Archives for posts with tag: pie crust

Five years ago I cast my lot with Riverdog Farm in Guinda, CA, subscribing to receive their weekly vegetable box. I had been shopping at Farmers’ Markets since I lived in San Francisco, going to Saturday and Sunday markets to buy the bulk of what I cooked. When I moved back to the East Bay I took to frequenting the Berkeley Farmers’ Market. Although I love going to the market I had been interested in vegetables by subscription for a long time and when a friend recommended Riverdog’s program I signed up, initially splitting a box with my friend Elaine who lives in Berkeley.

My reading influenced me. I had read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle about how she and her family had endeavored to raise most of their food on their Virginia farm and to buy locally what they couldn’t grow themselves. This afternoon I refreshed my memory of Kingsolver’s first locavore spring as I contemplated what to write about today.

Spring has sprung by the calendar. The days are longer. Plane trees have leafed out. A few native freesias push themselves up in the yard. A full moon lit the mild, clear night on Friday as I walked the last two miles home from a Passover seder at Elaine’s, where we ate broccoli, roasted potatoes, duck, carrots in the matzo ball soup, charoset made of dried apricots and dates. Sun shone on the Berkeley market on Holy Saturday where people stood in line for green strawberries (I tasted one), berries with white shoulders, asparagus and globe artichokes. One patron snapped up the only box of snow peas. Spring produce is late this year in northern California, not as late as last year where unexpected ongoing rain slowed all of the crops, but this was a slim market on the day before Easter. I brought home a bottle of plum vinegar, two pounds of walnuts in the shell, a grapefruit for another round of Shrimp Diablo. I considered buying a large basil plant and plucking every leaf to make pesto.

This is the time of year when I wish I had preserved more during the summer and fall, roasted more red peppers and frozen them, dried more tomatoes and raisins, canned more dilly beans, made more pesto. I break out stores of canned tomatoes, jars of roasted peppers and chutney, condiments to lend flavor to our spring diet. We use frozen mozzarella, fresh spinach, cottage cheese, diced tomatoes and Prego marinara to make lasagna. I pile peach chutney, roasted peppers and fresh arugula on a broiled Portobello burger marinated in salad dressing. We make pies out of frozen peaches and canned cherries.

Painting shows leek-feta quiche and ingredients.

Leek-Feta Quiche. 8″ x 8″ gouache. Sharyn Dimmick

What I can rely on in March and April is an abundant supply of alliums: spring onions and leeks. Every week Riverdog sends us a pound or two. I use leeks instead of onions in carrot soup and find I do not care for the substitution: note to self — only white parts of leeks, which will not give the green tinge and the strong flavor. I slice one leek into rings in a bowl of water, separating each ring to let the sandy grit sink to the bottom. I heat a few teaspoonfuls of olive oil mixed with butter in a skillet, lift the leeks from the water, pat them dry and saute them. I preheat the oven to 325. I roll out pie crust, sprinkle the bottom with crumbled feta cheese, add the sauteed leeks. I cut a jarred roasted red pepper into squares and scatter them on top of the leeks and cheese. I add a few cubes of marinated feta, just enough to create a pleasant design on the red and green. I grate a few tablespoons of Pecorino over that.

Then I beat three eggs in a metal bowl and add a splash of milk, eyeball it and add a little more, whisking the custard together. I pour the custard over the vegetables and cheese and pop the quiche in the oven.

This is a rough recipe: I have made it many times and feel no need to make more than the roughest of measures. I’m going to guess slightly on the amounts I recommend (Sometimes I measure backwards, pouring out what I think I will need and then checking the amount for you by pouring liquid back into a measuring cup, for example). If you need to know exact amounts you might want to look up another recipe for that. I will refer you to my Mom’s recipe for pie crust because I can recommend it wholeheartedly as the pastry we use most often.

Make 1 recipe pie crust. Chill crust while you prepare the leeks.

Clean 1 leek by slicing it into thin rings and teasing each ring apart in a large bowl of water. Lift rings out with a slotted spoon or small sieve and pat them dry.

Heat 2 tsp olive oil and 2 tsp butter in a skillet. When combined, add leeks and saute.

While the leeks saute, you should have time to roll out your crust. Take 1/4 of your pie crust, flatten slightly and roll out on a floured board into a 10 inch circle. Fold and place in a 9-inch pie tin or tart pan.

