Thursday, September 23, 2010

Courage: Apple Pie

For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business. T.S. Eliot

This week I made a stalwart attempt to let go of two things: the need to have an excellent outcome and my problem with crust envy. In my most recent cooking adventure, there was an opportunity for the confluence of the two things that have thus far plagued my pie baking efforts.First, I must confess something that I know my grandma full of grace, would forgive. I hope the same from those staunch pie bakers out there who would never dream of doing the deed I am about to uncover. For about the past 20 years, I have been purchasing pie crusts. I know. I love the idea of pie, the smell of pie, the taste of pie but I have been so afraid of the crust and the filling and getting it just right that I didn't dare to do both. I thought if I purchased a crust, I could focus on the filling and I would increase the odds that I'd end up with a decent pie. Oh, I knew I was betraying the sisterhood and the brotherhood, possibly motherhood and the flag, but it seemed safer to me. I confess to being so jealous of those delicious flaky crusts that other people seemed to produce with nary a sign of stress. But now you know the truth that lies beneath my sweet fillings. And I suspect it really isn't a big deal to you. As my husband wisely tells me when I am in danger of losing perspective, "Honey, there are big problems in the world, and this isn't one of them."

Even so, it took some words of wisdom to grant me courage to make a whole pie bottom up from scratch. First the quote from Eliot. So wise about the true things in life, our vocations, our calling, our attempts to make a difference. "For us, there is only the trying"...I figured it could apply to pie as well. The second source came just last evening. Heidi Regier Kreider, my pastor, was talking with me about this blog and I shared my fears about how my pies turned out. She told me her family's motto: "Just get it in the pan any way you can". Freedom. I felt I had heard the gospel of pie baking.

So, this evening I came home from work and made a crust. I was sure that when I picked it up it would fall to pieces on my counter and I would be left with a jigsaw puzzle to solve (any way you can) but what do you know? It stayed together and acted like a crust should. I sliced the apples, mixed the crumb topping and baked it. I just pulled it from the oven. Call me sentimental but I went down and opened my antique pie safe and slid the hot pie right in there. I think it knew it was home.

Here is the crust and filling recipe I followed:

2 1/4 cups flour
2/3 cup shortening
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup cold water
Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut shortening into flour with a pastry blender or two knives until particles are the size of small peas. Add water gradually, one tablespoon at at time. Toss (great choice of verbs) lightly with a fork until all particles are damp. Use only enough water to hold the pastry together when pressed between the fingers. It should not be wet. (I am so glad they told me that). Roll dough into a round ball, handling as little as possible. Roll out onto a lightly floured board into a circle. Put into pie plate and do something nice to the crust edges.

6 tart apples (I used Braeburns)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
Slice apples thinly. Mix 3/4 cup of the sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over apples. Put apple mixture into unbaked pie shell. Combine remaining sugar and flour. Add butter and rub together until crumbs are formed. Sprinkle fine crumbs over apples. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes and then reduce oven to 350. Bake 35 minutes longer.


1 comment:

  1. Love this post. The art of letting go of perfectionism applies to much more than pie baking---to all things worth doing in life, actually.
    Besides, your writing is so clever. I enjoy your blog on many levels---for the writing, for the reflections, and for the trip down memory lane with the Mennonite Community Cookbook.