Apple Pie in the Afternoon
The past few days have been terribly hectic, and now I am playing blog catch-up! I still have to put up my contribution to Sam's fabulous event "Be Rachael Ray for a Day" - check out that picture! What a supah-fox! My Novato version won't be nearly as glamorous, but it was great fun in any case.
But first, the apple pie report. On Thursday morning, I made a batch of pie dough and wrapped it in plastic to chill for a bit. In my opinion, pie crust should be buttery and flaky, full of flavor and substantial enough to handle a mountain of hot, juicy filling. I don't use shortening in mine; it's all butter, cut into flour until the texture resembles itsy-bitsy pea gravel.
I like to use two different kinds of apples in my pies to create a well-rounded final product. For this pie, I used a mixture of Gravenstein and Pink Blush. The Gravensteins were firm and heavy, so dense that you wouldn't want to be dozing beneath the apple tree when one of these decided to fall. They literally crackle and crunch when you bite into them, and their juice is tart and bright. The Pink Blush were larger, but considerably lighter. Their flesh is almost airy in comparison, and the flavor is mellow, almost pear-like.
I stood at the kitchen counter, humming to my favorite playlist of R.E.M. favorites, peeling and coring and chopping. I had the windows open, and the boy who mows the lawn was working on the back yard, and the smell of fresh-cut grass was heavy in the air. I kept inhaling great lung-fulls of it, trying to hold on to those vibrant green molecules of scent. I had this moment, then, as I stood there with my apron on, knife in hand, of great happiness. And then I had to giggle, because it was all so Desperate-Housewives-ish. Not that I feel desperate, or anything close to it, but the combination of the suburban setting, and the apple-pie-making and all just set me off...
Maybe you had to be there.
Anyway: I had intended to follow this recipe for my pie, but at the moment when I was going to put those gorgeous chopped apple pieces into a pan to simmer, I simply couldn't do it. I re-read the recipe, felt inspired again, reached for the pan... and couldn't put the apples in the pan. It seems that I have a severe phobia of overcooked apples. I do not like applesauce, and I kept thinking: why would I simmer these apples and THEN tuck them between their blankets of pie crust and cook them some more?! They will taste like apple mush, and then I won't be able to eat my pie!
And so I reverted back to my old ways. I tossed my crisp apple pieces with fresh lemon juice, cinnamon and sugar, and let them sit for a moment while I rolled out the dough. I didn't have any cassia bark or white pepper on hand, and besides, now I was back on a familiar track, and so I let all of those exotic ingredients fall right out of my head. The apples went into the pie pan, and the top crust was nestled over the top, when I remembered that she had sprinkled lavender water over the top of her crust and I felt that I should at least do something to make this pie different from the usual. And so I pulled out a bottle of rosewater (!!) and sprinkled that over the top of my crust. Hmmm.
Moments later, it was bubbling away in the oven, filling the house with an apple-cinnamon smell. I think I enjoy the aroma of baking more than baked goods themselves. When it was golden brown and the juices were oozing out the top vents, I took it out and proudly displayed it on the counter so that B would congratulate me the second he walked through the door. Which he did, of course.
I quite firmly believe that pie should be eaten within 3 hours of coming out of the oven for maximization of the flavor-texture ratio of buttery crust to warm filling, and so we each devoured a big slice of it in short order. The rosewater, incidentally, could not be detected.
It was like eating mouthfuls of summer, and we pushed away our plates with sighs of contentment.