Scatter feta cheese to taste on crust — I use enough to almost cover the bottom. Add sauteed leeks.

Slice 1 roasted red pepper into small squares. Scatter on top of leeks.

Sprinkle vegetables with additional feta, plus 2 Tbsp grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese.

Beat 3 eggs. Add a splash of milk. Whisk. Pour custard over vegetables. if necessary, add milk to fill crust.

Bake quiche until top puffs and browns, at least half an hour.

Food Notes: You may, of course, substitute cheeses if you prefer something else to feta, substitute scallions or sauteed onions for leeks, substitute sun-dried tomatoes for the roasted red peppers. Quiche is, by nature, a flexible recipe. Because I was using feta, a salty cheese, I didn’t add any salt — if you choose a mild, sweet cheese, you might want to add some. If you want to eat this during Passover week, you could make it without crust.

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Painting shows pear tart tatin and ingredients.

Pear Tart Tatin. 12″ x 12″ gouache. Sharyn Dimmick.

I had a music potluck to go to yesterday. I started thinking Friday night about what I would make: it came down to orange pound cake made with orange juice and zest, a repeat of the St. Patrick’s Day knishes sans Canadian bacon in deference to vegetarian singers, or a pear tart tatin. Those of you who read about our grocery finds a few posts ago will recall that I bought three pounds of Bosc pears. I have roasted pears to eat as dessert and I have included roasted pears in a few winter soups, but I had never before made a tart tatin. I was somewhat swayed by the thought that I had one pie crust waiting in the fridge. I was also swayed by the fact that I greatly prefer pie to cake and I love fruit desserts.

As it turned out, the pie crust in the fridge was a little too crumbly and a little too small and I ended up making a whole new batch: now we have old leftover crust and new leftover crust. Oh well: making and eating things with pie crust does not trouble us in this household.

While I used my Mom’s never-fail pie crust recipe for the tart tatin, I used the method and ingredients for the most part described in Chez Panisse Desserts, with one change, two additions and one error, which may have proved beneficial.

Alice Waters and Lindsey Sher give the ingredients as one 10-inch circle of pie dough or puff pastry, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, about 5 medium Bosc or Winter Neli pears and an optional tablespoon of rum, Cognac, brandy or Armagnac. I used salted butter, eight small Bosc pears, and rum. I added 1/2 Tbsp of vanilla extract and a sprinkling of ginger. Waters and Sher say to bake the tart at 400 degrees, which I would have done, except, despite reading the recipe, I had set my oven at 350.

If you don’t have pie crust on hand, you’ll have to make that first. You will find my Mom’s recipe here. If you make it, you will have three more crusts, or at least two and a half because Mom’s recipe makes four crusts (It is hard to make less with her recipe because it calls for a whole egg).

Once you have gotten your pie crust made, set it to chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the other ingredients. It’s up to you whether you want to peel and core pears first or make caramel first. At any rate, you will be peeling and coring pears. You can use halves or quarters in the tart. I used halves, which looked quite nice. I put the tablespoon of rum and the half-tablespoon of vanilla in the bowl with the peeled, halved pears.

I then got out a cast iron skillet and set it on medium heat. I added the butter and sugar to the skillet and stirred with a wooden spoon until the caramel turned light brown, at which time I removed the pan from the heat and continued to stir. The caramel continues to darken: you keep stirring it so that it turns evenly instead of darkening in any hot spots. Mine came out a lovely, reddish brown.

Place the pears in the caramel in a circle with the narrow ends pointing to the center. I had a small, pear-less circle in the center, which I filled by cutting the last pear into smaller pieces. I put my pears cut-side down, although Alice and Lindsey say to put the rounded side down. You are going to flip this dessert over after it is baked, so, whichever way you do it, it is going to come out the opposite. My brain does not like to think in reversals (it gets confused). Do what you like. When you have got your pears looking all pretty and symmetrical, you are going to put the pastry over the top. Before I did this, I poured the leftover vanilla-rum mixture over the pears and sprinkled them with perhaps 1 tsp powdered ginger. I folded the crust in quarters, then unfolded it over the fruit, tucking the edges down into the sides of the pan since this crust will end up being the tart base. I also, as instructed, pushed the dough gently into the pears — it forms a slight wave pattern, molding around the curves of the pears. Cut a few slits in the crust and transfer the tart to your hot (or not so hot) oven.

