What's this I hear about you & Mark Bittman? Really, no one tells me anything.
So! It's a new dawn... it's a new day... it's a new life... for me, and I'm feeling good.
Oh, about our 44th President and the Return of Hope and Reason, sure. But also because in honor of his inauguration, I made this:
What's that? Big deal, an apple pie? The most obvious choice for Inauguration Day? What makes this blog-worthy? Well, I'll tell you.
I. Made. The. Crust. By. Hand. Myself.
You may have noticed (or not, because I've been really sly), that despite my love of hot fruit desserts, and the frequency with which I serve them, they all come with some form of sneaky title -- crunch, crumble, crisp, baked apple -- any of which translates to one thing: No Crust. Sometimes I'd even throw around the word "pie" as a distraction, while I mashed oats into butter and sugar and scattered it casually over the dish. In short, these were LIEs, not PIEs.
But I thought that to begin Barack Obama's administration in such an underhanded way was not cool. In the spirit of "Yes I Can", I announced to the visiting GC (who usually handles all pastry-related issues) that I would be making my first pie crust - top and bottom - on my own.
He graciously conceded to attend to the steak and offer words of zen-like wisdom ("Breathe! You cannot bake while agitated.") while I went for it.
Now, one of the reasons I get scared off usually is that most pie crust recipes involve Equipment, and instructions that suggest Middle School Science Lab, not a kitchen. "Pulse until the mixture is moist and crumbly"... "Process just til the dough collects into a ball"... "1/3 cup of ICE water, NOT room temp...add ICE water in a slow steady stream as you pulse the dough"... "flatten into disk and chill for an hour; DO NOT Freeze". I mean, forget it, i'm sorry, where's the oatmeal, they'll never know. It seems every step of the way you could totally blow it if, say, the water is two degrees too warm or you let the ball of dough get too cold.
Let's add this to the mix: the kitchen where I'm staying has nary a baking pan, or peeler, let alone a rolling pin or Cuisinart! I anxiously searched for an apple pie recipe online that didn't start with "In a food processor..." No dice. Then it hit me: People have been baking pies for a looong time. Like, since WAY before the invention of either the 'Nart or the Pin. A little digging online revealed a recipe from 1391!! entitled "For How to Make Tartys in Applis". I am not making this up.
Maybe, I thought, I don't really need all that stuff. (Yes we did get a pie plate, and a peeler.)
I realized I had been (hm, like most of our country during the past 8 years) Believing the Hype and allowing it to paralyze me with fear. Now was the time to let the scales fall from my eyes and find my Audacity of Hope. (Ok, I'm done.)
This pie was made with nothing but my own two hands. (Hello? "Cut in the butter" just means put the butter in, in tiny cold pieces, and squnch it decisively til it's all crumbly/moist. Who the hell needs a machine for that? Your hands can actually feel when it's the right consistency.) I used a can of soup to roll it out. Who needs a "pin"? Also, guess what? If a piece breaks off when you drape it over the pie, slap it back on there. It will bake together and still taste good. In all seriousness, your frame of mind is probably the most important element here. I think all the "pour it in slowly!! don't roll it too hard/soft!" hoo-ha is really just a way of saying "Stay Calm."
I hope this inspires someone to try new things that have seemed off-limits so far. Don't get me wrong, I'm not down on wonderful inventions like blenders and rolling pins; I'll probably use both the next time I make pie. But they should make things EASIER and simpler. If they're making you sweat, I say head Back to Basics. (love you Ina).
In Pie We Trust,
P.S. Remind me to write next time about having a microwave. It's opened up a whole new world of shame and convenience.