When I was home at Christmas, Katherine and I decided we needed to live in the same city: left to our own devices, we are much too serious. Both very driven, intense individuals, we can lose ourselves in various projects, only to lift our heads up and say, hmmmm, it's Saturday and I haven't seen a soul for days! I am the more extroverted of the two, wearing my emotions proudly on my sleeve, always seeking center stage, while Katherine is more reserved, working quickly and quietly backstage until, before you know it, she's made 100 jars of jam, 10 pies and 50 jars of pickles. She's unstoppable. Without her, a career on center stage would be a joke and a dream; her take-it-as-it-comes approach to life reassures me. She's always reaching up and pulling me back to earth. Together on the ground we run fast, but evenly.
We spent the entire holiday in the kitchen. We left of course from time to time to brush our teeth and go to sleep, to tie up our shoes and go somewhere, or to put our feet up and read a book, but most of the time we hung out in the kitchen. Even when we weren't cooking we were in there sitting at the island, eating sandwiches or bowls of berries and ice cream. I was often standing on a chair reading aloud from Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins, or playing my guitar and singing, pretending I was at Woodstock, or announcing my latest philosophical epiphany. Other pet activities included: listening to Fleetwood Mac at full volume and dancing around with vigor, doing push ups and sit ups (because that's our idea of fun), or reading cookbooks and calling out promising recipes.
More specifically, and more pertinent to the picture above, (although we did a lot of cowgirl-like activities and didn't get the blues), we made apple pie, twice. For a while, whenever I would think of home it was about eating cinnamon buns and drinking coffee with Katherine at a local bakery. Now I think about eating apple pie and doing the twist to Fleetwood Mac on a rainy holiday afternoon. In my opinion, there are few things better than an apple pie, especially one eaten in the company of terrific, well-loved, and highly thought of individuals. I have an incling, however, that if I was eating some alone right now, that'd be fine too.
So let's talk about pie. What's a good pie? First of all, there's the pastry. Most people don't make their own crust because it sends them into a fit of worry. This is unfortunate, but I've been there and I understand. You have to learn how the dough will feel in your hands when it's the right consistency. You have to master a few key techniques. You have to confidently try different recipes until you find one that works for you. This takes time and courage. And remember, someone will always say: the best pastry I ever tried was at the Christmas party last year. Betty Sue gave me the recipe, but I just can't make it like she does! Hogwash. Let's all stop comparing ourselves to everyone else.
Once you have spent hours and days and weeks and months and years perfecting the art of pastry making, perhaps you will have found a favourite filling you particularly like. In the meantime, refer to the Joy of Cooking; it won't let you down, promise. Runny filling is unsatisfying and unpleasant, so use some sort of thickener, like flour, tapioca, or cornstarch. Good quality fruit, nuts, syrups and sugars will make all the difference in the world, so use them.
The pastry recipe I'm going to share with you is inspired from my dear friend Max's mother, Lee. I have previously posted the original recipe here. Since then, my dad has made some modifications and Katherine has worked on polishing them. Before Christmas, I made several pie crusts with lackluster results. Katherine also felt as if something was missing from her pastry. We tackled our separate problems as a team. Both times, I made the dough, while Katherine tossed together a filling. When the dough was chilled she rolled out the crust. Both times, the pie was unreal. Together we are unstoppable.
1 9-inch double-crust pie
à la jude & co.
I highly recommend using white spelt flour here if you can find it. There was a difference in texture between white pastry flour and the white spelt. Katherine said it was the easiest dough she'd ever handled. Why this is, I'm not sure, but that's a good enough reason for me.
The original recipe is for two double crust pies. We cut the liquid in half and reduced the flour to 3 cups.
Use room temperature butter for this recipe. You should be able to press your finger into the butter so that it just gives way and leaves a soft imprint.
In a bowl:
3 C white spelt flour (or white pastry flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (add 1 tsp if you're using unsalted butter)
1 1/2 C room temperature butter
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
- Cut in the butter until the butter is well dispersed in the four. If you leave big chunks of butter, the dough will be difficult to roll out once it's chilled.
In a liquid measure:
1 TBS apple cider vinegar
1 TBS brown sugar
- Mix these first three ingredients together.
- Add cold water until it reaches the 1/2 C line.
- Slowly add the liquid to the dry ingredients, using a fork to mix the dough together with a light flicking motion.
- Once the dough has come together in big globs, stop mixing and turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gather it together in one pile. Starting from the end furthest from you, smear the dough away from you using the heel of your hand to fully incorporate the butter into the flour. You should smear the dough about six times.
- Separate the dough into two flat discs, wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours.
To Roll Out The Dough
- On a floured surface, start to roll out the dough by gently turning the dough clockwise after each stroke of the rolling pin.
- Once the dough is about 1/8 inch thick and large enough to fit into the pie pan, gently roll the dough around the rolling pin and lay the dough into the pan. You can also use the four corner fold method. This involves folding the circle in half, and then folding that half in half to make a quarter. You then put the point of the quarter in the center of the pie pan and unfold it.
- Roll out the top the same way.
- Once the filling is in, lay the top over the pie, trim off any excess, fold the overhang under and crimp the edges.
* For good detailed information and photos about dough, rolling out dough, and crimping visit these pages at thesmittenkitchen.com.
5-6 C sliced cooking apples
1/2 - 3/4 C brown or white sugar
1 TBS lemon juice
1 - 1/2 TBS cornstarch
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
* only very tart apples require the larger amount of sugar
* only very juicy apples require the larger amount of cornstarch
Optional: if serving the pie with cheese omit the lemon juice and add fennel or anise seed
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Mix above ingredients together in a bowl and pour into pie shell.
- Cover with the top pastry and crimp the edges.
- Cut some slits in the top to let the steam escape.
- Brush with egg and milk; sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is brown and the filling bubbling. If you notice the top burning after 20-30 minutes, you may have to turn down your oven temperature to slow down the cooking.
- I like using glass pyrex pie dishes because you can see how the crust is doing on the bottom.
- Give your sister a high five, or yourself a pat on the back, get out some vanilla ice-cream or cheddar cheese and tuck in!
And if any of you devoted readers have any questions or need more information, I am always a keyboard away.
Labels: Apple Pie