Foodie Tuesday: Apple Pie Order

In most places, ‘apple pie order’ refers to perfect tidiness. Around me, not so. It has two meanings for me, each off on its own tangent. The first is very simple: it describes a standard action of my spouse’s–whenever the occasion should arise, he will order apple pie. The second meaning of the phrase in my world is quite the contrary to the idiom. When my husband’s menu request is at home, the pies I am apt to make are anything but orderly.photoAs with all of my kitchen adventures, the making of pie is always and only an approximation of reproducing a Platonic ideal of the pie concept. I am perhaps a touch the cantankerous and childish rebel in the kitchen, constitutionally unable to conform to others’ instructions to the letter. Can’t think of a lot of things as fun as playing with my food, after all. Remarkably, my supertaster spouse, with all of the palatal restrictions this condition inevitably entails, tolerates my machinations and monkeying remarkably well.

I use that phrase advisedly, since despite his uxorious generosity, he still doesn’t hesitate to remark on the results, good or bad. But he doesn’t actually turn up that fine-tuned nose of his very often, as it happens.

The mere physical assembly of a dish is unlikely to come very tidily from my hands, either, given my previously noted propensity for impatience. and slightly anarchic search for visual amusements. Needless to say, anything more pie- or tart-like than a mere crisp or crumble is more often than not going to turn out rustic as can be. Given that I’m a sort of rustic myself, I suppose it’s only fitting.

graphite and colored pencilThanksgiving‘s apple pie was somewhere in between true ‘apple pie order’ and my kind.

My mother is-was-and-ever-shall-be the indisputable nonpareil, the mistress and icon, of pie making. Her crust is legendary with very good reason. I’ve never met a filling she couldn’t make that wasn’t a paragon, the archetype of its genre. Her fresh raspberry pies, loaded with fruit of the canes she nurtured from cuttings off her father’s plants have been known to reduce adults of seemingly endless sophistication to slobbering infants in one bite, a whole slice to cause delirium, fainting spells, reenactments of the Dancing Plague of 1518, and umpteen return pilgrimages to the dessert table.

Needless to say, my pies grovel in obeisance to Mom‘s, though she’s much too modest and generous to require such a thing. So when she’s in our vicinity for any length of time, you can guess what she bakes for my elated husband. Last time, she went the extra mile and left a spare bottom crust and dough scraps in our freezer. So the Thanksgiving pie was even more reason for giving thanks: Mama’s magical piecrust, ready-made, waiting only to be filled for the big finish.

I blind-baked that bottom crust and a sheet of cinnamon-sugared leaves I’d cut out of the dough scraps, made apple pie filling, warmed all of the parts at the last and assembled the concoction just before serving time. The man with the spare tastebuds deemed the result a little too far inclined toward the nutmeg, and I agreed: I’m always a bit unclear on how much volatile oil is still present when I grate a nutmeg–guess this one was more potent than it smelled to me. But, miraculously, the pie still managed to disappear down various gullets with some alacrity. Not to mention with many spoonfuls of homemade vanilla-cinnamon ice cream.

photoThe filling was a little of this and a little of that, as usual. I always prefer a blend of tart and sweet apples, some firmer and some tenderer, so I chose a mix of Granny Smiths, Braeburns and Golden Delicious from among the grocer’s offerings. I cut them in somewhat varied thicknesses of slice and chunks both, because I like the textural variety it brings as well as the emphasis on the distinct tastes of the types. The rest is fairly standard stuff, mostly: sweetening, spices and flavorings, fat and thickener.

My favorite thickener for apple pie filling is a bit of quick-cooking (small grain) tapioca, which again contrasts in texture with the apples to liven things up a little, and keeps the pie from collapsing when sliced. Or almost does. For sweetening apple pies, I love to use brown sugar for part or all (as in this case), because it’s no secret caramel and apples are a divine pairing and that flavor comes through in a pie nicely. A dram of vanilla to smooth out the caramel flavor. A toss of salt. A little lime juice to spark the sweetness and keep the apples’ color. A good dose of browned butter to add a little nutty undertone. And a last boost of both sweetening and zing, a spoonful of ginger preserves.

That leaves the other pie spices, and I’m pretty sure I’m relatively tame and standard with my cinnamon, nutmeg and a dash of cloves and that little bit of sweet-spicy ginger, even if I did accidentally go a little overboard with the nutmeg this time around. After all, I’m not a monster. It is my husband who asked for apple pie. And he does like his in apple pie order.

34 thoughts on “Foodie Tuesday: Apple Pie Order

  1. I’m positively drooling.. now that is a perfect pie! So… if I’m to understand your process, the crust is baked, then the filling is thickened on the stove… all just poured together at the end? I think my mom does this to ensure a filling that one can cut into without it being runny and underbaked? Anyways… my dear, I am now truly impressed! Anyone who can pull off a pie is a master pastry chef in my books, er blog..

