Sunday Night Special: Apple Pie
I hate (well, don’t love) fruit in general, but I hate waste even more so I’ve been trying to come up with uses for the unwelcome 15-pound bag of grapefruit and 10-pound sack of red apples that were recently brought into my house. I ate a grapefruit for breakfast last week and brought apples to work a couple of times but that’s enough. An apple pie seemed like the perfect solution to this un-tasty dilemma. The grapefruit, I’m still thinking on.
I don’t think I’ve ever made an apple pie. Baking has never done much for me, somehow it feels more like drudgery than cooking. Usually, I turn to the web for inspiration but with something so straightforward as an apple pie, I thought I’d paw through my cookbook standards that rarely get used because I’ve outgrown them.
The New Basics Cookbook seemed like a good pie recipe candidate. It was one of the first non-used cookbooks I bought for myself, probably when I was nineteen or so. At the time, I didn’t want traditional like Joy of Cooking (though the new release is on my Christmas wish list) or pathetic like but I was looking for standards and explanations. The soft cover, 849-paged, The New Basics fit my criteria, plus I thought it was terribly sophisticated. Now it reads kind of like a time capsule.
Published in ’89 and purchased in ’91, I probably haven’t cracked it open in a decade (except for the instructions on how to poach a chicken breast). It was written by New York caterers (I just saw Silver Palate jarred sauce at Fairway on Friday so I guess they’re still cashing in) so there is a bent towards entertaining and presentation. The recipes include lots of fruity vinaigrettes, pestos, high-end pizzas (very Wolfgang Puck) and twists like using Asian pears in a waldorf salad and. I wasn’t even familiar with things like kohlrabi, celeriac or sorrel (and I’ve still never cooked with any of those items).
Something that stands out was an hors d'oeuvre called beggars purses, which was essentially a crepe filled with caviar and crème fraiche and bundled up like a mini bag and tied with a chive. I hadn’t given this finger food any thought until the early ‘00s when an old college friend of James’s mentioned that she’d just attended the wedding of a mutual friend who’d married some old rich restaurateur and that they served beggars purses at the reception. This was relayed kind of mockingly like “how ‘80s.” The critical detail that I’m fuzzy on was whether or not the groom was the inventor of beggars purses, which I swear was what this woman said. If so, that’s amusing to me because the recipe in The New Basics was titled Barry Wine’s Beggar’s Purses and the headnote reads, “Barry and Susan Wine have one of the most stunning restaurants in the country, New York’s Quilted Giraffe.” This was a big deal place two decades ago, not that I would know first hand, I was just reading about it in The United States of Arugula. Did this girl marry Barry Wine? Ha, I think she did. I don’t know her name, but Johns Hopkins was the common denominator among this group of people and the Catskills is ringing a bell.
Wow, enough unnecessary asides. (Is not being able to focus on one topic for any length of time and constantly being distracted by unimportant bits an affliction that can be cured with pharmaceuticals? I would be a much more productive person if I could stay on track. And I don’t mean A.D.D., which I definitely don’t have despite hating to wait and take turns and feeling restless—who doesn’t?) I just wanted to make a pie, not a boring pie, and be done with it so I could eat the damn thing. With the addition of grated cheddar and a touch of dry mustard in the crust, the Apple of Her Eye Pie sounded interesting (the name is mildly retarded but many of the recipes in this book are kind of cutesy) without being over the top.
I ultimately had trouble with the crust. It fell apart a little and I had to do some dough spackling on the top so it’s not picture perfect. I must’ve done something wrong because it wouldn’t hold together when I cut it either. Of course none of these cosmetic traumas affected the taste. The overall flavor was sweet and more vanilla-y and candied than I would’ve expected. I suspect sharper green apples (which I do like) would’ve been more fitting but it was lame red delicious that needed using up.
I was excited to be able to get rid of eight apples but it turned out that my pie plates were 9” rather than the 10” called for in the recipe so I had filling overload. I only managed to squeeze in about five apples and now am faced with a plastic container jammed with leftover sweet-spiced fruit.
Apple of Her Eye Pie
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Pinch of salt
8 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold (1 stick)
1/3 cup shortening, cold
3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
6-8 tablespoons ice water
8 tart apples
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoons sugar
Pinch of cinnamon
1. Prepare the pastry dough: Combine the flour, sugar, mustard & salt in a mixing bowl & toss well to blend. Using a pastry blender, 2 knives or your fingertips, cut in the butter & shortening until the mixture forms small clumps. Then add the cheese & work it in until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
2. Sprinkle the water, 2 tablespoons at a time, over the mixture & toss with a fork until the mixture can be gathered into a ball. Knead it once or twice in the bowl and divide it into slightly unequal halves. Wrap both halves & chill in the fridge for 45 min.
3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
4. Prepare the filling: Peel, core and halve the apples; cut them into 1" chunks. Combine the apples & melted butter in a large bowl. Add the remaining filling ingredients and toss until the apples are evenly coated.
5. Roll the smaller portion of the chilled dough out on a lightly floured surface to form a 12" circle. Transfer it to a 10" pie plate & press it into the bottom and sides of the plate. Trim the dough, leaving a 1" overhang. Reserve any excess dough.
6. Roll the larger portion of dough out to form a slightly larger circle.
7. Fill the pie plate with the apple mixture, mounding it slightly. Brush the edge of the bottom crust with water, then transfer the top crust over the apples, tucking it slightly inside the rim. Trim off any excess, allowing a 1" overhang again. Seal the edges of the crusts together with a fork & crimp decoratively. Trim away any remaining excess pastry.
8. Prepare the Topping: Mix together the sugar & cinnamon. Prick the top crust with a fork in several places & cut a small vent in the center. Brush the top lightly with water & sprinkle it with the cinnamon sugar. If you like, cut out shapes, such as leaves or apples, from the dough trimmings & decorate the top crust with them.
9. Bake until the filling is bubbling and the top is golden, about 1-1/4 hours.
Borrowed from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins. Workman Publishing, 1989.
This was an opportunity to crack out the good china, ok, it was just the $16.99 Tord Boontje for Target dessert plates. I think that was a brilliant choice of designer for Christmas, considering how his style is so naturally wintery. I almost broke down and bought some of his “real” dishes last year. Do you think Target could commission a budget version of this $33,500 chandelier?
The only danger of baking is that if I make a pie, I will eat a pie. I was horrified a few episodes ago on Heroes when The Cheerleader and her mom threw away a batch of cupcakes because they were “too good.” What the fuck? There’s no such thing. And I’m assuming that’s why I don’t have a cheerleader figure. Is that how people (women) live? I’m going ten steps the other direction and plan on using the extra apple filling to make fritters later in the week. I’ve pretty much given up any attempts at health for December. With three weeks left in the year, I’m going to be carefree (or careless, depending on your temperament).