I checked my tart after 30 minutes — that’s when I discovered my temperature error: plenty of browned juices bubbled up, but the crust was not brown. I cranked the oven up to 400 and let the tart bake for another 20 minutes until the crust was properly browned. My error with the oven temperature may have caused deeper caramelization of the fruit, which I happen to like, and had no ill effects on the caramel or the crust, save needing extra time for browning.

When the crust has browned to your satisfaction, remove the tart from the oven and let it sit for a few minutes — the pan will be really hot. When you are ready for the next step, take a plate larger than your skillet, place the plate on top of the pan and carefully invert the skillet onto the plate. With any luck, your tart will come out whole. If a pear or two get left behind, just use a spoon to transfer them back to their place on the tart. If you have lost a bit of crust, you will have the pleasure of sampling the caramel-infused crust: the caramel layer transforms basic pie crust into a new delight.

Mom dug out the top of a popsicle mold, which we plopped in the center of the tart to hold the wrappings away from the fruit. I wrapped the tart in two layers of aluminum foil and carted it off on the bus in the rain to my friend Elaine’s house. The singers consumed every scrap of the tart. Toni had three pieces. Elaine, who does not like Bosc pears, had two. Elaine said she would like the tart made with stone fruit. I said I thought it might be delicious with fresh figs. We have to wait for those fruits, but some pears are in season now. I was pleased with how easy it was to make a dessert that had intimidated me (the caramel, the flipping, the careful arrangement of the fruit, would the crust withstand the weight of the tart and all of that caramel? Would it leak?). Trust me, friends — if I can do it, you can do it.

Food Notes: If you are afraid of pie crust, you can also make this with frozen puff pastry. I recommend, however, that you visit your nearest crust expert to overcome this fear. Most pie bakers would be glad to help you learn to make pie crust.

painting of sour cherry pie, cherry syrup and ingredients

Sour Cherry Pie (Detail) 12″ x 12″ gouache and watercolor paper. Sharyn Dimmick

How can cherries be a part of seasonal cooking in November when I don’t live in Australia? When the weather turns cold we turn to preserved foods. We still have apples on our backyard apple tree, but Mom asked me to roast a pork loin and some squash while she and my sister-in-law Barbara scrubbed and taped walls for painting (I know I got the better part of this division of labor). Because I am supposedly getting ready for a week away, I wanted an easy pie with no peeling and paring, no slicing, so I went for the canned cherries in the garage. These are pitted sour cherries canned in juice. Mom had made crust earlier in the week, so it was pie time again. And while I’m at it, I’ll just say that I have made fresh sour cherry pie from some sour cherries I scored at the Ferry Plaza market in San Francisco and — drum roll — we prefer pie made with canned sour cherries.

Here is how to make cherry pie — my cherry pie.

Make the crust first. If you make Madge’s recipe, you will have enough crust for two cherry pies, so you can pit my cherry pie against your favorite recipe, double the filling recipe and make two cherry pies from this recipe or save the extra crust for quiche or apple pie. Our recipe is handy at Thanksgiving and Christmas when you are baking lots of of pies, but. truth to tell, pie is never a problem here: we’ll eat it for breakfast, dinner, lunch and tea.

Once again, the no-rant version* of pie crust for your convenience:

Cut 1 cup of vegetable shortening plus 2 Tbsp of butter into 3 cups of unbleached flour and 1 tsp salt  until the mixture resembles small peas. Do not overwork the dough — you want to see streaks of fat in the raw dough: they will melt while baking and create flaky crust. If you use salted butter, you can reduce the salt to 1/4 tsp.

Into a 1-cup liquid measuring cup, break 1 large egg. Beat egg with fork until blended.

Add 1 Tbsp cider vinegar to egg and stir. Then add water until combined liquids measure 1/2 cup, plus a little more.

Add liquids to shortening and flour and work just until combined. Pat dough into a flattened circle. If you are a novice pie baker, you may want to wrap the dough in waxed paper and chill it for awhile. The intrepid and experienced can divide the dough in half and proceed by cutting one half-circle in half again — this recipe makes four crusts, so half of it will give you the crust for your two-crust cherry pie.

