Making Apple Pie
The first pie that I ever baked was an apple pie for my father’s birthday. I was twenty-one. I had to think on that one a bit, but I remember because of where I was living at the time, which was in a tiny studio that cost me ninety dollars a month. It was on the third floor of an old walk-up and I shared the bathroom across the hall, with the woman who lived down the hall. The kitchen was so tiny that the refrigerator was in the only other room, which was essentially the bedroom and living room all wrapped up into one. Before I baked that pie, I had never baked in the oven of the tiny narrow range which completely filled up the kitchen. Someone had thoughtfully installed the smoke detector almost directly above the stove top, which I thought incredibly inconvenient every time I boiled water for tea, but figured might come in handy for letting me know if I was burning the pie or not.
I had not been instructed in the art of pie making. My mother baked pies for Thanksgiving, but never made homemade crust. She bought those pie crust sticks that can be found in the frozen food section, and then rolled out. They made good crusts, but I was determined to make a great crust on the first go round. In order to accomplish this, I pulled out the Fannie Farmer cookbook that I had been sent off with, and looked up ‘Pie Crust’. The most traditional crust is apparently made out of lard. I was a vegetarian at the time, and the thought of even buying lard made my stomach turn over a couple of times. I decided upon Crisco and butter.
Because Fannie was quite possibly used to inept cooks, she included such helpful instructions as "beginning cooks can be to conscientious about pastry making and blend it so thoroughly that the layers of shortening and flour cannot separate into tender sheets." I believe it took several tries before anything like "tender sheets" appeared.
My pie turned out well. My father was pleased. It was not the prettiest pie ever, the apples having receded well below the top of the crust and then the crust having followed suit a bit, but it was delicious. I know that because my father told me so.
I am no longer a vegetarian and have since baked pie crusts with lard. My father is no longer around to enjoy my pies, but I have spent many enjoyable hours with my daughter rolling out pie crusts, and filling them, to the brim.
Sift into a mixing bowl 2 cups pastry flour or 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, 1 tsp salt. Add ¾ cup vegetable shortening or lard or 2/3 cup lard and 1/3 cup butter. Mix (cut in) with a pastry blender, a blending fork or two knives (one in each hand) until the mixture is in even bits about the size of peas. Put in a cup, 1/3 cup ice water. Sprinkle it over the flour by tablespoonfuls, stirring it in with a fork until just enough has been added so that you can pat the dough lightly into a ball. Handle the dough as little as possible and do not knead it. Wrap the dough in wax paper or foil and chill it.
Pare, core and slice 6 to 8 firm, tart cooking apples. Line a 9-inch pie pan with pastry and fill evenly with the apples, piling them slightly higher in the center. Mix and sprinkle over the apples, Brown or white sugar, ½ to ¾ cup, according to the apples), ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp nutmeg. If the apples are very juicy, add1 Tablespoon flour. Dot with 1 Tablespoon butter. Cover with the upper crust. Bake at 425 until the apples are tender (about 50 minutes).
The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, Eleventh Edition, 1965 (first published in 1896)