Saturday, December 28, 2013

I Can Bake My Pie and Eat It Too

I have been drooling over this recipe for apple pie since I saw the photo in the article These Pies Are Anything but Humble, and since I have a few days off work around the holidays, I thought I'd finally give it a try. Well, what do you know? My first ever pie was a big success! Wo hooo!

They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I totally wanted to try the recipe for Lafayette's Caramel-Apple Pie Élevée because of its incredibly tasty-looking photo. Cookbook editors take note: this is why you should have great photos in cookbooks, not just the text of the recipes...we women like to be inspired, and I find that I browse food blogs whose owners dabble in photography more and more often because they usually have food for the body and for the eyes:)

I changed the recipe a tiny bit because I am not a huge fan of caramel; I like it fine, just not well enough to have a whole pie that tastes like caramel. Instead, I substituted the caramel sauce the recipe calls for with muscovado sugar syrup (just heat up the sugar with a bit of water, and voila). Muscovado sugar has this wonderful rich molasses flavor, so I thought it would be a great way to make the apple pie recipe my own - and I wasn't wrong. The apple filling turned out great.

It seemed a bit daunting to make pie crust from scratch for the first time, though, especially since growing up here in Bulgaria I had never seen anyone I know make their own pie, and I had only ever had pie in a chain of sweet shops and coffee houses called Pchela and in the US, of course. First of all, the recipe said that I should use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, and I was like....oooookkaaay...please tell me who here owns anything like that...It is funny actually, but if you ask a Bulgarian who is not a chef or cooking enthusiast whether they have even heard of KitchenAid, he/she would most likely say "A KitchenWhatNow?" Yeah, maybe it is because kitchens here are mostly tiny (why architects keep designing apartments with teensy kitchens is beyond me) most people don't seem to have stand mixers, and I am no exception.

But never you mind, I thought, I can do this with my hand mixer. I am tough like that. Or not. I had my four cups of flour, the sugar, and the butter cubes in a big bowl, and I had the genius idea to use my hand mixer with the regular whisks to mix the ingredients into what the recipe said should be a texture that "resembles sand." So I start the mixer, and what do you know, flour is blown around in my face and nothing seems to be mixing. Of course - there isn't any liquid in there to make the mix settle, and the recipe wants me to add mere spoonfuls of water and three egg yolks only after I achieve the elusive sandy texture.

So then I decide that I can transfer everything in a bigger bowl, but that doesn't solve the problem either, and neither does putting aluminum foil over half of the bowl, so that the flour doesn't fly. Finally, I gave up and did it by hand with a whisk, feeling a bit like an idiot and consoling myself that Julia Child didn't use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment either when she started cooking. Oh well. Still, the do-it-by-hand method was actually quite successful, and I did manage to make the dough, refrigerate it, roll it, refrigerate it again and so on. I feel like quite the "sand texture" expert at this point.

The second obstacle to my day of pie making was actually the fact that, silly me, I forgot that I didn't really own a pie dish of any kind. I have several rectangular pans and some muffin cups, and since I love muffins and tiramisu is my favorite cake, those work well for me. However, I have yet to see a rectangular pie, and while I was pondering whether I would become the first woman out there to try that novel idea, I remembered that I bought a springform cake pan last year when I was making a tangerine cake. Problem solved.

This pie sure did take a while, in part because it was my first adventure into pie-land, but the final product was well worth it. It came out just as I had wanted but not dared hope: with golden crust, beautiful sugary lattice on top, and a sweet, spicy and slightly tangy apple filling that melts in your mouth. Delicious. I do love my American treats.

So check out the recipe for yourself, as well as some other pie recipes that also look great to me:

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