I have been in the kitchen most of my life. I was often perched in the doorway keeping my mom company as she made dinner. My mother is very animate and was always giving lessons. She would have me feel bread doughs (like a baby’s bottom) (an analogy that still bothers me) and would show me the consistency of shortening and flour that has been appropriately cut together. I can make a decent loaf of bread and I think my cakes are as good as my mom’s.
Pie is scary though. Even the best cooks have fillings that won’t set or cheese cakes that crack. I have seen hundreds of crusts that resemble cardboard. I don’t like to do anything poorly so I have avoided the genre of pie making completely.
This Pie Experience
It started with buying apples at 12:30 in the morning. My parents were coming up the next day so I thought it was a good time to try my first real pie. I briefly remembered the America’s Test Kitchen suggestion to use two types of apples but couldn’t remember what they required. And with it being so late and I was half asleep and meandering the grocery store, I didn't care. I used half Granny Smith and half Macintosh expecting the grannies to give structure and the Macintosh the strong sweet apple flavor.
The next day I started on the dough about two hours later then I expected. When my parents arrived at our new apartment I only had the dough made. It was far drier then I anticipated and so I put it in the fridge to hydrate (as all the cooking shows suggest) while I cut the apples. My dad was hungry so we decided to let everything sit and went to feed him.
Upon returning my mother decided that it would be easier to start over then to use my dough. I had to hang my head in shame. My mom did confess that she started with the Fannie Farmer recipe 30 years ago and found the dough too dry as well. My mom leans more towards the tender then flaky and her best suggestion for hydrating dough is to add more fat. She is a pie rolling queen, though.
The Fannie Farmer Baking Book. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York. 1984
For 9 inch 2-crust pie
2 ¼ cups flour
½ tsp. salt
¾ cup vegetable shortening
6-7 Tbl. Cold water (I used 8 or 9)
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
lemon juice and lemon zest
Mom’s Pie Dough (probably adapted from Betty Crocker but the origins have been lost through time)
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup plus 2 Tbl shortening
up to ½ cup cold water (start with less)
My mother states that as she over measures everything so it is probably closer to 1 cup of shortening. My mom always uses butter flavored Crisco.
This was one of my early experiences with this oven. I hate it. It has solid metal burners that give no control. The oven has no window or light so you can’t see what is going on unless you open the door. It drops in temperature much easier then any other oven I have owned. The crust really didn’t darken and it cooked at least 30 minutes longer then it should have. The crust was brittle and dry and the apples had steamed themselves into mush.
It was the best applesauce I had ever eaten.
I have never calibrated an oven but I think it will be required before my next experience.