As a child I remember my mother on almost every special occasion, would whip up butter tarts, cherry tarts, or lemon meringue tarts and much to her annoyance, thanks to my father, brother and me, she would barely get one batch of tarts out of the oven, before the first batch had disappeared.
My mother is by all measures one of the best bakers I have ever known and always strives for perfection. There are few times that her baking adventures are not successful. While my father was a good cook in terms of making spanakopita, roast beef, baked summer vegetables, or anything on a barbecue; I never saw him raise a wooden spoon to help with baking.
All of it, was my mother. She also made perfect apple pie from scratch.
I love apple pie. I will buy apple pie, eat apple pie, but I have never in my 42 years attempted to bake an apple pie.
That is until tonight.
This was one of those challenges that I pondered, thought about, considered, reconsidered, checked recipes, double checked recipes, settled on a recipe and then put it off for another night. That’s just who I am.
But I did it. When I began perusing recipes to make the crust of the pie (yeah, I was going to make my own crust this time, unlike the lemon meringue pie challenge) I was surprised at what was required. As well, the ingredients and instructions were foreign to me. It was not what I recalled my mother had done all those times she baked pies and tarts.
Then I remembered something: my Momma always used Tenderflake. I scurried off to the store to purchase my Tenderflake and hoped the back of the package contained a recipe. And as predicted, there it was – THE PIE CRUST RECIPE!
Full disclosure here: I confess this was the 2nd purchase of Tenderflake. The first one sat in my cupboard for the last 6 months (that would be when I first started this blog) and grease leaked through the box. I was horrified and threw out the first box. But I never checked the back to see if there was a recipe on how to make the crust.
I worked with two recipes today. One was for the pie crust, the second was for the apples and sauce. The trickiest one for me was the pie crust recipe.
I am always confused whenever something says “fold in”, “blend” or “knead”. The only real instruction I understand is stir. I can stir. I stir well. Imagine my surprise, when on the recipe for the pie crust it said, use two knives and cut in the lard (Tenderflake) into the flour. I inexpertly muddled my way through this step, until I had something that resembled oatmeal as per the instructions. (I am VERY familiar with oatmeal. I have it every morning).
After that I peeled and chopped my apples, and began to make some sauce my mother never made. I then rolled out the bottom portion of the dough and was surprised that it looked and felt the way dough should look. Once I plopped it into the pie plate, it was VERY clear again that a beginner was at work in building this pie.
The culmination of this experience was when my hubby arrived in perfect time as I was just boiling my sauce. The water/flour/sugar mixture within a second, became a thick grunge of a mess. My hubby, running with a measuring cup that carried more water, saved the sauce mixture.
Then there was a second moment when he rescued my pie. As I read the instructions to him I said, “I need to pour it over the pie crust so that it doesn’t run off.” His head bounced up as he questioned me and said, “how’s the sauce going to get to the apples if we put a lid on it.”
I scrunched my face up and said, “my mother just punched holes in it. If we do that it should work.” (It never occurred to me that there are different pie recipes.)
Although I was still confused because Momma also always put an egg mixture on top of it and the recipe that I read and re-read never mentioned this. My hubby, not trusting my ability to follow instructions, ran over after I had already rolled out the dough and said, “You have to do it as a lattice.”
I threw my hands up and said, “I don’t know how to do that!”
His answer was, “It’s easy. You just cut strips and put it on top.”
I assigned him the task and said, “Fine, you do it!”
And, he did a beautiful job.
I began my pie odyssey at 4 PM today. At 7 PM I got to enjoy a slice. Was it worth it? As the smell of cinnamon and apples hangs in the air of my house, and the warmth of the oven is still felt, I dove my fork in and declared – it was delicious. I can honestly say it was worth every step.
Although, I would not do it every weekend.
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