Friday, October 15, 2010

Apple Pie

If you visit my parents’ house anytime during the months of August through October, you will most likely find their back patio lined with boxes of peaches, plums, tomatoes, nectarines, and other farm-grown delights typical of this time of year. My parents have always been big on eating lots of fruit and vegetables, so to supplement what their garden produces my dad makes a weekly trek to the Murray farmer’s market.

Those of you that know my dad as a calm, softspoken person really need to see him in action at the farmer’s market. He bounces from stand to stand examining peaches, haggling over the price of bell peppers, chatting with the farmers he has come to know on a first-name basis, and looking more like a buyer for a high-end department store than a guy buying tomatoes for his family. To my dad, the farmer’s market is serious business. I should know: one time he and my mom were going to be out of town for the weekend so he asked me to fill in for him as the produce purchaser for the family. I was given a wad of twenty dollar bills and a hand-drawn map of the market detailing which farmer sold the best corn, where I could get the best price on plums, the name of the stand that sells my dad’s favorite cranberry walnut bread, etc. I was overwhelmed to say the least.

The upside of my dad’s obsession is that every time I go to my parents’ house I leave with my arms full of delicious fresh produce. My parents practically force the stuff on me and I am more than happy to accept. Right around the end of September my haul starts including apples. Lots and lots of apples. I devour my favorite varieties—honeycrisp and jonagold—almost instantly, but a few no-name apples inevitably wind up forgotten at the bottom of the produce drawer. A little too soft or unsightly to be eaten straight-up, these apples are the ones that find new life as apple pies.

I don’t care how stellar an apple pie recipe claims to be, the secret of a great apple pie is the apples. If the apples taste good, so will the pie. And don’t judge by appearance here- I’ve found that the ugly misshapen apples my dad brings home from the market taste a million times better than the perfectly-shaped, waxed ones you find at the grocery store. I usually like to use a mix of sweet and tart apples in my pies, and will taste the apples as I peel and slice to make sure I like them. The recipe below is very much a bare bones take on apple pie, so if the only apples you have at your disposal are lacking in flavor, I would recommend using a more complex recipe. Otherwise, go right ahead and bake this pie. And please serve it warm with vanilla ice cream. Otherwise I might be inclined to think that your mama didn’t raise you right.

Apple Pie

I wish I had a crust recipe to share with you on this one, but I am a bit of a pie crust slut and have never used the same recipe twice. I’ve tried everything from the recipe on the back of the Crisco can to Smitten Kitchen’s all-butter crust and have yet to declare a favorite. They’ve all been good, though, and when I am ready to give up my pie crust promiscuity and commit to one favorite recipe, you all will be the first to know.

1 nine-inch double-crust pie pastry
5-7 apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
¾-1 cup sugar (depending on how sweet or tart your apples are)
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1-2 tsp. cinnamon (just add to your liking- I usually use the lesser quantity)
2 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. butter
1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp water (for egg wash)

1) Place apples in a bowl with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and flour. Stir to coat all the apples.
2) Place bottom pie crust in a 9-inch pie plate and mound apple mixture on top.
3) Cut butter into small pieces and dot the apple mixture with it.
4) Top with the second crust and crimp edges to seal.
5) Brush top crust with egg wash and cut a few slits in it (I do about 6 I think).
6) Bake pie at 450 for ten minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 and bake for an additional 40 minutes, or until apples are soft.

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