Posts tagged ‘home baking’
My wonderful young cousin Erika Sue got in touch late last week, asking if I might have a recipe for making an apple pie. Matter of fact, I did, and I decided to make one and take pictures, so that I could pass along the closest thing to going over and sharing the pleasures of making an apple pie with her in her kitchen. (Only distance and time kept me from doing that right now, and I hope to be cooking with her and all my dear cousins out in beautiful Oregon some time in 2013.) Here’s what I did in words, and in pictures after the words are done.
Please note that the pie crusts, the sheets of pastry I’m using here, came not from my hands but from the grocery store refrigerator case. I know how to make piecrust, and I can make them using butter, shortening, lard, canola oil, or combinations of these. I learned how to do so over many repetitions, and I agree with people who say it is easy and that anyone can do it. I also agree with people who say that it is difficult, challenging, frustrating, and impossible. To me, both those statements are true. I love making piecrust from scratch, and I love setting out a prepared crust and jumping right in with the part that matters most to me: what goes inside and makes a pie a pie.
The question to ask is: What is your goal? If you want to learn how to make piecrust, here are three excellent places to learn how, the third one being a gluten-free piecrust.
If your goal is to make a wonderful pie, and making piecrust seems difficult, scary, or time consuming in terms of this particular pie-making endeavor, you have my blessing to go get ahold of some piecrust from the grocery store fridge or freezer, or your pastry-making friend or relative, and then get started on making a wonderful pie.
This post is about making a wonderful, homemade, you-can-do-this apple pie. If you would like to do a most satisfying and rewarding baking project with young helpers, apple pie making is one of the very best. I love making apple pies, alone and with helpers, skilled and unskilled, my age, younger and older. I love eating them, and I hope you will, too. Here we go!
Nancie’s Old-School Everyday Apple Pie
I started out with 6 – 8 tart apples, which around here are usually granny smiths. I peeled them, and set out the ingredients and tools I needed in addition to apples and piecrust. Sugar, cinnamon, flour, salt, measuring spoons, and knives. About pie pans: They’re all good. If you have the option to be choosy: Ovenproof glass pie pans, are my favorite, since you can see whether the crust is browned and done on the bottom, and because they cook evenly. But any regular pie pan/pie plate will work fine.) Here’s the recipe in words. Photos follow in order. Happy baking, and let me know how your pie comes out!
2 sheets of pie crust, homemade or storebought
6 to 8 apples (green ones such as Granny smith), about 3 pounds, yielding 6 cups peeled, cored and sliced apples)
¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cold butter (plus more butter to rub on the crust after baking)
Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Drape the bottom piecrust sheet into a pie plate and fit it evenly, so that the top edge is even and there are no air bubbles. Lift and position it – try not to stretch it to fit.
Peel the apples. Cut out the cores and slice them medium-to-thinly. Measure out a generous 6 cups of apples. Place them in a large mixing bowl.
In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Stir with a fork to mix everything together evenly and well. Cut the cold butter into small bits.
Pour the sugar mixture over the apples, and use your hands or two big spoons to toss them and coat them evenly with the spiced sugar mixture. Scoop the apples into the piecrust. Place the bits of butter all over the apples. Mound the apples up high in the center and low on the sides, so that the crust is exposed on the sides.
Gently place the top crust over the apples and arrange it evenly. Tuck it in and press the two crust layers together well. Trim the edges so that the edges are fairly even all the way around. Tuck the crust under and press to seal it well. Use a fork or your fingers to press and pinch together the edges of the pie crust so that it is sealed.
Using a sharp knife, cut steam vents evenly around the top crust. Place the pie in the 425 degree oven for 20 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the crust is evenly browned on top, browned on the bottom (try to check but don’t burn yourself doing this; carefully!), fragrant, and bubbling with syrup through the vents on top.
Remove gently rub cold butter over the top crust to enrich it a bit. Then let the pie cool a little. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Makes one pie.
The crust tends to brown quickly around the edges. I make a collar out of foil. Make 4 strips of foil, about 3 inches wide. Fold them together, end to end, to make one very long strip. Before baking, Fit this strip around the edges of the pie, curving and pressing so that it covers or tents the crust all around the edges, but leaves the top center exposed. Pinch to fit, loosely. Then set aside.
When you lower the temperature to 350, remove the pie and place it on the stove. Very carefully, with a potholder or dry kitchen towel handy, place it around the top edges of the pie and press the loose edges together. Return the pie with its loose foil collar to the oven and continue baking until done.
Apple Pie, fragrant and delicious, made from apples, sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, butter, and two sheets of piecrust. Ice cream and or whipped cream are never required, but only add to the pleasures, should you be so inclined. I am so glad that my wonderful cousin Erika Sue asked me this question this particular week. I loved making this pie, and I will love it even more if you end up making one, too!
