We’re all on a quest for the one. Let’s go all caps on that–THE ONE. The One that will complete us, reflect our best self, that will make us a better person. The One our friends will love being with almost as much as us. The One we can take home to our families. The One we can’t wait for our parents to meet at Thanksgiving dinner. The One. You know…The Pie.
This pie is my One. I would like to think it reflects me-delicate on the outside, but multilayered, sweet yet tart, complex, relatively perfect if untidy…friends asked me to make this pie for them to take to parties I can’t even attend. That isn’t an exaggeration. This is the pie I’ll go out of my way to share. And my family adores it. They’d ask it back to dinner and send it Christmas cards even if we broke up.
There were 5 pies at this last Thanksgiving. I made a pumpkin pie. A guest brought a yogurt-pumpkin pie and some sort of pineapple-coconut confection. My aunt made an amazing pecan pie that actually made me like, nay, flipping’ crave pecan pie for the first time in my life. And then there was also…MY PIE.
A total of 11 guests were present at dinner. Naturally there were leftovers of everything. Except MY PIE. That got devoured. We sent some leftovers of other pie home with guests, yet still had portions of three leftover pies. But as I said, not My Pie. THE PIE. The One. Through that evening’s haze of sugar and alcohol my family insisted that I make another one the next day. And even once clear-headed the next morning, in the frigid air of St. Louis, my family was willing to go to the store to get more cranberries, apples and flour. I promise there are no drugs in My Pie. Love, perhaps. Once you get it you don’t wanna be without.
How do you find The One? Time and an open mind. I’m sorry to say there is no Tinder for pies. Unless you count the epicurious app? This pie really came to be because of a shortage of necessary ingredients. Rather than abandon plans for my stellar apple pie, I rummaged in the fridge. Despite Thanksgiving performance anxiety (this is NOT the time you want to screw up) I made an adaptation or two or four from the recipe I was going to use and created the first iteration of this pie. Then over the years our relationship has blossomed. But I knew from first bite it was gonna be My Pie. Sometimes love is so easy.
I have come to believe in butter crust for most things but I stand by the shortening crust for this one. It is the perfect delivery system for the filling and topping. Let me compare it to an exquisite bit of brie you are going to eat on a cracker, perhaps with a touch of quince paste or something. You need the right combo of sounding board, ooze, salt and sweet. If you put the cheese on a massive flavorful cracker that cracker is all you will taste. This is also why I don’t like a lot of sandwiches-it is hard to get the bread to work in harmony with the filling. But for that Brie a thin, delicately perfect bit of toasted baguette? It’s bland on its own, but transforms when paired with its toppings. That is how I see it with crust. To each pie it’s own crust style. And My Pie goes shortening. As a super-duper bonus, if you use a vegan butter substitute in the streusel this pie will be vegan. Not that that made Moby give it awards, alas.
I’m debating whether I should tell you my secret ingredient. Hmmm. Okay, I’m gonna leave one ingredient vague in the directions. It seems small but this ingredient IS THE DIFFERENCE that makes it My Pie. Whoever guesses what, of the one vague thing, is the secret and can guess what I use gets drinks with me if the timing is right. Or just my utmost respect for their culinary acumen. We’ll see. But I’ll keep an open mind. My Pie and I have an open relationship.
1 1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (I stir and spoon into the cup), plus extra for rolling
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening (I shamelessly use Crisco)
Whisk the flour and salt together. I use a fork to whisk. I know. Add the shortening and use your fork to cut in until floury lumps are forming the size of, say, a cocoa puff. Some can be bigger, some smaller. Feel it out. Now, sprinkle a few tablespoons of cold water over and toss it in. It will go further than you think. Add more water bit by bit until the dough is just sticking together. Don’t chill this dough or it will be really hard to roll. I just sprinkle some flour on a piece of parchment paper and roll it out there until it is big enough for the pie plate. Lift it up periodically and sprinkle more flour between the dough and parchment as needed. Now fold in half and gently ease in the pie plate. I use a Pyrex. If you are like me and not good at getting a perfect circle you may have to do a bit of patchwork on your crust but don’t worry. Cut off and/or patch in enough dough to get the same length of dough on the rim of the plate all the way around. You can make a pinched crust or use a fork to make a pretty crust but it will taste good no matter what you do. Put that sucker in the freezer.
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (or vegan butter-y stick)
Put it all in a bowl and get in there with your hands. Pinch it together until it looks pebbly. I feel like you will know when it is right. Just picture what the top of streusel pies look like. That is how it should look. Put the bowl in the fridge whilst you cobble up the filling.
2 granny smith apples
2 macintosh apples
some citrus fruits for squeezing (do not use jarred juice)
2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
pinch of allspice and/or cloves
pinch of ginger
Cinnamon, as you are in the mood for. around a heaping tsp., if you need a ballpark figure.
Heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Start with the apples but have the citrus halved and on the ready. Peel the apples, cut into quarters, cup each quarter into a few long slices then halve those. Every time you put a handful or or of apple into the bowl give a hefty squeeze of citrus juice and toss it until the apples are coated. Repeat, until they are chopped. Mix in the rest of the ingredients. Take the crust out of the freezer and put the filling in. Make sure the apples and cranberries distribute evenly and there aren’t any weird nooks. Take the streusel out of the fridge and strew it on, pretty evenly. Put in the oven. If worried about overflow you can put the pie plate on a baking tray. After about twenty minutes check the pie. The minute the streusel starts to get brown tent aluminum foil over the whole thing. Trust me, if you don’t your streusel will burn. Keep the pie baking about 45 minutes total. Delish.