This year, it's our turn to eat Thanksgiving with Kendell's family. My list of stuff to bring:
- rolls (of course! I'm trying to decide if I should make two batches or three---think 72 rolls are enough for 23 people? Probably?)
- butter and jam for the rolls (I have some delicious raspberry-peach jam I froze this summer!)
- green bean casserole
- plastic cups
- 2 bottles sparkling cider
- 1 apple pie
It's that last item that's giving me fits. I consider myself to be a good cook, but honestly, pie crusts are my downfall. When I try to make crust, it generally comes out too heavy---not flaky in the least. So, when I make chicken pot pie or a fruit pie on normal days, I use Marie Callendar's pre-made, frozen crust. Somehow, though, it just doesn't feel right to me, using a pre-made pie crust on a Thanksgiving apple pie. Am I being a crust snob? I'm probably being too idealistic. It's just a pie. Still, I decided I'll make some practice pies, to get my crust-making skills up to snuff.
So, last night, along with Chris's rosemary chicken and rice pilaf (which was, Nathan declared, "one of the best meals you've ever made, Mom!" huge praise from Nathan, who's right now embroiled in a super-picky phase) I made an apple pie with homemade crust. Here are the recipes:
Tricky-yet-Deliciously-Flaky-if-You-Get-It-Right Pie Crust
1 T vinegar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup shortening
1 tsp salt
2-3 T cold ice water
In a small bowl, beat the egg well. Add the vinegar, then beat again. Mix the flour and salt together in a larger bowl. Cut in the shortening. Stir in the egg mix; add enough water to make the dough stick. Makes enough dough for two crusts.
Apple Pie Filling
7 tart apples (I use a mix of Granny Smith and Fuji, because they're tart and they stay crispy; mushy apples aren't my thing)
juice of one lemon
1 cup sugar
3 T flour
1 tsp cinnamon
dash ground cloves
dash ground ginger
2 T cold (or frozen) butter
Peel, core, and slice apples. (The apple peeler/corer/slicer thing that Pampered Chef sells is invaluable for this task! It takes about three minutes to do all the apples this way; a huge bonus is you're left with all those long strings of apple peel, which my children think are the most delicious things EVER.) Sprinkle the apples with the lemon juice. Mix all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then pour over the apples. Toss until it's all combined. Pour apples into a pie pan lined with bottom crust. Cut the butter into small pieces and sprinkle over the top of the apples. Place top crust over apples; seal edges and cut a pattern into the top (to allow steam to escape). Bake at 400 for 45 minutes.
Here's what I learned from Practice Pie #1:
- Cutting in the shortening is a fairly effective way of getting out a little frustration.
- Roll the dough out between two sheets of Saran Wrap. (I'm not certain where that idea came from, but I think it's from an episode of the old Martha Stewart TV show.)
- The bottom crust needs to be big enough to flop over the edge of the pie plate, not just reach to the edge.
- I need more Saran Wrap. In a wider size.
- Forgetting to mix the dry ingredients for the filling FIRST makes it way harder to get every apple sufficiently coated.
- If you've forgotten to buy a lemon, a sprinkling of vinegar works just as well.
- If you forget to put the butter on top of the apples, don't melt it and try to pour it into one of the steam vents. Really---you'll get a little bit down in the filling, but most of it will just spread out across the top of the pie.
- Trying to cook rosemary chicken, rice pilaf, and an apple pie all at once is not a good idea. I'm all for multi-tasking but it does tend to make you forget things.
- The filling is still delicious without butter.
- A little bit of butter spread on top of the pie makes it beautifully golden when it's finished baking.
- And, most importantly: maybe I can make a decent pie.
The apples were perfect. The crust was---nearly perfect. It flaked. It wasn't too heavy. A little bit flakier and it would have been perfect. I see more practice pies in my future; I think I'll make chicken pot pie on Wednesday. Maybe I'll learn enough with practice to finally get to apple-pie-utter-perfection?