Roll crust out on a floured work surface with a floured rolling pin. Roll firmly but lightly, being sure to roll all the way to the edges — you want the crust thin, but you don’t want to press it down and make it stick. You’ll figure it out — it’s not that hard. Try your best to keep the crust circular. Measure the crust by setting your pie plate on top of it, allowing for enough crust to cover the sides. Fold rolled crust into quarters to pick it up and unfold it again in your pie tin.

Now you have an aesthetic choice to make. For that classic lattice cherry pie you can roll your next quarter of crust into another circle and cut the crust into long strips, which you will lay crosswise over the filling later. If you don’t have the inclination to build a lattice, just take your circle and fold it into quarters, leaving it for the top crust later.

Go and preheat your oven to 375 degrees if using a Pyrex pie plate. If you use metal, you can start the pie at 400, but be on hand to turn it down after ten or fifteen minutes.

Now the filling:

Mix 1/4 cup cornstarch and scant 3/4 cup sugar in a dry saucepan. Whisk until blended.

Open 2 cans of sour cherries packed in water (Do not use cherry pie filling, which belongs on The Horror Roll). Drain the juice from the cherries into a 2-cup measuring cup — you will have about 1 and 1/3 cups. Leave the drained cherries in the cans for now.

Whisk 1/3 cup cherry juice into the cornstarch and sugar and stir with whisk until thickened over medium heat. The first sign that the cornstarch is working is the appearance of little shapes that look like ragged skin. If you don’t care for the pale pink color add the secret ingredient, red food coloring, drop by drop until you get a hue you like — I particularly recommend this option if you are going the lattice crust route or planning to take photos of your pie. When the mixture is thick and glossy add the reserved cherries, remove from heat and stir in

1 Tbsp butter and

a grating of fresh nutmeg

Pour the filling into your prepared pie shell and weave your lattice strips over the top, or plonk your unfolded top crust over the filling and make an attractive pattern of knife slashes for vents. Do not wash your saucepan yet! Place pie in oven. Bake for about 50 minutes or until crust is nicely browned and filling is bubbling.

Now, remember that other cup of cherry juice sitting in your measuring cup? You can drink it if you want to, which Mom does sometimes, but this is what I do with it: put it in your saucepan. Add some sugar — more than a Tablespoon, less than a cup. Turn the burner back on and boil it down until thickened — you want it to coat the spoon and be bubbly and shiny. Decant carefully into a glass jar (pour along a spoon or a knife if you are nervous — the metal absorbs some of the heat). Let cool and then refrigerate. This will keep indefinitely in a cold refrigerator. It is delicious on cornmeal pancakes, stirred into your morning oatmeal, over ice cream, with lemon pound cake …. You can also add some cream and cook it into cherry caramel — you’ll never drain cherries over the sink or throw out cherry juice again!

Let your pie cool while you eat dinner or make tea (at least fifteen or twenty minutes — the hotter the pie when you cut it, the more likely the filling is to run. We don’t care a whole lot about this, but for a prettier pie give it some cooling time).

Serve plain or a la mode.

*For the full rant on pie crust, please visit Gravenstein Apple Pie.

Food notes: For the full flavor benefit you must make this with sour cherries packed in water and scant the sugar as I do. For those of you stateside, canned sour pie cherries show up infrequently at Canned Foods Grocery Outlet — aka “Half Foods.” Some cherry pie recipes call for lemon — that will not be necessary with this pie. Please do not make it with sweet cherries (Bings, Burlats, etc.) — sour cherries have a different flavor, the ideal flavor for cherry pie in my opinion. Try them and see. If you are out of cornstarch, you can substitute flour: if you use flour, your filling will be cloudy rather than clear, but it will taste equally good.

