My Mom’s Claim-to-Fame

When I was a kid, my mom baked…a.lot. She baked so much that I never wanted to bake. What was the point? There was no need, as far as I could tell. Plus, Mom had a way of turning “let’s bake together” time into “let’s use this recipe to work on your fractions by doubling it.” Ick. This is perhaps why I hated baking and fractions until my mid-twenties {actually, the jury’s still out on those damn fractions}. Trust me, the last thing I thought would become a passion in my life was baking. Are you kidding me? My younger doppelgänger  would be s-h-o-c-k-e-d at the state of my life today.

My mom had this pie she won an award for. Seriously, she entered it into our little New England newspaper and won first place. This was a pretty big deal for her. She will not let you forget it. She also does not appreciate any deviations in the recipe, so my apologies, Mom. I have a love/hate relationship with this bad boy; so much so that I only make it once a year, in the fall, usually for Thanksgiving or sometime close to it. On the one hand, it’s SOOOO good. It has a tender, flaky crust, and the apples walk that fine line between too firm and too mushy called just right. Plus, it’s huge; we’re talking pizza pan-sized, so it lasts longer than the average pie. Which brings me to the other hand: you want this pie to last longer than the average pie because, if you hate making crust {and I hate making crust}, this pie is sort of a pain the ass to make. That whole pizza pan thing means rolling out two big crusts. Again, ick.

But don’t let my complaining, adolescent-like attitude {don’t we all regress when we speak of our moms?} toward this pie pull you away from trying to make it. It’s worth every tear in the crust. Plus, for all the reasons above, it usually impresses the heck out of people! And isn’t that always a bonus?!

Flat Apple Pie

What? This will make a pie?

 

I have found I like to start with the filling and have it all ready to go. You’ll need:

  • 3 generous handfuls of corn flakes
  • 7 medium-sized Granny Smith apples
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • cinnamon
  • 3 tbs. butter, cut into small pieces

It’s best not to mix any of these together, just have them ready. If you really want making this pie to be the least-laborious it can be, using an apple peeler/corer/slicer is the way to go. I have one from L.L. Bean that my Grammy gave me. Teensy Fresh Scratch loves to do this part for me.

L.L Bean's Amazing Apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer!

If you have a horse nearby, they go nuts over these cores and peels!  Also a fun thing to do with the kiddies!

Next, it’s time to get the crust ready. Get a big wooden board or a big counter space generously floured, get your apron on, and get out the rolling-pin. This is also the time to have your pizza pan ready. You’ll need:

  • 3 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 round cup of shortening
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • food processor

Sift the flour and salt into the food processor. Add the shortening and pulse.  After pea-sized pieces form, slowly pour in the milk while pulsing.  I learned from watching my Grammy {also a terrific pie-baker} that a moist dough really helps a lot. When it comes together pretty well, take it out and knead it in your hands a bit until it all comes together nicely in a big clump. Tear it in half and make two discs out of it. Throw one in a plastic bag and set aside while you roll out the bottom crust. I’ve done this plenty of times the old-fashioned way, flouring my rolling-pin and rolling away. But this often makes it hard to transfer to the pan without the rips.  I’ve had pretty good luck with rolling it out between two pieces of parchment paper and then peeling one layer off like a sticker, flipping it onto the pan, and then peeling off the other sheet. Whatever floats your boat and fits with your patience level; like I said, this is the part that finds me cursing like a sailor. Whichever method you go with, follow Martha’s advice of rolling in one direction, turning it a bit, rolling again, etc, until you have what resembles a circle. You’ll want it pretty thin in order to get it to fit the pan well {also what makes it prone to tearing}. Place it on the pie pan by rolling it up on your rolling-pin and unrolling it on the pan, or using the parchment method mentioned above.

Now it’s time to preheat the oven (375 degrees) and put the good stuff in there. Layer the corn flakes, leaving about an inch border, then the apple slices. Next, sprinkle evenly with the sugar. Finally, sprinkle generously with cinnamon and dot with butter.

Sprinkled with Cinnamon and Dotted with Butter

Roll out the top crust, place it on top of the filling, and fold the bottom crust over the top. This goes against one’s natural urge for it to look really pretty by tucking the top crust under the bottom of the pie, but you’ll enjoy not having a mess that catches fire in your oven {true story}. This is where it can get kind of fun, using leaf cookie cutters on the crust or getting fancy somehow. I like to cut the lines of a star into the center for steam vents. Brush one egg white all over the pie to seal it and get a nice brown color when it bakes {this step is not necessary, but for visual purposes only}. Pop it in for 45 minutes.

