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
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.
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.
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. ♣