Wednesday, January 28, 2009

(My Boyfriend's) Mom And Apple Pie

We all have our favorite comfort food; food that evokes warm memories or just warms us from their soothing taste. When I was 16, my boyfriends mother Rita, sent over the best apple pie I had ever eaten. I didn't know how good the perfect crust and balanced mixture of cinnamon and nutmeg could be. She topped it with a gently spiced crumble "crust" that I thought was heaven on a spoon. I grew up without knowing about the subtleties and robustness that spice can bring to food. It was a meat and potatoes household. Rita used curry and and other spices I had never heard of. Her hair was always neatly up in a bun and she was beautiful without a stitch of makeup. It was her food she embellished, not herself. She knew about where to buy the best ice cream and they ordered their steaks specially cut. I think she started the American trend of piling a plate generously high, as I remember wondering how I was supposed to fit all of that food in my skinny teen aged body. Apple pie just brings together some of my favorite tastes and thoughts. I guess there is a reason it is associated with Mom and all of the comforts of home. Looking at the wooden bowl of apples in my kitchen I had an urge to make a quick and simple rustic apple pie. I deviated from making a top crust that is so fun to roll and decorate with cut out leaves or elaborately pinched edges. I was in the middle of a busy and hectic day as I submitted to baking this treat and wanted the tastes without the fuss. The crust got a little too brown as I tried to balance baking with the phone ringing, but once I sat down and dolloped on the freshly whipped cream, all was forgiven.

Pate Brisee (Pie Crust)
adapted from Martha Stewart

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 4 ounce stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut in small pieces
3 tablespoons ice water (approximately)

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 8-10 seconds. With the machine running, add the ice water, a little at a time, in a slow steady stream through the feed tube. Depending on the humidity, less or more water may be needed. Pulse until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky, being careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together. If it is crumbly, add more ice water, a little at a time. Shape the dough into a disc, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Dough may be stored, frozen for up to one month. Makes one single layer of pie crust.

Rustic Apple Pie

8 medium apples*, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon butter
optional: 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoon raisins soaked in
1 tablespoon brandy, until plump

*I used mainly Granny Smith apples for their firmness and sweet/ tart flavor and Fuji and Macintosh to round out the taste.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Roll chilled pie dough, between 2 sheets of plastic wrap (to prevent sticking), into a rough 15 inch round. Place dough into a 9 inch pie pan, letting excess to hang over the sides.

In a large bowl, mix apples, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and flour. Add optional nuts and raisins and stir. Spoon into the prepared pie pan, dot with butter and fold the overhanging dough over to cover apples. The center will be left uncovered. Sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for about an hour, until crust is golden brown and apples are cooked and juicy. Check after half an hour to make sure it is not browning too quickly. If it is, loosely cover with aluminum foil for the remaining time. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
Eight servings

Written and photographed by Diane

Download recipe (pdf)

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