A Recipe for Lackluster Pie

23 Aug

I think one of the most disappointing discoveries of my adult life is that pie-making is not a soothing experience.  If you do everything from scratch using merely the loins of the earth, it’s a little daunting for your average pie virgin.  And what makes it much, much more difficult is when you’re following a copy of a copy of a cryptic recipe that’s in a woman’s head almost 300 miles away.

Happy Lollipop Tuesday, girls and boys.

I’ve been getting pretty intense with my Lollipop Adventures as of late with all the pinball competing and the Battle of Manassas reenacting and the rapping in public.  So this week, I was more than happy to take Pezcita’s suggestion on my What’s Lollipop Tuesday? page and take it easy, throw on my apron, and make a hot mess of my kitchen.    In order to be true to the wholesome, innocent, comforting nature of the patriotic pastry, I thought it only right that I use David’s grandmother’s recipe for apple pie.   David’s grandmother’s apple pie is so lusciously wonderful, in fact, that my tastebuds had abandoned an affection for pie altogether until I tasted hers and it restored their faith.

Indeed it is a fantastic pie.  …when she makes it.

I don’t know what it is about grandmothers that makes them think recipes are just ingredient lists and not step-by-step instructions for how to accomplish something, but I would kill for a grandmother who can take the time to write down their navigation of a process instead of carrying around all that precious knowledge in their heads like hoarders.   Not wanting to bother his grandmother at such a late hour last evening, I decided instead to call David’s mother for any suggestions she might have to add to what was nothing more than a list of ingredients, a temperature, and a time I got off an index card that was passed on to David – a cryptic family food jewel.

Call me stupid, but I can’t bake a pie with a list of ingredients for the crust followed by a list of ingredients for the filling.   

His mother was a wealth of information.  There were all sorts of lovely bits inside her brain that I needed to suck out, which she gleaned from her mother back in the good old days when kids used to cook in the kitchen with their mothers instead of playing iPad games where they cook in the kitchen with a cartoon chef.  She was hoarding information on what kind of apples, how thinly they should be sliced, what order things were done in, and that – get this – I should throw milk on the sucker before I threw it in the oven to keep the crust from burning.  

How on God’s green earth would I have figured that out on my own?  Because I’ll tell ya – throwing milk on a pie just doesn’t occur to me. Not in the slightest. 

I started out pretty hopeful.  After all, people make pies every day.  Surely I am smarter than your average bear and

Goodbye, paycheck.

surely merely average bears have conquered pies and so surely I could conquer a pie. 

I think the first indication of a problem was that I had absolutely none of the tools required for the job: no pie pan, no rolling pin, no pastry brush, and no kitchen timer.  Well, to be fair, I have a kitchen timer – but it keeps ticking past the “0” mark, thus negating its purpose.  It only has one job and it sucks terribly at it.

So after a costly trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond, I dumped out the newly bought implements of destruction onto the counter and hoped for the best.  I made a wild, mad mess of the kitchen and tried my hand at a homemade pie crust.  And failed.   And tried again – and made something that looked like crust and so I deemed it as such and laid it in the pan.   It took me almost half an hour just to get that far and then I realized I had to do it all over again for the top of the pie.  

My underwhelming second attempt. Apparently, I decided that everything could be fixed with flour. ...It can't.

It was here that I began to get discouraged.  

I remembered Dave’s mother’s words about how pies are hard and I should try not to get discouraged because everyone sucks horribly at them.  But I hate to suck horribly at anything that I’m genuinely attempting and so I was overcome with grumpiness.

A grumpy woman making a pie is a terrible thing.

It was in my sourpuss state that it became clear to me that pie-making is just meeting of the two kitchen skills I completely lack: rolling dough and cutting apples.   My apples were all shapes and sizes and my dough left, well, a lot to be desired.  Thick at one end, thin on the other, with pinched together, stuck-on pieces in between to patch up the holes along the way.   But when I let go of my visi0n of pie as a perfectly smooth and beautiful pastry with carefully-pinched edges and a light apple-scented steam venting from the symmetrical slits on the top and though of it more as a doughy bowl with apples in it, I started to expect far less of myself and lightened up.

Absolutely no idea if I'm doing this right. None.

In fact, once it was all baked I was pretty excited to eat it.  Of course, I wasn’t really sure when it was done because the “recipe” said “350 for about an hour”, which didn’t do much for my necessity of black and white in life.  So I just decided to pull the plug at 50 minutes, which is “about an hour” in my book.  

The end result wasn’t too terrible, though pulling up a piece of it revealed quite a bit of liquid hanging out on the bottom of the pan.  

Well, that and once I bit into a piece I realized I probably should have peeled the apples first.

Turns out apple skins don’t bake all that well.  The rest of the apple turns to mushy yumminess and the skin turns into this slightly less mushy alien-like strings, dragging behind your fork.

Hey: how was I supposed to know? Had the instruction “Peel apples” appeared anywhere, I would’ve been sure to make it happen for myself.  But like the milk, it just doesn’t occur to me to do these things.  Which is, you know, the entire point of a recipe.

End result?  A very sleepy Jackie with a smaller bank balance, a few shiny new kitchen utensils, a lackluster pie, and a serious hankering for a grandmother with a knack for detail. 

Mmm...lackluster pie.


24 Responses to “A Recipe for Lackluster Pie”

  1. Lori August 23, 2011 at 9:09 am #

    How funny, I’m also about to learn how to make my first apple pie. We’re hosting a few guests from Germany soon, so we figure apple pie is a good, all American dish. I’ve been terrified to make it because everyone says making the crust is so hard! The filling is the easy part (once you know that you’re supposed to peel the apples, of course. OH, also, you should stir in a spoonful of tapioca pudding mix – it’s flavorless and absorbs the extra liquid that would otherwise float around the bottom).