Though not equal to the grand dame of Southern piedom, pecan pie, peanut pie has long had a loyal and enthusiastic following, and it quickly earns a place of honor anytime it’s given a chance. Peanut pie is another variation on the chess pie theme, with coarsely-chopped dry-roasted peanuts stirred into a sugar-butter-eggs mixture. Baked until the nuts create a handsome textured covering for a sweetly silken filling, it makes for a salty-sweet flavor that was cherished long before salted caramel came into its current vogue on the sweet culinary stage. You’ll find peanut pie throughout the South, wherever peanuts are grown, but the state of Virginia has a particular affection for this fine confection. One place to enjoy this classic is the Virginia Diner in Wakefield, Virginia, about sixty miles southwest of Richmond on Route 460. Family-owned since 1929, the Virginia Diner serves up homestyle Southern cooking everyday except Christmas, and is particularly famous for its classic peanut pie. A visit to their website at http://www.vadinerrestaurant.com/ will give you a virtual taste of their cooking and ambience, and may cause you to look for your car keys if you are homesick for good old-time Southern food. They serve their signature peanut pie warm with both whipped cream and a scoop of vanilla ice cream; I like peanut pie with whipped cream or just plain, speaking for myself. Like its fellow pies in the chess pie family, peanut pie will puff up and seem dry around the edges, and be fairly firm all the way through once it is done. The puffy quality fades away, but no matter, the finished pie evens out to a beautiful and tasty state.
Nancie’s Peanut Pie
1 unbaked piecrust
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark corn syrup
2 tablespoons molasses, or 2 additional tablespoons dark corn syrup
1/4 cup butter, melted (1/2 stick/4 tablespoons)
*1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts (if unsalted, add about 1/4 teaspoon salt)
Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and salt. Stir with a fork to mix them together well. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs well. Add the dark corn syrup, molasses, and melted butter and stir with a fork or a whisk to mix them together evenly. Add the sugar mixture and stir to dissolve the sugar and combine everything together evenly and well. Stir in the chopped peanuts and mix well. Pour the filling into the piecrust. Place in the 375 degree oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat and bake until the filling is puffed up all over, fairly firm throughout, and crust and filling are nicely browned, 40 to 50 minutes. Place on a cooling rack or a folded kitchen towl, and cool to room temperature.
*Note on Peanuts:
You can leave them whole, but most recipes suggest coarsely chopping them. You can do this with a cleaver or a chef’s knife, or use a rolling pin or large unopened can to crush them. First place about 1/3 of the peanuts inside a sturdy resealable plastic bag. Have them at the bottom of the bag and lay bag on its side. Leave it unsealed. Roll over the peanuts with the rolling pin or unopened can, so that many of the nuts are crushed, or partly crushed, while a few remain whole. Pour into a small bowl and set aside until needed.
Though they seldom appear on standard lists and menus, black walnuts are both growing on today trees and widely available for purchase in supermarket produce sections and by mail order. Even back when they were familiar as a Southern pantry ingredient for baking and sweets, buying them shelled was common practice and shelling them for sale a good little home-based business, given the ordeal of extracting the treasure from the proverbial tough nut to crack. I remember their distinctive flavor from my childhood. I loved them in fudge or in pound cakes, and most likely encountered them only at big gatherings at Christmastime and June family reunions, when the old-school cooks presented their fine handiwork and watched it disappear. Until I began working on Southern Pies, I had never had black walnuts in a pie. For today’s pie, I picked up a bottle of Karo syrup at the grocery store and followed the pecan pie recipe on the label, using 1 1/2 cups of black walnuts in place of the pecans. The pie came out wonderfully, and the combination of earthy black walnuts and silken chess-pie filling made for a worthy autumn dessert. Fortunately for me, it was meeting night, and since we still have apple pie in the cupboard at home, I carried most of the black walnut pie out to church, where my fellow Racial Reconciliation Ministry members pronounced it worthy indeed. Few of these brand-new fans of black walnut pie had come across these nuts before, but judging from the condition of my pie plate (almost shiny-clean, with naught but a scattering of crumbs and a wavelet or two of syrup), they would like very much to hear of them again. I can do that. My supermarket here in central North Carolina carries black walnuts in the produce section throughout the cool weather months (baking season), but if you don’t find them easily, check the major national source, Hammons of Stockton, Missouri, for mail order information. <www.black-walnuts.com>. (888) 429-6887.
Black Walnut Pie
I adapted this recipe from a pecan pie recipe currently on the label on bottles of Karo Dark Corn Syrup.
1 unbaked deep-dish 9-inch piecrust
1 cup dark corn syrup
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups black walnuts (about 6 ounces)
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Stir together the syrup, eggs, sugar, melted butter, and vanilla in a medium bowl, using a fork or a whisk to combine everything smoothly, evenly and well. Mix in the black walnuts and stir well. Pour this filling into the piecrust and bake in the center of the 350 degree F oven, until the filling is puffed up and fairly firm, with a little softeness remaining in the very center, 45 to 60 minutes. Place on a cooling rack or a folded kitchen towel and let cool for two hours.