On Kale: When I wasn’t making cherry pie, baking acorn squash with hot mustard, honey, lime and black pepper, roasting the squash seeds or boiling down cherry syrup I finally tried my friend Cathy’s version of kale with fresh walnuts and homemade raisins. The verdict at the table? “It’s still kale.” Back to the tasting laboratory…

I’ll be away for eight days starting Sunday sans electronic devices with which to entertain you or read and respond to your comments. Please make comments anyway if you are so moved. I’ll be back to coach you through your cherry pie crises well before the run up to Thanksgiving. I’ll also instruct the robot to give you a post to read on Wednesday while I am gone. Au revoir, dear readers. I’ll be back in person November 14 with stories to tell and perhaps a new recipe or two.

painting of lemon pie and blue teapot

Lemon Sponge Pie, 8″ x 8″, gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

My late older brother ate pretty much the opposite of what I eat. He ate a lot of fast food, quick food and processed food. He drank mugs of coffee laced with up to a quarter cup of sugar, minus what he spilled on the counter. He liked raw carrots and celery and fresh strawberries, but he only ate those things if someone else washed them, cut them up and put them in a bowl for him, preferably on the counter where he could see it. The only other vegetable he consumed regularly was onions, although he once ate seven jars of marinated artichokes out of the case Mom gave him on Christmas Day. In the fruit category he liked raisins, strawberry milk and blueberry pie.

In the last year of his life, Kevin had an experience that improved his diet slightly. He liked to tell the story. His then girlfriend, Barbara, who would become his wife, had a cat named Jigs. Jigs looked forward to Kevin’s visits because he nearly always brought bags of fast food with him. One day Kevin arrived with a McDonald’s bag, containing a cheeseburger and an order of Chicken McNuggets. Kevin broke  open a McNugget and gave it to Jigs. Jigs sniffed it, immediately commenced to try to bury it and walked away, insulted. Kevin said, when he told the story, that if a cat wouldn’t eat something that was supposed to be chicken he wasn’t going to eat it anymore either.

Michael Pollan has famously given us the guideline not to eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. We hew pretty closely to that in our household these days, although we each have our indulgences: we buy Prego spaghetti sauce because Mom made her own for years and we can honestly say we like Prego better. I particularly like the Italian sausage flavor. We use it for quick suppers. Sometimes I add fresh summer squash or mushrooms or eggplant to the sauce, but sometimes I don’t. Beyond that, my personal weaknesses are for Cheez-It crackers and Golden Grahams cereal. I know I can make cheese straws, but I love Cheez-Its  right out of the box. I don’t buy them often. Golden Grahams are even less defensible — they are tooth-achingly sweet and taste like candy: to be able to eat them at all, I mix them half and half with some healthier cereal — anything not sweetened — and eat them with almonds. I allow myself about one box a year, on sale only.

To me, scary food does not mean food that appears to be dripping blood or cupcakes accented with spiders: scary food means food that has been so processed that it does not resemble the original food it came from.  An order of Chicken McNuggets is a good example, but so is anything labeled “cheese food” or  “pasteurized processed cheese,” as well as white bread from the grocery store. There are many more examples: please feel free to tell me about your personal food horrors in the Comments. Perhaps I’ll put up a link called “The Horror Roll” and list some of your candidates there.

Halloween was Kevin’s birthday. There is nothing he liked that I cook on a regular basis and if I shared one of his “recipes” you would stop reading this blog. Seriously. Instead, I’ll share with you a favorite family recipe that my mother made yesterday with ripe Meyer lemons from our neighbor’s tree and her famous Swedish pie crust. For your convenience, I’ll give you the pie crust recipe below, but I’ll spare you the editorial commentary: for the full rant on pie crust, please visit the Gravenstein Apple Pie post. Meanwhile, get ready to make a Lemon Sponge Pie, which is much like a lemon meringue pie, except that you fold the egg whites into a lemon custard, which includes milk. If you like lemon desserts, you will want to try this.

Make the crust first:

Sift 3 cups unbleached flour with

1 tsp salt

Cut in 1 cup Crisco (or other vegetable shortening) until it is the size of peas. Add a little butter (1-2 Tbsp for flavor).

Break into a one cup measuring cup:

1 large egg. Beat it until blended.

Add to egg:

1 Tbsp white or cider vinegar

Add water until combined liquids reach 1/2 cup, plus a little.

Add liquids to flour, salt, shortening and butter. Stir together crust and form it into a flattened round. Cut 1/4  from the round — this is your crust for this lemon pie. Wrap the other 3/4 crust in waxed paper and store it in the refrigerator for your next pie or quiche (Crust recipe makes 4 single crusts or 2 double-crust pies).

