Archive for the ‘Thanksgiving’ Category

Pie in the Sky

There’s nothing like a basket (or so) of fresh harvested apples! 

Jack’s sister has a great back yard filled with seasonal fruits and flowers.  Among these is a wonderful apple tree and we’ve been blessed with some of its bounty.

All the way home from our visit, the fruit’s aromatics teased my senses.  I envisioned pies, cobblers, cakes, cookies, breads and ciders…..roasts with apples, chops with apples, chicken with apples….stuffings, sauces and relishes – to say the least, I had a lot on my mind!

I wanted to make something to bring to Jack’s family Thanksgiving dinner….using the apples would make it even more special.  I asked him what he thought and Jack voted for apple pie.  It was up to me to decide which type of pie, crust and so on.

Some may wonder what I mean.  “Apple pie is apple pie, right?”

Well, yes and no.  There are different types, different ways to make it, different crusts.   For example, maybe instead of just plain old apple I might want to throw in some raisins and walnuts….or maybe pears.   I

Baked Pie

may want to make it with a crumb topping, or lattice, or plain old slit-top pie crust, or even just go crazy and make the crust with cereal.  I may even make a “Cookie Pie,”  which is a pie with a thin “cookie” top crust.  For that matter, maybe make the whole crust like a cookie…..who knows?

As far as the fruit goes, I don’t peel the apples before pie-ing them.  But if you have digestive problems perhaps you should peel them.

There are a lot of ways to make an apple pie!  Do I make it in a paper bag?  Do I put plain apples in a pie shell, lattice the top and pour sugared, thickened liquid through the lattice before baking?
The sky’s the limit!

I decided to try a few different recipes, after we had plenty of apples!

This first one is a standard double-crust pie.  I’ll be doing another pie crust in a couple of days, so watch for it! The pie crust is the most complicated part.  Common rule of thumb is to keep everything cold, cold butter, cold liquids, heck even cold bowl and rolling pin!

Chill butter and liquids before you begin. 
2/3 cup + 2 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons liquid  (Try using apple juice (or other fruit juice) instead of water)

2 cups of flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves

Preheat oven to 450 Degrees
Place a cookie sheet in the oven.

Sift flour, salt, cinnamon and cloves into a large bowl. Stir until evenly mixed.   Cut 1/2 of chilled butter into dry ingredients using pastry knife, mezzaluna or two table knives until it reaches a cornmeal state.  Add the remaining butter and continue cutting in until it looks like cornmeal with large bits in it.

Filled Pie ready for oven

Add liquid a little at a time, stirring with a fork, add more liquid until dough, when squeezed in hand, stays together.  Put in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow the flour to absorb all the moisture.

Dust a dry, clean surface with flour.  I use a large sheet-cake pan; plenty of working room and no flour mess on the counter.  Some people roll their dough out in between layers of waxed paper.  If you do, just be sure to dust it with flour first! Otherwise it’ll stick.

Pie filled, extra crust around edge

Working quickly roll dough to 1/4 ”  thick or smaller. While rolling, turn the dough one-quarter turn at a time to keep rolling even.  When you’ve reached the desired thickness, roll the dough over the pin and unroll it over the top of a pie pan.   Make sure to leave a little overhang of dough around the edges, this will be part of what crimps the pie together.

For filled fruit pies, pierce bottom of crust before filling it.


Mixing the apples, sugars and spices

5-6 apples cored and sliced
Juice of one lemon
1 cup sugar (mixed brown and white)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg (optional)
1 Tablespoon butter

Crimping the pie edge

Mix apples with lemon juice, corn starch, sugars, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg until apples are evenly coated.
Fill empty pie shell, dot top with butter .  Cover with top crust.
 Fold the excess bottom crust over the top crust edge then crimp using your fingers or a fork.

Venting the top

Pierce the top with a knife to vent the pie. Place pie on pre-heated cookie sheet in the oven.
Cook for 15 minutes at 450 degrees then lower heat to 350 degrees and cook for 50 minutes longer.
If your oven is slow, rotate the pie once during 350 degree cooking.  Pie will be done when top crust is golden brown.

This is just one recipe.  More to come!
Please feel free to share your pie recipes, thoughts and ideas!

Cutting into pie




November 24, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s three thirty a.m. and I’m up, baking the last of the Thanksgiving apple pies.  This year, the apples weren’t alone in their epic journey….because they were special.  They were from Jack’s sister’s very own apple tree!
Granny Smiths’ they are,  in their bright green coats with the golden hewed collar around their stems.  Very sweet, very perfect for my intentions. I added raisins to a couple of the pies, along with a little brown sugar and some flax seed bran.  The others became Apple Raisin Cranberry Orange Walnut Pies. Both had pie shell pastry bottom crusts and crumb crust on top.  I plan on slightly drizzling them with thin whisps of dark chocolate, to add a slight contrast to the expected flavors of apples, cinnamon and cloves.

To me, cooking is a grand experiment!  It’s laying flavors, blending them to a point but allowing just enough distinction so that the resultant flavor has both substance and contrast. (gee that sounded like a lot of  Food Network Speak).But it’s fun cooking, even more fun cooking for family gatherings!
Having Jack’s family in our lives has been great for us.  For Jack, it’s been a chance to reconnect with his mother before she passed, and establish a friendly relationship with his sister and her family.  For me, it’s been the answer to an unspoken longing for Jack, and for myself as well….a longing to have a group of people that we can be with who have something inherently in common with at least one of us on this coast….a physical resemblance, a similar quirk…the things only recognizable in a family-group setting.

Adopted people talk about it….looking in the mirror and wondering who else out there in the great big world shares that nose, that double chin, those mood swings.  But there’s more to it than that, too. It’s a shared history, a linking of identities and circumstances that go back through one’s ancestry and speak to the present like only a genetic code can do.

I have had the luxury of a close-knit family of sorts.  Mind you, I confess that my communication skills are horrid…but as anyone will tell you nobody is singled out.  I just suck on correspondence. (this coming from a self-proclaimed writer! go figure!)  Anyway, regardless of my lack of communication at times, my family is a very strong, bonded group of fascinating individuals. Brothers, Sisters,  Parents, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Birth Son, Nieces and Nephews, Cousins (first, second and so on)…I grew up with the complete assortment.  We were a boisterous, lively crew and when we got together for the most part we enjoyed each others’ company.

Except when somebody was on somebody else’s shitlist.  We didn’t call it that then, Mom wouldn’t let us curse. But knowledge of the “list” was my first experience with politics on the most local level possible.

Anyway, Jack left his home fairly young and lost contact with everyone. Our holidays together have been wonderful, shared with friends and the occasional visit to my folks on the East Coast….but family-wise everything felt so long distance.

I’m so glad we now have the added component of Jack’s immediate family. It’s a comfort to know there’s somebody out there. Jack seems happier, too.  So there’s a lot to celebrate.  

We’re going to Jack’s sister’s house for Thanksgiving this year. We’re both looking forward to seeing everyone and sharing cooking secrets.  As luck would have it, several of members of his brood are also home cooks so we have a LOT to talk about!

I’d love it if both families could meet and have a party….my sister and Jack’s sister would probably get along famously and the funny thing is both are named similarly.  Jack’s siste
Sr is “Carole” and my sister is “Carolyn.”
Tell me that ain’t something!

Well, the timer just rang on the old oven so it’s time to pull out the pies and then get some rest!

So for now, Fifty Five is the new Ingredient, which is what it’s always been….Love.