Mom's Flat Apple Pie: All done!

What you don’t see in the picture is the last step, performed after it’s cooled: the glaze. Mmm. This part is a must! Mix 1 c. powdered sugar with a tsp. vanilla and a smidge of milk, using a fork in a small bowl. You have to mix for a minute, but it will moisten, trust me. Use the fork to help drizzle it over the pie. It shouldn’t be watery. If it is, throw in some more powdered sugar.

Your house will smell heavenly, as will your hair {I do love that about baking}. Call some peeps over to admire your masterpiece, then cut a 5 inch circle in the middle, followed by cutting wedges from the edge of the circle to the outside. This way you’re left with a super yummy middle piece at the end with the circle. Best served with some high-quality vanilla ice cream or in a bowl with milk poured over it {try it!}.

Since I made some minor-to-me/major-to-my-mom changes, I kind of want so say “In your face!” to my mom right here, because I think I’ve improved on it. However, that would be really immature, and my mom would remind that this was a prize-winning pie before I tampered with it, blah…blah……blahty blah. 🙂

The Evolution of a Foodie

As a kid, I would drool at K.B. Toystore.  I don’t know if they had those where you grew up, but in New England, they were a mecca.  When you had to go to the mall with your parents, that’s the place that made it worthwhile.

In high school, I’d wind my way to the back of the GAP, my fingertips brushing over wool jackets and sweaters, my mind fulfilling my preppy fashion fantasies.

In my first years on my own, it was Target that did it for me.  And when I didn’t have the money to pay for all the fun stuff in my cart, I’d shop by some kind of consumer osmosis, parking my full cart in a random aisle and walking out of the store (My grandparents still get a big kick out of that story.  It’s gotten a lot of mileage!).

Now I get my fix at fancy or fun or quirky grocery stores.  Give me a simple, understated floral display, some ladies peddling cheese, olives of all kinds, a deli full of panninis, fancy local chocolates and kitschy kitchen towels, and I get a nervous, anxious feeling in my stomach.  I think, “How much can I blow here?!” and try to remember the tone of my last weekly “money meeting” with Mr. Fresh Scratch (Let’s not get into why those meetings are necessary, thanks.).

This happened to me the other day.  I had read about Metropolitan Market in Edible Seattle (a foodie magazine Shangri-la).  I even had a nice handled bag with its logo floating around the house for years after someone dropped something by in it.  It was time to venture in.  So, on a gorgeous sunny winter day, I headed to the Proctor district of Tacoma just ahead of my lunch date with my BFF.  It did not disappoint!

First, it’s small-ish.  Not as small as a Trader Joe’s, not big like Whole Foods, but somewhere in the middle.  It’s “big” enough that they have their logo on all kinds of containers, even though I think they only have about six stores in the greater Seattle area.  Simple floral display by the door that makes you think you need more paperwhites as you walk in? CHECK.  Followed by a deli filled with all sorts of yummy delights?  CHECK.  Stacks and stacks of all the olives imaginable in little round, clear plastic containers in the refrigerator?  CHECK.  A little cheese kiosk that’s about the size of a coffee stand at the airport with ladies offering all kinds of samples?  CHECK!  Locally made chocolates at every checkout? CHECK!!!  Theo Chocolates, Phinney, Cadeaux (totally worth the pricey tag)….Mmmm.  I digress.  Tons of cute kitchen towels and kitchen supplies in the left back corner?  CHECK!!!!!  Not to mention the wine, the fresh meat case, the stationery….the nice bathroom.  The Etch-a-Sketches and cool kids toys mounted on big, funky shaped plastic boards so that they could play with them while chillin’ in the shopping cart without accidentally taking them home.  Did I mention the coffee and tea stand?  The gelato stand?  The awesome magazine selection?  CHECK, CHECKKKKKKKK.

{You get the picture.}

I cannot wait to go back.  I’d go every weekend if I could make it make sense in those money meetings I mentioned.  For now, I will settle for Mr. Fresh Scratch’s agreement to going on a date there this month.  Yes, a date to a grocery store.  But I promised him lunch, coffee, and gelato while there, plus a stroll around the neighboring shops and historic homes looking down on Tacoma’s Commencement Bay.  You’ve gotta know who you’re selling to, after all.

And this store does.