Pie, not cake, is the order of the day for me. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for the dozens of generously frosted birthday cakes that have appeared in my honor over the years, but I really haven’t enjoyed any of them. Cake, to my mind, is uninteresting–bland and textureless. Frosting is worse, and usually sickeningly sweet, unless it is buttercream, in which case, forget the cake and just hand me a spoon.
The real reason for the pie-baking is, of course, that I get to show off my newfound piecrust skills.
When we lived in Seattle, the pie of choice was blackberry. Blackberries grew wild everywhere and the season was long. Our neighbor, Jim, kept the exterior of his house remarkably unkempt as he was renovating his house on the inside and didn’t want the tax assessor to find out. This subterfuge seems laughable now that we live in Providence, where the property taxes are three times what they were in Seattle. As Jim was a boat builder, the interior of the house was a monument to organization, with dozens of cubbies and storage niches, and all surfaces covered with several coats of high-gloss spar varnish. Jim’s yard, however, was completely overgrown with wild blackberry bushes. I allowed these to hang over the fence in order to benefit from the fruit, but never let the suckers take root.
Here in New England, blackberries have a much shorter season and are not available locally in October. So, this year it’s an apple pie, made with my favorite eating apple, Macoun, a juicy, crisp, sweet-tart apple, also with a short season.
Mark Bittman’s Flaky Piecrust (from How to Cook Everything) is number one on my list of Reasons to Get Out the Cuisinart. I generally don’t find it worth the trouble of putting the food processor together and then cleaning all the parts, but for this purpose it is indispensible. You can find the recipe in my post Pie and Prejudice, as well.
So, while the pie dough was chilling in the fridge, I peeled and sliced seven Macouns and tossed them with the juice of a half a lemon.
Then I mixed the following in a small bowl:
1/2 cup sugar (I use organic cane sugar, which is blonde in color)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
a pinch of ground cloves (I ground these myself, so they were rather fragrant)
a pinch of salt
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
I tossed the sugar mixture with the apples and poured them into the pie shell. I dotted the apples with about a tablespoon of butter, and covered it with a top crust. Brush the top of the pie with a little milk and sprinkle with about a teaspoon of sugar. Cut a few slits in the top to allow steam to escape.
The piecrust scraps were saved for Miriam, who makes cinnamon-sugar cookies with the dough.
Here’s the finished product:
Needless to say, if you want something done right, do it yourself!