Wednesday, March 9, 2016

It's All About The Pie

Country folks really do love pie. Seems like every small town cafe we stop in for a quick bite has a pretty impressive selection of homemade pies. You can't argue the simple deliciousness of this classic dessert, and small town folks are pretty down to earth and usually pass on the froofy stuff.

So they love pie.

Naturally as a baker I am drawn to this phenomenon. I think of myself as more of a cake person but really, I love making pastry. I love the idea of the homemaker spending the afternoon cutting up fresh apples or sorting berries, piling it all into a flaky crust and baking it until a perfect golden brown. In a different time it might have been me in that kitchen, wearing a pretty apron, flour sprinkled on my shoes, rolling out the pastry to the perfect thickness. Maybe I picked the apples or peaches just that morning, from a tree in my own yard, or maybe I stopped at the market in town and bought a basket full.

Life has moved on from those simpler times, but even in the midst of our busier lives, there is something so special about a perfectly baked pie. Maybe it reminds us of our grandmothers, or Mom's homemade chocolate cream pie, or family time over the holidays with pumpkin and mince pies. Whatever our individual connections to those memories might be, the fact is, we all need to make time for pie, and while the era of the homemaker spending hours in the kitchen making homemade desserts all the time may be gone, but the generosity and friendship you find in America's small towns remains. A neighbor with an apple tree means everyone has fresh apples. 

I love hearing my friends' stories about their mothers and grandmothers and the different pies that were popular in their families. My friend Tina has a wonderful story of her mom's award-winning- and drop dead gorgeous- apple pie. Seriously, this pie looks like a giant sunflower and every time I see Tina make it and share pictures I can just imagine her mom in the kitchen peeling apples, rolling dough, crimping edges.

Almost everyone loves apple pie, but a very very special lady who was once a huge part of my life taught me to make an old fashioned creamy apple pie that her mother used to make, and I loved it, and when I make it now it reminds of her and all the time we spent together. She taught me so much about life and strength and how to always be gracious. It just seems fitting that I would make "her" pie and share it with you.

Evelyn's Sour Cream Apple Pie

pastry for one pie shell
6 or 7 apples*
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
several grinds freshly grated nutmeg
big pinch of salt
1 egg
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Crumb Topping (recipe follows)

*Choose apples that are good for baking, but not too tart. I like to mix up a couple kinds of apples.

Peel, core and cut up the apples into small pieces. Toss with lemon juice in a large bowl. Sprinkle with flour, spices, sugar and salt and toss to coat apples completely. 

In a small bowl combine the egg, sour cream and vanilla. Pour over apples and mix to coat well.

The velvety sour cream mixture coats the apples and
makes this pie so extra special.
 Roll out the pastry and fit into 9 inch pie plate. Crimp the edges. Pour the apples in the crust and place in a 350 degree oven. Bake the apples in the crust for 45 minutes. Watch the edges of the pastry closely and cover with foil if it's getting too browned.

While pie is baking, make the topping. After 45 minutes, remove from oven, sprinkle with crumb topping, and return to oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. 

Serve slightly warm or cool.

Crumb Topping

1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup sliced almonds

Combine everything except almonds and pulse in food processor to make crumbs (use a whisk or pastry blender to make by hand). Stir in the almonds. Sprinkle over the pie and continue baking.

Just the aroma of this amazing apple pie makes me smile and think of Evelyn. She taught me all about babies, when I knew absolutely NOTHING about how to care for a baby, all about canning (although she did things the "old" way and I don't), all about saving money and always making sure to have a secret grocery stash- a "squirrel cupboard" as she called it, and to always put my children first. She was a great role model, a hardworking strong woman, a cancer survivor, a volunteer, a loving wife, mother and grandmother. She helped me through some very difficult times over the years and told me to always hold my head up high. She was my mother in law, and I miss her every single day.

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