I set a high goal for myself last weekend--to make two apple pies. Making pie is an intimidating task as so many things can go wrong. The best thing to do is take your time. I found this to be my first challenge. Taking my time is a very hard thing to with my 8-month-old toddler around. Not to mention a needy cocker spaniel and a husband (he's very sweet). Not only did I attempt to manage the peeling and slicing of 14 apples, the cubing of 4 sticks of butter, and measuring of all that flour--but also the active and demanding home.
When little Rosie wanted to be fed just as I pulled the ingredients from their resting places, and then held, and then changed...I realized I would have to revise my game plan. I made the pie dough Saturday and ended the weekend with one complete pie on Sunday, the other on Monday.
Finally, with baby pushing an unopened jumbo box of wipes to help her cruise around the kitchen, a wooden spoon or two to serve as "new toys," and a few treats scattered about to keep her occupied, I opened my cherished book by Williams-Sonoma: Pie and Tart.
I've tried a lot of pie crust recipes, and the Williams-Sonoma basic pie dough always turns out the best. The dough is the toughest part. The goal is to achieve a crust that is golden, flaky, melt-in-your mouth delicious. Too much water and/or blending and it will be tough and rock hard. The Williams-Sonoma basic pie dough recipe uses a stick of cold butter per crust -- for two pies, I used 4 sticks!
Every stage of pie making reveals little discoveries like:
- it's a good idea to blend the "seasoning" ingredients (flour, cinnamon, sugar, etc.) for the filling before adding to the fruit;
- taking your time to blend your butter cubes with a pastry blender thoroughly into the "small pea" stage helps with the next step (though hurts your arm after four doughs!)
- mixing the dough with a fork only until all (or most!) of the loose flour is incorporated is a rather difficult task, but the most essential of all. You MUST NOT OVER MIX. Do not be afraid if the dough isn't in a nice ball when you stop mixing it. Mine is usually separated, until I gather it into a ball with my hands;
- to get the "very cold water" called for, I keep a mug filled with water from the fridge with ice cubes in it to dip from with my tablespoon.
This pie dough recipe is a beautiful golden color when you roll it out--not pale like those doughs that require shortening. It's sturdy too, easy to fold and handle.
On Sunday, I finally draped the second pie crust over top a heaping mound of cinnamon spiced apples, tucked in the edge, and sealed it with a fork. After cutting the five top slits in the shape of a star and chilling it a bit, I took it out to bake.
It looked so very traditional waiting on the stovetop to be baked--waiting to fill the house with a smell that meant someone was home preparing a place for you, waiting to be eaten and to elicit that satisfied, deeply good feeling of a thing earned, a thing home-baked.