Monday, September 20, 2010

And oh what a week it was!

Well, two really important things happened this week. First, I made an apple pie from scratch and it was delicious. All of my life I have used the frozen pie crusts - you just thaw and unroll. Until now. Everyone said it was so easy, but I knew my crust would never compare to either of my grandmothers. They both made the most delicious crust. I remember Grandma K's peedouk (have no idea how to say that polish word, but it was a savory pie made out of buckwheat) pies at Easter, and Grandma G's, well, everything. She was the best cook. Everything she made was scrumptious. She had the Midas Touch in baking. Well, I digress. Second thing that happened this week -  I resigned from my job. Totally not a good idea since now we are a ZERO income family, but much better for my mental health.  So anyway, the more exciting of the two is definitely the pie, so read on to find out how I, Mrs. Penny K, finally got the "apples" to make her own pie.

The looming pile of apples waiting to be cleaned, cored, and sliced....

Well, I figure that first I'd need a good recipe.  My friend Melinda makes really great pies and told me (about a year and a half ago) to just do a google search for "no-fail pie crust". That scared me right into submission. If the great baking gods had to come up with pages and pages of "no-fail" recipes, there was no way I'd be able to do it.  So for over a year now I've been saying "One of these days I'm going to make a whole pie from scratch, that's my goal".  I went with my mom, got a bag of apples, cinnamon, flour, and the lard.  Yes, lard.  Steve thinks it's hilarious sitting there in our fridge.  Anyway, that is apparently the key to making grandma-type pie crust.  I did my research and found a very in depth article titled Heaven In A Pie Pan: The Perfect Crust on crusts and using the different fats. I looked up a the Perfect Pie Crust recipe from one of my favorite Food Network Stars, Ina Garten, and substituted the lard for the shortening.  What did I get? A big ball of pie crust...shaped like an alien.

My alien head pie crust, ready to take a
long, cold nap in the fridge
I put him in the fridge overnight.  I had to.  It was late and by the time I got the pie finished it would be really late...and I had work in the morning.  So, he took a long, cold nap.

The next day I came home from work so excited to finish up my pie.  I grabbed my pile of apples and got to gettin'! It actually didn't take as long as I thought to get them cleaned, cored, and sliced for the pie. My favorite prep chef, Steve aka "the husband" helped and we got the job done pretty quickly.

I used the apple pie recipe from my New Betty Crocker Cookbook and whipped those apples into some delicious sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg.

2/3 c sugar, 1/4 c flour, 1/2 teas. cinnamon,
1/2 teas. nutmeg, dash of salt, 8 cups of apples
Next was the crazy task of rolling out the dough. It was much harder than I would've thought. Heck, the alien had all night to get hard in the fridge and it took a while to soften him up.  But I didn't want it too soft because I know that "cold" is the key to good pie crust. Well, that...and lard.  

I rolled it out and found out in the process that my gigantic pie pan needs 12" crusts.  Not 9" like other pie pans.  So roll, and roll...and roll, I did. Steve was laughing a bit at me and we were getting all silly about the huge pie crust. I used the tips I've seen all the Food Network stars use and rolled it onto the rolling pin to lay it into the pan. It really works like a charm! I also sprinkled a bit of cornmeal at the bottom of the crust before I put the apples in. When I first started baking pies the bottom would always be soggy. I find that the cornmeal really helps in keeping that moisture in...and you never taste it.

ready to go in the oven!
My friend Ang had told me that she always puts a little cut-out apple on the top of her pie, so then people know what kind it is. Well, I thought that was a great idea and tasked Steve with that job. He is the artist after all. Of course, it wouldn't be a conventional apple with my lovely computer-geek/artist husband...

After the egg wash, a sprinkle of sugar, and an hour of baking I was so proud to pull this baby out of the oven. You have no idea how nervous I was over this pie. This was like my passage into Donna-Reed-hood. I needed this to work. I wanted it to taste good. I actually prayed that it wouldn't taste like Tops or Jubilee pies. Now the wait.  It was killing me. I had a little dough left over and baked it so that I would have a preview, but because it was so small it got a little too done and I couldn't tell if my crust was going to be good. And finally, the timer goes off!

My Perfect Pie!
Again, it's late. The pie is done, but you're supposed to let it cool for like 4 HOURS. Yes, 4 HOURS, so I go to bed and dream of delicious, flaky, buttery pie crust full of cinnamony apples for breakfast. We are now on day two of pie making and I haven't even gotten to taste it yet. /fail. But I pack my lunch and take in a piece of pie for my lunch (or breakfast at my desk if I have the time). well, it was


So, my dear readers...don't be afraid. Now I know why people say "easy as pie". It is pretty simple, you just need a good recipe and summon your inner gramma!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Standing in the light of your halo

Today my dear friend is being buried, under the same sky, but many miles away. I am so sad to not be with her beautiful family, to not be able to hug her gorgeous children, that have already, in their short lives, been through so much. I am glad that she is no longer suffering, as over a year of cancer treatments only wreaks havoc on the body, mind and soul.  But I still can't get past how I will never hear her laugh again or see her wonderful smile. She was truly a blessing for me and although younger, taught me a great deal about life. She was such a strong woman - never complained or sought sympathies, never had a negative word to say, but always talked about how she would fight it. And she fought right to the very end. 

Flo, you will be missed dearly and remembered in my heart forever. I will always smile when I see Ralph Lauren anything, laugh when I see the Smurfs, think about "stupid dogs" stealing underwear, wonder who John Cena is, and forever cry when I see fireworks "because they are so beautiful."  

Je t'aime, mon ami. Mon coeur est lourd. Je vous manquerai.

Ben, Flo and me in their backyard while she was an exchange student here in 1995.