Pat pie crust into a circle on a floured work surface. Roll it out, making sure to roll in all directions and roll out any thick edges. When you think you are done set a 9″ or 10″ pie plate on top of crust. Adjust as needed: you need to roll this crust very thin for best results.

Transfer your crust to your pie tin. The classic method is folding the crust into quarters and unfolding it in the tin.

Now preheat your oven to 400 degrees or 350 if using a Pyrex  pie plate. Proceed with filling.

Pie filling:

Separate 2 large eggs, whites into a small mixing bowl, yolks into a larger one.

Beat the egg whites until fairly stiff. Leave beaters in place and change to larger bowl.

Beat egg yolks with:

1 cup milk

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour.

Zest 3 or 4 lemons over the bowl of egg mixture. Squeeze juice from lemons into bowl — you need at least 1/3 cup of juice.

Fold egg whites gently into the other ingredients and pour filling into your prepared crust. Transfer the pie to the oven. Keep an eye on it —  you are going to bake it for about 25 minutes, but this pie burns easily. If you are worried about it, put a strip of foil over the crust. Bake until filling is not sloshy. Allow to cool to lukewarm — if you cut it too warm, the filling will run and you will have pudding with crust rather than pie.

Like it? You can bake three more with the crust you now have on hand, or you can make quiche, apple pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate pie — whatever you like best.

Food Note: I use Meyer lemons in this recipe because we grow them. Eurekas or other tart lemons are fine, but don’t go above 1/3 cup of juice with them: Meyer lemons are sweeter than other varieties.

The Horror Roll: To nominate candidates for  “The Horror Roll,” please list foods or “foods” that scare you by their apparent deviation from real food in the Comments section. I’ll start a “Horror Roll” page soon with some of the most horrendous nominees. In fact, I’ll start it now. Check it out.

Painting of a To-Do List

To-Do List. 6″ x 6″gouache, watercolor pencil and ink. Sharyn Dimmick

What if you come to visit and there is nothing new to read?

On days when I don’t post, I invite you to:

1) Read the About page (there’s a lot of information there).

2) Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the Home page and click on various links. In the links section, you can find links to other artist’s sites, food blogs, sites for writers and cool participatory events like NaNoWriMo, which will begin soon.

3) Cruise through all of the illustrations on the site. I’ve added archives at the bottom of the home page, which should make this easier to do now.

Think about which is your favorite painting. Tell me.

Even think about buying one.

Which would you like to see in a future give-away?

Or would you rather have the last copy of my homemade illustrated cookbook made before I started “The Kale Chronicles?”

4) Check out the food blog links in the Apple Cake with Caramelized Fennel and Dark Rum post — you may find a new favorite or two.

5) Visit the Go-To Cookbooks post and think about your favorite cookbooks. Leave comments if you want.

6) Learn to make your own pie crust: follow the directions given under “Gravenstein Apple Pie.”

Painting depicts apple pie ingredients: flour, butter, apples, cinnamon, nutmeg.

Gravenstein Apple Pie 8″x8″ gouache and watercolor pencil Sharyn Dimmick

Sometime in August Gravenstein apples come to the Berkeley Farmers’ Market. By early September they are gone. As soon as I see them I start buying them, buying no fewer than ten pounds at a time and stashing them at the back of our very cold refrigerator to make Gravenstein apple pie.

Gravensteins are an early apple here. They come in before Pippins, before Pink Ladies. They are perfect pie apples, tart and crisp with an intensely apple flavor. I grew up eating green Gravensteins from my grandmother’s tree in El Cerrito, climbing into the crotch to pick them, picking up windfalls to trim for pies and apple sauce. When the crop was bountiful, Mom would peel and quarter apples and save them in the freezer for later in the year.

Gravenstein apple pie initiates apple pie season at our house. The season will finish when we pick the last apples from the dwarf tree in our backyard, when the market moves to winter citrus, when I can no longer scavenge fallen apples in the streets of Berkeley (It’s amazing to me how many people have apple trees and let the fruit fall where it is smushed under the wheels of cars — we seem to have forgotten what food is and where we can get it as well as how to cook).

To make apple pie you need two things: good cooking apples and flaky, tender pie crust. If you do not live where Gravensteins grow, consult farmers at your local farmers’ market for recommendations for local apples. Let them know you will be making pies with them. Pippins also make fine apple pies.

