Sunday, November 2, 2008

glass house pie

When I decided to do NaBloPoMo, and I still believe I must have been very exhausted when I agreed to this endeavor, I also decided that the only way I would make it through the month would be by making a plan. I decided what the theme of each day of the week’s post would be, and my intention for Sundays was to link to two to three recipes from magazines, blogs and so on that I would try out in the following weeks (if I had the stamina for it, I intended to publish a photograph of my success, or failure, with each these recipes over time). But I guess it’s true that making plans is the best way to get the universe into an agitated flurry of laughter, and frankly, my experiences in the kitchen today are more interesting. I’ve got the recipes picked out; I’ll get to posting them sooner or later this week.

I bought a $7 bag of organic granny smith apples at the grocery last week. I still don’t feel great about that. I ate about half of the small (each fit in the cup of my hand) fruits, but their texture wasn’t great, so I packed them in my overnight bag when I came home for the weekend to vote. By the way, please vote. My mother had a huge bag of anonymously red apples on hand that my granny picked at one of those pick-your-own farms last weekend, as well as four or five Fujis from a jumbo pack she purchased at Costco. With this many pounds on hand, the only reasonable use that I could imagine was pie, but the truth is, until today I had never, ever made a pie from scratch before. Crumbs, crisps, cobblers, I’ve made them all in plentiful quantities. I can make crisp in my sleep. Cobbler is literally as simple as whipping up a batch of buttermilk or cream biscuits. On the other hand, I’ve never owned or really had access to a food processor. I have a Magic Bullet but I prefer to use it for the really simple jobs where it excels: grinding up crystallized ginger and sugar for a powdery, spicy mix, or making super healthy frozen fruit smoothies with pomegranate juice. It dogged me, however, that pie is much, much older than food processors. Piecrust came before electricity, and so I decided that no matter how much pate brisse recipes insist a food processor is essential, I could do it equally well by hand. After all, even Dorie Greenspan’s book insists that cutting the fat for biscuits is ideal. If you don’t believe me, read the book. Piecrust is not so far from biscuits.

I found a super simple recipe for the crust, which included a couple of cups of flour, a ton of butter, teaspoons each of salt and sugar, and a bit of ice water. I like to play with frozen butter anyway so I went to work. All the while I mocked my cousin m, who many years ago brought an apple pie to Thanksgiving dinner. She nestled lovingly spiced apples into an admittedly delicious store bought crust but neglected to add the cornstarch. Whoops. The flavor was there but the concoction made a runny mess. We ate it with love anyway. As I worked through the late morning I couldn’t stop smiling about how easy homemade piecrust is to make. “Why don’t people make piecrust everyday?” I asked this question of myself with utter seriousness. I may have asked it aloud. I felt serious, unadulterated pride in my piecrust creating self. I put the beautiful pie in the oven. As it baked the aroma of cooking butter permeating everything in the apartment, filling my family with hot sweet anticipation. “Pie,” I shouted, “pie pie pie! I’ve never seen anyone make a pie in real life!”

Which was true. I’ve seen it on television, but I’ve also seen a guy peel off his own face on television, so what does that tell you?

When the pie emerged from the oven, lofty, crammed with the first apples of the season, smelling of all the best spices, freshly grated nutmeg, loads of cinnamon, I set it on the counter. I went about my business. Twenty minutes later, when I was showing off my gorgeous creation in the kitchen my mother shouted from the couch, “hey, did you put sugar in with the apples?”

You can guess the answer to that question. So you see, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Or maybe people with glass pie dishes shouldn't slam other people's pie dishes really hard on the counter.

Luckily, I had enough apples that I had actually made two batches of piecrust dough this morning. The second pie, with sugared apples, is in the oven now and smells of everything good that ever happened to anyone. I even added the scrapings of half a vanilla bean, because I felt like being fancy. The first piecrust was the best I’d ever tasted, the second one has a touch of cheddar and I hope it’s even better. I’ll keep you posted.

P.S. The first pie was actually pretty tasty. Not transcendent, some sugar would have made it transcendent. But everyone knows the crust is the best part of the pie.

general housewifery is participating in National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo).

No comments: