I’ve never made an apple pie.
I’ve actually never made any type of pie, and I’ll tell you why: 1) Pie recipes take too dang long and 2) I’m a millennial that feels like I have to create an industry disrupting business by 30 to be somewhat successful, so I don’t have 3- 5 hours to make no dang pie and should learn how to code instead.
Little did I know that taking the time to bake a pie would be just what I needed, a sweet serendipity, leading me to be present and spend time on things that are actually important.
Step 1 Out of 100
My pie experiment started at 9:34 p.m on a Friday night. I was faced with the question, to prep, or not to prep? The Apple Pie recipe I chose was by Sam Sifton at the New York Times and in this recipe, Sifton sautés and cooks his apples before throwing the pie in the oven. This extra step is because pastry chef Kierin Baldwin, who created the original base of the recipe says, “Apple pies that have crunchy, raw apples in them are a pet peeve of mine”. Chill Kierin. So thanks to Kierin’s pet peeve, I ended up prepping apples close to 10 p.m. that day.
Since I was tired and wanted to be time efficient, I recruited my husband Max to be my apple slicer. He met my request with a sigh and the exclamation that this was “my project” but of course my Maxy poo gave in because he is just soooo great.
We had a pretty good assembly line going for about 10 minutes. I was crouched in the middle of the kitchen floor over the trash can, peeling the apples as quickly as possible, and Max sat on our kitchen bench diligently and neatly cutting each slice. I was surprised by how nice it was to slice and peel in silence together. We didn’t talk about finances, what chores we needed to knock out, or what social events we had lined up. You just heard the “pfffff” as the peeler gently pressed and made its way across the apple, and a light thump each time the knife cut through an apple and met the cutting board. It was nice.
The next day I arrived at my mom’s at 7:04 a.m. I was baking the pie at my mom’s because I was not going to spend time, money and labor only to walk away with a burnt pie. Been there, done that. As I opened the door to my old home, a light in the kitchen was on and I heard the sound of Dina washing dishes.
She greeted me with a rather loud “shhhh” because she didn’t want me to wake my step-dad Manny or my brothers. But 5 minutes after her warning, she dragged a metal stool step across the tile floor which is as loud as you think it sounds. She then dropped the top of our ceramic sugar pot against the counter. I took those actions as my cue to dismiss her verbal warning and talk in my regular volume voice which is semi-loud. It felt good to be home.
After Dina made some fresh coffee, we got to work on the dough.
Now there are a lot of different ways you can make pie dough. You can mix shortening with flour, mix butter with flour or mix butter, shortening and flour. The possibilities are endless, but if you want to learn more about it click here.
The New York Times recipe chooses butter over shortening and uses a food processor. So the first thing I did was mix flour and salt. Then it was time to add in cold butter. Now when you use butter for your pie dough, it has to be extremely cold or else your dough will turn to crap and embarrass you in front of all your family and friends. Thankfully my mom taught me a trick to transfer butter without warming it with your body heat.
I carefully unwrapped the top and sides of the butter while not really touching it and cut it into pieces. Once all cubed up, I lifted the pile of cubed butter using the sides of the wrapping and dumped it in our food processing machine. I mixed it with the flour and salt, slowly adding in iced water until the dough broke up into pea sized pieces and pulled itself apart from the sides of machine.
Then I took it out of the machine and placed it on a floured cutting board, floured my hands and formed it into a ball, wrapped it in saran wrap and plopped it in the refrigerator. I now had one whole hour to myself. I spent this hour engaging in one of my favorite past times. Sitting at the dining table and having breakfast with my parents.
Dining Table Talk
When I lived at home, at least one time a week my mom, Manny and I would gather around the dining table and dive into long, winding, deep and funny conversations. The phrase “gotchya, gotchya,” and “wowwww” is thrown around a lot, and there’s always a cup of hot tea or french pressed coffee in our hands. Manny brings the smarts, Dina brings the sass and I bring the sarcasm. It’s glorious. Below is a brief summary of what we shared that day.
- PCBA: Manny signed mom up for a Printed Circuit Board Assembly class without telling her and she learned how to make a micro controller board. She now knows how to assemble and sauter all the pieces together. It’s actually pretty impressive and now Manny wants my mom to make several of these little boards a day as an extra side hustle.
- Road Kill: Dina ran over a squirrel on her way home from the farmers market and it was sad. “They (squirrels) cry and it’s horrible!” – Dina.
- Alayna: My little cousin is almost two and at the moment prefers to communicate with sounds instead of words. Apparently while my mom visited Alaynah earlier that week, my Grandpa was there and trying in vain to get Alaynah to say farm animal names. He would say “Cow, COWW” and Alaynah would reply “Mooo, MOOOO”. You get the gist of it.
- Jordan Doesn’t Know What Semi-Formal Means: My older brother Jordan walked into our conversation and asked us if it was ok to wear Vans to a wedding he was attending. It’s not. He then ditched us to eat breakfast at Bill’s Cafe by himself. Thanks Jordan.
Our updates ended once the timer rang which meant my crust was halfway done “chilling” and I had to finally cook those apples.
This Apple Pie Recipe is the Path to Being Present
This meant tossing them in a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and brown sugar. Then sautéing them over an unhealthy amount of butter, some cornstarch and apple cider vinegar. Personally I would skip the cornstarch, because it gave the apples a thick film which was ok but not the best or necessary.
Once the apples were ready to go, the pie crust was done chilling so the awaited time was upon us. I carefully removed the chilled ball of dough from the refrigerator and started to press it down with the palm of my hands, switching between powdering it with more flour and flattening it out into wide, disproportionate circle. Then I recklessly transferred this thin, rolled out circle with my bare hands and dropped it in the pan.
After the pie pan was lined with dough, I pre-baked the bottom of the pie. After the pre-baking, I removed it from the oven, scooped in the spiced apples and then placed my second rolled out piece of dough on top of the apples. I then trimmed off the edges, crimped the crusts shut together with a fork, brushed the top with egg white and did the last and oh-so-satisfying step of slashing lines on the top of the pie, and had my mom put the pie in the oven because I was scared.
It was during these last few steps that I realized how much sweetness and joy I experienced while baking this pie.
Making that pie kept me in the moment and present for 4 whole hours. That almost never happens. Giving all my attention to the recipe and executing each step meant that my mind wasn’t racing with a thousand thoughts. On top of that, I got to spend time with my husband and my family while in that present state of mind. With work, house chores, church, trying to keep up with friends and squeeze in a workout every now and then, having uninterrupted time to peel apples with Max, or sit down, drink coffee and talk to my parents is something I need, treasure and don’t take for granted. Plus, making a pie makes me feel like the ultimate housewife, which is basically Snow White.
Being a Housewife Might Be My Calling
After the pie was all done baking, it was a majestic sight. So golden, so big, so rustic. And not burnt whatsoever. Hello domesticated housewife status!
I had to leave my mom’s house as soon as the pie was out, and ended up eating a slice the next day with Max. I also sent some home to the fam because it was only fair that they get a piece of my masterpiece.
My verdict: Amazing. So good, not too sweet, apples were just the right amount of tart and the crust was flaky, tasty and sturdy but not too doughy. Dina’s verdict: “It was good, but next time we need to eat it right away. Your crust would have been amazing an hour later.” Tight.
At the end of the day, I highly recommend setting aside a couple hours of your week to make a pie, and specifically this apple pie recipe. It’s easy to understand and will make you feel like the capable, stress-free domesticated goddess you are. Just skip the corn starch.
Preparation: A (thanks to the help of the fam)
Being in the Moment: A
Overall Performance: A!
Food Lover Class Scale:1# (piece of pie), 2# (you might get deterred by all the time this recipe takes but stick it through, it’s worth it), 3# (this recipe will totally boost your ego)