Friday, November 7, 2008

As American as apple pie

I can't say apple pie has ever been a favorite of mine. Maybe it's my experience with primarily too-mushy supermarket pies or overly-sweet Marie Callendar's pies, but the filling usually doesn't call my name the way banana cream or pecan pies do. Give me one of those and I won't be able to help myself.

Pie, in general, I have never really forayed into, save for the S'more Pie I made for Tin's Summer party this year (which was crazy good, albeit a lot of work), but it had a graham cracker crust and it's high time I tried making a classic pie with crust made from scratch, rolled out, and carefully lifted into the pie plate. As is characteristic of myself (and with the harrowing experience of rolling out dough for Cornish pasties on my counter), I wasn't about to take on this task unprepared so I waited until I acquired a silicone pastry mat to facilitate the challenge that is pie dough. And of course there's my trusty Cuisinart that I finally sprung for when taking on the Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake in July for a dear, dear friend's birthday. Don't know how I ever lived without it.

As we enter into fall with an abundance of crisp, sweet, and slightly tart organic apples at the farmer's market, this seemed like the most logical choice for a first-time pie-maker, not to mention its ubiquity and reflection of Americana. The purveyor recommended Tsugaru and Mutsu apples for baking, and I already had some humongous Fuji apples at home. I decided to go with Dorie to hold my hand in this process and, as usual, it was a stunning recipe.

It might be plain as day to a lot of people, but I had no idea how important apple variety was to the outcome of the pie until I made it for myself. Maybe because I've only had store-bought apple pie that I haven't cared much for it, but I found the filling equally as delicious as the crust this time around -- and I'm a crust MONSTER. {Sidenote: Always keep your crust scraps, roll it out, cut out designs for decoration, or just rip up shards (if you can't be bothered to make it look pretty) and bake it up until its golden brown for pure deliciousness.} The apple choice had a lot to do with the pie's success as the Tsugarus and Mutsus really had a brightness to them that apple pie mush normally lacks. And a varied apple choice also lends itself to a contrast in textures so each bite alternates between soft fruit and more toothsome chunks.

The crust was, of course, pure deliciousness. Tender and flaky, buttery with just the right amount of sweetness. It's no wonder that Dorie calls it the good-for-everything pie crust. It was the perfect envelope with which to deliver the filling and now I'm definitely an apple pie convert. Seriously -- it's on par with Ikeda's, and probably even better. I can't wait to perfect the execution now!

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