Maintaining an Autumn tradition, I made the first of many apple pies. The apples grew on trees in our yard, picked yesterday. I peeled, sliced, and spiced several.
Sadly, this was not my best effort. The taste is great, but the crust was not as it should be. That is entirely my fault, because I abandoned a trusted friend, Betty Crocker, and tried a French recipe. The result was unlike the old standby and not as good as crusts I have enjoyed in France....but the taste was rather good.
The unusual pattern of crust was a creative solution to a problem with the dough. The consistency did not permit rolling into a top crust, so I cut strips. These were not long enough to make a traditional woven pattern, so I improvised. No one unfamiliar with apple pies would know the difference and think this normal. I’m amazed at how the brain works in a crisis. I could have made a crumble crust, but did not want to waste the dough.
I also made a few gallons of apple sauce, which is less-easy to screw up. Most was frozen to enjoy throughout the long, cold winter, so we will not have to suffer with apple sauce from store-bought factory apples or the canned variety. Each taste will remind me of picking the apples, peeling them, and watching over the pot.
Below is a sure sign that Autumn has arrived...
After climbing a ladder to pick apples, making a crust, peeling and slicing, and preparing the filling, a fine specimen is ready to go in the oven...
One thing I learned years ago is that, if I want things like my mother used to make, I must make them myself. My wife is a great cook, but she grew up with different foods and flavors. The first step I took was to buy a copy of Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, because that was her favorite. By carefully following whatever recipe I chose, I could come close to the flavors of my youth. Occasionally, I had difficulty sourcing the exact ingredients in a foreign country, but most are the same everywhere.
Over time, I settled into a rut of making the same (few) items. An annual favorite (not always restricted to Autumn) is apple pie. One finds pastries with apple filling in various other lands, but none tastes like one made from a Betty Crocker recipe. My efforts come close to the flavor I recall my mother producing.
And, the taste of the finished pie is as good as it looks...
Having left home at an early age, the only way to enjoy things like my mother used to make was to make them myself. The first step was to buy a Betty Crocker cookbook, because that was her favorite. Like learning to swim, I simply jumped into the water. I have had good luck, simply because I select simple items.
The key to any successful cooking or baking is having the proper ingredients. Most are available in Europe (although lack of transfat does affect some results).
I was reminded of this today, because I baked an apple pie. Someone gave my wife a bucket of apples from their tree, and they needed proper use. The first step was a batch of apple sauce. That was easy. Next, I made a pie.
I have made many apple pies in my life, and it has become a family favorite. My wife is a great cook, but has “issues” with baking, since she likes to throw things together. It has taken years to convince her that baking needs careful measurements. She is improving, but I still make the pies.
I have experimented with different recipes for apple pie, but keep coming back to good ol’ Betty. The key to today’s success must be the apples. Although my memory may deceive me, I consider this to be the best I ever made.
I might not share a single slice...
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.