“That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Today as I was sorting through my daily mail that usually consists of junk, bills and the occasional card I came upon something out of the ordinary. There, addressed to me, was a letter from my alma mater. This envelope was especially interesting because it looked like the poor person who addressed it had the same terrible hand writing as I have been cursed with! Upon further inspection I realized that I had, in fact, addressed the envelope… was this some kind of joke? No, this was a letter that I had written to myself five years ago, in my junior year of high school! I had completely forgotten about this assignment, but was impressed to see that a younger me had written quite a long letter!
As I read the letter memories flooded back to me… I could picture myself curled up in my overstuffed pink arm chair, surrounded by childhood collectibles writing vigorously every thought that came to mind. Of course, I wrote about the straight A’s I received on my report card (for the first time ever) and how I should learn to love cleaning my kitchen, but I went a little deeper than that. I wrote about how important my family was to me and how grateful I was for all of the opportunities I had. To quote a younger me I said,
“I realize that I am so lucky, my family is one of the few that I know that actually eat supper together every night… I can only imagine what it will be like in five years!”
Five years have past and so much has happened to me since. I achieved every goal I had set for myself way back then: get scholarships, go to a good culinary school, and become an Executive Chef. I have maintained certain things that I have always been most important to me, it is still my top priority to feed my family, to cook for others and to be hospitable. I don’t know where I will be five years from now, but I know that those things will never change. Thank you Mrs. E. Miller for sending those letters… it was a true joy looking back.
After taking a trip down memory lane I thought I would make something very special. When I was a junior in high school I made it my quest to create the best apple pie. I was practicing and planning for a $25,000 scholarship to a very prestigious culinary school- an apple pie baking contest. For two years I devoted myself to researching apples, crust and pie baking techniques. I baked over 100 pies and recorded my finding in an “apple pie journal”. I did not win the competition (which is something I am still bitter about and is another long story) but I did perfect my apple pie recipe!
Yield: 4, 8 ounce portions
4 cups All-Purpose Flour
¾ cup Shortening
¾ cup Butter, softened
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp Sugar
½ cup Water, ice cold
1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
Start by combining the flour, butter, shortening, salt and sugar. Work together with your hands like this…
Most recipes say to work the dry mixture until it looks like cornmeal… what? No one ever knows what that looks like! It takes practice (a lot) to know what good pie dough feels like. Until then work the mixture until it looks like crumbs, as shown below.
In order to create a flaky crust you must make sure that your liquid is ICE cold. Before I mix the crumbs I whip my liquids together and add one ice cube. Add the liquid slowly… it is hard to turn back once you have poured in too much!
Gently work the dough until it holds together. Be sure not to over mix- that will make your end result tough and not flaky– bad news.
Form dough into 8 ounce (roughly) disks and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Chill for one half hour before rolling. If you don’t need all of the dough right away keep it in the cooler for up to four days- or freeze it.
Now it is time to multi-task! While the dough is chilling prep your apple filling. I have peeled more apples than I care to count and have mastered the art! Rather than trying to see how long you can make a monkey’s tail by peeling the whole apple- cut it in quarters then de-seed and peel each piece in two quick swipes!
10-12 Honey Crisp Apples
¼ cup Butter, melted
¾ cup White Sugar
¾ cup Brown Sugar
1 tsp Lemon Juice
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Tapioca, fine
Combine peeled apples with sugars,butter, lemon juice, cinnamon and 1/2 of the tapioca.
On a well floured surface roll the dough to desired thickness.
If the edges of the dough begin to split press in the sides. It is important to maintain a smooth circle while you are rolling the dough- the end result will be prettier that way! Be sure to keep the counter well floured and rotate the dough as you roll it out- or you will have a frustrating mess.
To insure that your dough is rolled out big enough measure with your baking dish.
Place the dough in the bottom of the pan. Gently press the dough so the it forms to the pan- sprinkle with the remaining tapioca.
Pour apples into pan and pack them down. For good measure put a few tabs of butter on top (why not?). Top with crust by rolling the dough onto your rolling pin, as shown below.
Trim the edges of the dough until it hangs over the edge by about one inch. Fold the edges under and crimp like this…
Roll out the dough scraps and have fun decorating the top of your pie. Brush the final product with milk and sprinkle with sugar (all but the outside edges- they will get way too brown!). Cut small air holes in the top of the crust then bake at 400 degrees until top crust is browned and apples are tender (30-35 minutes)
Here is the final result… I had to snap a quick picture because the entire pie vanished within just a few minutes!
Happiness = A piece of apple pie, fresh out of the oven with vanilla ice cream. My family has taste tested so many apples pies, good and bad… and this recipe is by far the best I have come up with. If you have a family gathering (or a craving for pie!) make this tried and true recipe-You will be the most popular person at the potluck this year!