So last Friday night, College Kid and I made this:
12 ounces of flour (weighed on a scale), 8 ounces of butter, 4 ounces of ice water. That's a 3-2-1 pie dough. Add a teaspoon of salt to the flour, maybe a tablespoon or two of sugar, and mix it around. Cut in the butter while it's cold into pea size pieces, or put the dry stuff in a food processor with the cut up butter and whiz it for a few seconds. Drizzle in the water and mix gently until the dough starts to form, shape it into two separate disks, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 15 minutes or a little longer.
Peel and cut up about 8 Granny Smith apples, toss them in lemon juice and 1/4 cup of sugar. Sprinkle in a tablespoon or two of flour. Toss it again.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. While it's heating up, flour a countertop or a baking mat or a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper. Put one of the dough disks on it. Flour the top. Roll it out with a rolling pin and flour as you need it so it doesn't stick. When it's about 12 inches or so in diameter, fold the edges toward the middle, pick it up, put it in a pie dish, unfold it, press it into the pie dish bottom and sides. If it tears a little, patch the holes with scraps. Roll out the other dough.
Lay some flour over the bottom of the crust. Pour in the apples. Lay the other crust over the top and poke holes in the top. Bake it for 20 minutes at 425, then lower the heat to 375, and bake for another 30 minutes. Done. Take it out of the oven, sit it on the countertop for a while. Eat it. Congratulations. You know how to make an apple pie that will be delicious. It will take you longer to peel and cut up the apples than it will for you to make the crust and bake the pie. Need to save time? Buy some peeled and sliced apples beforehand. Or use blueberries!
Want to do something a little fancier? Cut up the second dough into strips and weave it like CK did. Want some tricks? Let the apples sit in a strainer over a bowl, collect the juices, stir in some tapioca starch, and toss that with the apples. Or just toss the tapioca starch with the apples in the first place and skip the flour on the bottom of the crust. Add some cinnamon or nutmeg, or both, to the fruit. Get a pie bird and put it in the middle of the pie before the apples and top crust go on so some steam can escape and the bottom crust will be a little crisper and the top won't tent up. Or use a tart dish with removable sides that will slide away and make everything look really pretty. You could skip the top crust and cut up 3/4 cup of brown sugar, 3/4 cup of flour, and a stick of butter with a little cinnamon for a streusel topping. Or skip the bottom crust and make a deep dish pie. Or skip both crusts and just make a crisp with the streusel topping.
That's not a recipe for an apple pie. A recipe, you are supposed to follow. Recipes can seem complicated. These are instructions. Or more like guidelines. Really, the only thing you absolutely need to do is make sure the proportions of the crust are correct and the butter is cold.
It's a funny thing about cooking. I can bake a pie. Friends of mine, who are much more accomplished cooks than I am, won't even try. I can go to someone's house, bring a pie and a homemade vanilla ice cream, and people will stare at me, mouths agape. "You made that? From scratch?"
I say it's funny because all you have to do is Google 3-2-1 pie dough cold butter, do a little browsing, and you'll know everything that I know.
When I started to learn to cook, I just wanted to learn to make a few things that people might like. I've moved a little beyond that now. I'm what I would call competent. I say that because, first of all, I use a lot more butter than I used to! I can usually follow a recipe without screwing up too badly. I really don't cook a lot. I can make a few things up, and adjust for ingredients I don't like (mustard and cream cheese, ewww).
I like to make desserts. I like to make things that don't get eaten right away, that linger in the fridge or freezer for a while. I really don't enjoy simply following recipes. I like that every quart of ice cream I make will taste a little different, even if it's the same general flavor. I'll often change something on purpose, just a little, just to see what happens and see if I learn something new.
I consider myself a bit of a purist. I don't want machines that will do something for me. I either want to do everything myself, or nothing. If I'm cooking ribs, I also make barbecue sauce. If I'm making dinner for company, I want to make the dessert. If I'm making ice cream, I'm going to make the hot fudge and butterscotch. Now, I even make the cherries for the top! I try to knead bread by hand. (I will say, though, that I don't aspire to be a pasta maker. Really. I mean, it tastes good, it's really cool to say you made it, but it's really a pain in the butt, and good dried or fresh pasta just isn't that expensive or hard to find!)
I'm not a professional cook. I wouldn't want to be one. If I won the lottery, though, I'd open an old-fashioned homemade candy and ice cream shop - sorry, shoppe. With a smoker out back for summer weekends.
I enjoy cooking because I like to make things that my kids like to eat. In this case, it was nice to help CK do the same. She did just about everything. I explained to her why she had to work quickly with the cold butter and dough, so that pieces of butter would melt in the oven and leave small pockets that would make the crust a little flaky. She tossed the apples. She figured out that the bowl underneath the strainer would collect the juices from the apples and we would mix it back in. She added the cinnamon and the nutmeg, however much she put in. She decided what kind of top crust we would have, and she cut and weaved the strips of dough.
So what's the point? Nothing really.
Last week, I helped one of my daughters bake something that she enjoyed with a friend. Today was Father's Day. I was thinking about our apple pie all week.