To make pie crust, follow my mother’s recipe, given below. Do not deviate from it if you want good results. It may look a little different than other recipes you have seen or tried: for one thing, it does not start with two sticks of butter and does not include ice water. It is a Swedish pie crust and includes an egg and vinegar — don’t ask me why, just trust me on this one.

What does it use instead of butter? Vegetable shortening — you know that stuff that comes in a can. You are worried about transfats. I know. You have never had Crisco in your house. Well, you need it to make Madge’s pie crust. The only acceptable substitute is lard: if you use butter instead you will get a heavy, greasy pie crust, so don’t do it — just follow the recipe. You don’t eat pie everyday and a little vegetable shortening isn’t going to kill you, so use Crisco or use lard and get on with it.

Measure into a large mixing bowl:

3 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp salt

Cut in :

1 cup vegetable shortening, plus a little butter for flavor, maybe 2 Tbsp or 3 — no more.

Stop when the shortening is in pieces the size of small peas.

Into a one-cup measuring cup, break

1  large egg

Whisk it with a fork until blended. Then add:

1 Tbsp cider vinegar and
Water until mixture measures a little more than 1/2 cup.

Whisk liquids to blend. Add to flour-shortening mixture. Stir just until blended, then work with your hands to shape crust into a large patty. Wrap the patty in waxed paper and refrigerate it while you make the filling. Do not wash the mixing bowl yet — you are not done with it.

For a standard two-crust apple pie, peel and core 4-5 large apples, cutting them into quarters and slicing them crosswise. If you want your apples to stay white, keep a cut lemon handy and squeeze it periodically onto your sliced apples. Taste your apples though — if they are quite tart you may not want to add lemon: just let them darken.

Put the sliced apples in your mixing bowl (the one that you didn’t wash). Toss them with:

1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar, depending on sweetness of apples.
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg.

Preheat your oven to 375 ( 350 if using Pyrex).

Now roll out your crusts. Remove pie dough from the refrigerator and cut it into quarters. Wrap two quarters back up and store them in the refrigerator for another pie (They’ll keep more than a week if wrapped well).

Flour a bread board, table, or other work surface, or place a thin linen or cotton kitchen towel on a surface and flour that. Flour a rolling pin.

Take your first quarter of dough and round it into a circle with your hands, smashing it slightly. Now pick it up and turn it over. Take the rolling pin to it, rolling in all directions, trying to keep it circular and making sure to roll out any thick edges. Do not be afraid — use a firm, light hand. Roll it thin. When you think it is large enough, take out your pie tin and set it on top of the dough: the bottom crust has to be larger than the pie plate because it has to cover the sides and make the edge crust. When you are satisfied, fold the crust in half and again into quarters. Pick it up, plunk it in the pie tin and unfold it again. If it tears, don’t worry you can patch it with more crust glued in place with a little water. If you guessed wrong, you can patch in crust above where yours ends and roll out a rim crust with your fingers by rolling scraps into a rope.

Now add the apple mixture to your bottom crust. Dot apples with a little butter. Roll out the top crust and place on top of the apples. Make sure to attach the top crust at the edge of the pan. Slash the top several times with a knife, prick holes with a fork or channel Martha Stewart and make cut-outs (Guess which of these things I don’t do?).

Bake pie for 45  minutes. Serve warm. Top with ice cream if desired.

Food notes: this recipe makes a tart pie. We like them that way: the taste of the fruit comes through. We scant the sugar in every pie we make and we always taste the fruit as a guide to how much sugar to add. Our pies do not have the gluey sweetness and texture of commercial pies you may have eaten.

Madge’s recipe makes four crusts: we have never cut it down. We either make two pies at once, or save the crust for another day and another pie — lemon? Quiche? Chicken pot pie? Tomato tart!

While you are enjoying your apple pie I will be traveling to New Mexico on September 4 for a writing retreat with Natalie Goldberg. I will be in silence for five days, unable to check my email or read and respond to your comments. I will attempt setting my blog robot to send you a recipe while I am gone and I will respond to all questions and comments upon my return on September 12. I’ll miss you, believe it or not. I leave you with an unfair question for pie fans: What is your favorite pie?

— Sharyn

Painting Note: For information on “Gravenstein Apple Pie” or any other original painting, please contact me here.