What Mom knew about pie crust
As she guided me through the doughmaking process, she also taught me how to cook from the heart.
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I found a recipe for the filling in one of her cookbooks, a 1969 edition of "Betty Crocker's Cookbook." Although I make a good pie crust, the filling isn't always the greatest. It turns out that I'd chosen the very recipe that Peg uses for her usual apple pie. As we completed our chores, we chatted, barely paying attention to what we were doing.Skip to next paragraph
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Our reward was more than either of us expected. Before dinner, I just had to break off a piece of the crust to see how it was. It spoiled the perfection of the presentation, of course, but when it came time for dessert that evening, I volunteered to take the piece with the broken crust.
With the first bite of that pie, I knew it would have won a blue ribbon at any state fair in the country. Not only was it the best apple pie I'd ever had, it was the best pie, period. It was as close to perfection as any pie could be. Peg and her husband, Michael, agreed.
Maybe it was the sweet collaboration between two sisters who love each other, or maybe it was our mother's pie-crust lessons that taught us both to cook from the heart. Perhaps it was Betty's recipe for the filling, put together casually and without fretting too much over the measuring.
Whatever it was, I will carry the memory of that pie as an actress might hold dear a once-in-a-lifetime performance or as any woman might treasure the memory of her first dance.
The next evening in a motel room in Rockford, Ill., I enjoyed another piece of our apple pie. Even a full day later, it was still a blue-ribbon contender.
Blue Ribbon Apple Pie
2 cups unbleached flour
1 scant teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
4 to 5 tablespoons cold water
6 cups peeled, sliced Granny Smith and McIntosh apples
1/4 cup unbleached flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter
Heat oven to 425 degrees F.
For pastry: In a mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Add shortening. With a pastry blender or two forks, cut shortening into flour evenly, until shortening is the size of small peas.
Mix a couple of tablespoons water into the flour mixture, using a fork. Add additional water, lightly tossing dough until it clings together.
Gather and gently knead dough into a ball; wrap and chill while preparing the filling.
Note: An easy way to measure shortening is to place 1 cup water in a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Add shortening until water rises to 2-cup level.
For filling: Place sliced apples in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Sprinkle over apples and toss to combine.
On a liberally floured surface, roll out half of the pastry dough into a round that's an inch or two larger than an inverted 9-inch pie pan.
Fold the dough in half and place folded edge in center of pie pan. Unfold dough and press lightly into pan. Mound apples into the pastry-lined pan. Dot with butter.
Roll out remaining half of dough, as before, and cover apples. Seal edges and flute or pinch. Cut slits in top crust with a small, sharp knife.
Bake 45 to 50 minutes, until crust is brown and juices bubble through slits in crust.
Makes a 9-inch pie.
Filling recipe is adapted from 'Betty Crocker's Cookbook' (1969).