Friday, November 4, 2011

Today is crazy pie-baking day. I will start with apple and then move on to pumpkin. Five or six of these pies are reserved for tomorrow's 8th-grade benefit dinner, but at least a couple of them must stay in the house. Otherwise, my family would be sad. Then, in the late afternoon, I begin part 2 of my day: carpooling two hours north to Lincoln to watch Paul and a few other middle-school Harmonians perform in the district music festival. Paul's pretty excited about this, mostly because he'll get to sing in Latin. Meanwhile, James will be home constructing a robot costume for the high school's masquerade ball, and Tom, I hope, will be recovering from his long construction-worker week by lying on the couch watching French New Wave films.

So let's talk about pie. I was raised on margarine-and-Crisco crusts; but once I moved into my own apartment, I saw the light and switched to all-butter crusts. Although a lard crust does have a lovely flaky texture, I prefer the flavor of butter. I also think that a buttery crust means that the filling can be less sweet.

My favorite local orchard donated a bushel of utility Macintosh apples for the purposes of this pie caper. I do not usually use Macs in pies, but these are big firm good-looking ones. They do tend to cook down into sauce rather than hold their shape, and I prefer chunks of apple in my pies. (Macouns and Cortlands are nice and chunky, while early yellow apples such as Ginger Golds are an excellent base for a ginger-lime apple pie.) However, in this instance, a bushel of free apples is a good thing, and I will make due.

Flavoring the filling: I use 2/3rds of a cup of natural cane sugar (such as turbinado or Demerara) per apple pie, adding more sugar if the apples are very tart--not the case with Macs. Even though these sugar crystals are coarse, I like the slight caramel taste of a brown cane sugar, and it melts nicely into syrup during baking. I do not add flour; apples have plenty of thickening power on their own. Often I use nutmeg rather than cinnamon, but with the Macs I'll probably stick with cinnamon. I grate lemon peel into the mixture and mix in 1 to 3 tablespoons of butter, depending on how rich a syrup I want. (Probably I'll use the lesser amount for the pie caper, just to save costs.)

Usually I don't sugar or egg-wash my top crusts. They're pretty that way, but sometimes they get tough.

Okay: that's apple. Because I am running out of time, I will merely remark that, even for this pie caper, I could not bring myself to buy canned pumpkin for the pumpkin pies. So yesterday afternoon involved a fair amount of squash baking, seed scraping, and food-mill grinding. Fortunately Paul helped me pass the time by reading off all the names of this year's baseball free agents, and we enjoyed a sweet shared pipe dream in which Oswalt and Wilson were trotting onto the field as Red Sox starting pitchers. . . .


Ruth said...

I also add ginger, allspice, clove and garam masala as well to my apple mixture plus a tiny dash of red pepper! Happy baking! My pumpkin pie gets the same treatment.

Maureen said...

An incredible amount of work in these pies! I hope their purchasers enjoy them.