    • Yes, you’ve got the process sussed out exactly–and in fact I did the crust-baking and filling-making the day ahead, refrigerating the filling after cooking it down a bit, and then only did the quick reheat of separate parts just before eating-day assembly. I’m glad I *didn’t* have to make the crust dough this time, because mine’s never gotten even close to Mom’s! Indeed, I’ve been known to buy pre-made dough when I dread the process too much. Lazy big chicken that I am. πŸ™‚

  2. How eloquently expressed Kathryn, and I fully empathise, with your cooking being compared to your Mam’s (Irish version of Mom). I couldn’t bake a pie to save my life, however if the photo above is of your pie you should be very proud of yourself, it looks delicious!

    Well done YOU! πŸ€

    • Thank you, Geraldine! I’m the only one that unfavorably compares my cooking to my mother’s–the rest of the family’s far too nice and supportive for that–but it does make me a little irked that I let it bother me like that. So I soldier on anyhow. It’s partly thanks to Mama’s pre-made crust that my pie turned out looking this nice, that’s for certain, though I do actually manage a pretty fine ruffly crimp on the crust perimeter myself *if I can ever get the texture of the dough right*! πŸ™‚

  3. Beautifully written and beautifully cooked! It sounds so amazing. I can’t believe how plain I’ve been making my pies my whole life. And I’ve never even heard of this technique. A baker I am not I guess! I do, however, completely agree and follow the same process and criteria for apple selection and cutting! Rustic!

    • As far as I’m concerned, good pie is good pie when it comes to eating it–plain or not!! So I’ll bet yours are as delicious as anything. The separate-prep + later assembly thing works well for a lazybones like me when I can have all of the busywork done ahead (a day ahead, in this case) and not worry whether the piecrust will get soggy waiting. Can’t do it as easily with a double crusted pie; then I either fix the crust elements and assemble with filling just before baking, or just bake the whole pie ahead and take my chances, rewarmed or not. I’m not the skillful pastry chef who knows what’s smartest, so I always opt for what’s easiest!! Speaking of rustic, Laine, one of my favorite “pies” in recent times has been to take a rough circle of piecrust dough, pile up the filling in the middle of it and pull up the sides like a big bag of a pie, sprinkle it with a little sugar and bake it up as a pseudo-crostata. Easy, *really* rustic, and still has all of the same tasty ingredients without challenging my limited talents horribly!

  4. I had never heard of the term apple pie order nor of the inclusion of ginger preserves. But now, I will enthusiastically order up apple pie as such. Deliciously delightful post.

    • Needless to say, the colloquial phrase is one I learned elsewhere (reading? From friends?), not used much in *my* presence! And being a huge fan of ginger in nearly everything, I’ve never needed much excuse to add it; in it went. I *may* have licked the spoon after scooping the preserves into the pie, too. πŸ™‚ Glad to see you here today!

  5. For me this is the first time I heard “apple pie order” now I know.
    BTW that apple pie looks lovely, this is one of the things I cannot perfect specially the crust.

    • Obviously I’m not alone in my piecrust troubles, if a fabulous chef like you struggles with it! πŸ™‚ Can’t think of anything else I’ve seen you not do rather perfectly, though!!

  6. What a wonderful post. I gained five pounds just looking at your pie, but thankfully laughed it off reading the description you wrote of people under the spell of your mother’s raspberry pies.

    • Needless to say, Mom’s pies’ll put *ten* pounds on you, easy as pie. But if I do say so myself, even with the slight over-nutmegged character this time out I *did* make a pretty edible one on this outing.

  7. Oh you made little leaves instead of aTOP. I love that, can I steal that idea? was it your mothers or your own gorgeous (not rustic) selfs! So cute. your poor Mum! making all those pies and then everyone fainting quite away.. what are they like! No stamina.. c

    • You can steal the idea, of course, because I stole it from somebody else! I usually do a top crust and then “draw” with the vent holes to make pictures or patterns. Frankly, I liked this better, and it was just as easy. Mama made the bottom crust this time, and I did the top. Such ready-to-swoon people must conserve our strength, you understand.

    • I wish my food *photography* were more artful! I’m going to have to study up on the various blogs with *well*-photographed food (yours, for example) for pointers, because I’m always too focused on getting the stuff on the table (or directly into my mouth) and not focused enough on, well, focusing!

  8. Aren’t those leaves a life-saver? When I make my own pie crust and it isn’t exactly cooperating with me, I pull out the leaf stamps and never look back. Your pie here looks beautiful! I want me som’a dat!

    • Leaf stamps. Oh, boy. I shall have to hunt me up some. As you can see, my freehand cutting results in something a whole lot more rustic indeed. I suppose they could be called representative of autumn’s leaf decay, though I’m not totally convinced that’s a word best used in reference to dessert! πŸ˜‰

  9. Pingback: Foodie Tuesday: Pie Eyed | kiwsparks

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