    As a testament to how difficult pie crust is to make, Sam’s mom made a few pie crusts, in glass pans, and froze them. Sam dropped one out of the freezer and broke the pie pan, but Sam’s mom was more upset about the lost pie crust than the broken pie plate.


    • Jackie August 28, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

      Oh yes apple pie for ze Germans. Also, hot dogs.

      tapioca is an interesting suggestion – I’ve also been told stirring flour into the filling will take care of that.


  2. jakennicksmomma August 23, 2011 at 9:15 am #

    Oh, you poor thing! In my experience the best way to get a family recipe is to make it with said hoarder of recipe. That way all the hidden secrets are revealed and you can take as many notes as you need. That pie looks tasty!


    • Jackie August 28, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

      Very true – this seems to be key. I wish it weren’t, but apparently I have to have face time to make good food.


    • robin August 29, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

      AGREED!! Sounds like a great idea!! I believe that “hoarder” would LOVE to take the time to bake with you. I feel she would cherish the idea of passing down all the family secrets to you. When ever you get the time, I am sure she will be there waiting for you, because you are pretty fantastic in everyway, and I am certain you can conquer the apple pie.


      • Jackie September 4, 2011 at 3:18 am #

        who needs to now that Dave has shown he’s adept? 😛


  3. Sonja August 23, 2011 at 9:19 am #

    My secret for making apple pie….. the apple peeler slicer corer gadget from Pamper Chef. That sucker will slice the apples nice and thin, take the core out and peel the apples all while you turn a crank. Then, all you have to do is make a couple slices to cut the spiral. MAGIC! The Pillsbury ready made pie crusts are just as good as homemade (or in my case- BETTER!).

    Way to go making your pie from scratch! It looks de-lish 🙂


    • Jackie August 28, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

      That sounds super intense. It would officially be the most intense gadget I’ve ever purchased for my kitchen. I’d have to be a super serious pie make to justify its acquisition 🙂


  4. phrogmom August 23, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    yeah, pie crust….eek! actually my rolling pin skills are lacking in all areas.

    i gave you the liebster award! details on my blog. thank you for bringing me smiles!


    • Jackie August 28, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

      Hey thanks!!! I’m flattered 🙂 I should post that baby in my sidebar but I’m just so completely sucky at it. I’ll have to put aside an entire day to make it happen lol


  5. misswhiplash August 23, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    It surely is a mystery as to why Grandmothers can always do everything so well( except this Grandmother).
    My own Mother was a superb cook but sadly none of those attributes have rubbed off on me.
    At least you tried Jackie and it could have been a lot worse. Put this attempt down as a practice run and try again but next time buy cooking apples and peel and core them


    • Jackie August 28, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

      Except now I can just have Dave do it! haha


  6. whatimeant2say August 23, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    This is exactly why I never cook!


  7. pegoleg August 23, 2011 at 10:54 am #

    I’ve never successfully made a pie crust. Tried a few times, but the rolling and not sticking part is tougher than brain surgery. That I’ve done with no problem.

    That’s why I make Apple Crisp. Leave the skins on, doesn’t matter what size the pieces are, and just dump some oatmeal/butter/brown sugar on the top, cook and it’s yummy!


    • Jackie August 28, 2011 at 1:48 pm #

      Apple Crisp is lovely. The beauty is in the mess. I had a good friend come over and recreate his grandmother’s recipe for apple crisp (love the grandmothers). It’s amazing how completely nonchalant you can be about the organization of it and it stil comes out beauuuuutiful.


  8. Jules August 23, 2011 at 11:42 am #

    LoL. She didn’t tell you to peel the apples. What a jerk!


    • Robin Waller August 23, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

      Hey….your right….what a jerk!! LOL


  9. Robin Waller August 23, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    Well next time we will have to include more detail in that book of yours!! I think maybe it is a secrete strategy of grandma’s to keep the kids coming back for grandma’s apple pies!Now you know why grandma freezes a few extra for us to steal while we take care of her house over the winter while she enjoys Fl.I almost peed myself when I realized you didn’t peel the apples, mainly because it wasn’t even something I would think of because I had watched her make them for so many years! Grandma really did laugh out loud when she read this and said if you make it home in the fall she would love to bake pies with you. And she feels your pain, her first crust took 15 tries!! By the way, …not bad for your first attempt, I’m proud of you! I remember what the flour was for now…..if you sprinkle a Tablespoon of floor in the sugar mixture you can avoid extra liquid pooling at the bottom of your pie….opps! My bad…I guess I have been stealing pies out of grandma’s freezer for to long.As always we really enjoyed your blog.Kepp up the good work!


    • Jackie August 28, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

      Well I’m glad you passed all this business down to Dave, who apparently has all the tricks of the trade now. Definitely a win.


  10. TayMik23 August 23, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

    My grandmother is famous for her blueberry pies. I helped her make some once and I agree, it’s so much more than what the recipe calls for! Tricks of the trade, I suppose. Great post!


    • Jackie August 28, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

      They’re little information hoarders.


  11. Tammy August 23, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

    And you thought it was just me who couldn’t make pies!! That’s why I go to your Grams when I want a good pie. I will stick to baking cakes. They are much easier than pies. If you learn how to do a good pie you’ll have to come home and teach me how. lol You get an A for effort though. Maybe you should come home and we should try to make them together. Heather will help teach us I’m sure. She can stand toe to toe with Gram as far as I’m concerned.


    • Jackie August 28, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

      Well now it’s irrelevant since I’m responding to this comment after Dave has proven superior. 😉


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