrap. Flatten into disks. Wrap tightly; refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.

Remove disks from refrigerator. On lightly floured surface, press rolling pin gently all over dough to flatten it slightly. Working from the center to the edge in all directions, roll out dough into a round about 3 inches larger than your pie plate.

Wrap the dough around the rolling pin; lift and center it over the pie plate. Gently unroll the dough over the plate, leaving an even amount of overhang around the perimeter. Repeat with top crust.

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11 2012

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