I hate apple pie (but I'll bake one for you)
Once, in a restaurant, I watched a group of friends one by one excitedly order slices of warm, homemade apple pie a la mode from the smiling waitress. When she got to me, I said, “I’ll just have the mode.”
Lord knows, I am not un-American or anti-motherhood, but if I am going to invest precious calories on something sweet, it certainly isn’t going to be apple pie. Unlike Mark Twain, who, in 1878, lamented how much he missed apple pie while traveling in Europe; or 19th century English novelist Jane Austen, who said, "Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness," I find the stuff terribly dull.
As far back as 14th century England, someone came up with the idea to take a beautiful autumn object d’art, crisp and healthy and delicious on its own, and cook it to death with sugar in a flimsy crust.
Nope, I’ll pass on the pie and choose instead a sliver of chocolate mousse-whipped cream torte cake. Or a creamy crème brulee. Or, heck, a handful of Poppycock. But I am not altogether blind to this American obsession, so for you, Mark Twain, and for the one out of four Americans who prefer apple over any other flavor of pie, I give you two of my pie recipes that I hate the least.
Soft, chewy bits of caramel and crunchy pecans almost make me forget there are McIntosh apples in there.
2 unbaked pie crusts (9”) for top and bottom (thawed)
4 McIntosh apples, cored, peeled and thinly sliced
½ cup chopped pecans
¼ cup sugar
¼ lb. caramels (about 14), coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons flour
¼ cup milk + sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make filling: In a large bowl, toss together apples, pecans, sugar, caramels and flour. Fill one pie shell with mixture. Roll out remaining pie shell on lightly floured surface to a 12” circle and place on top of filled pie. Pinch top and bottom crusts together, cutting any excess with scissors. Cut several slits in the top and brush with a little milk. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake 30 minutes, then put a little tin foil around the edges of the crust so it won’t burn. Continue baking 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Best served slightly warm.
GOLDEN APPLE CUSTARD PIE
A cheerful, sunshine-yellow pie. Rich and creamy and pretty to look at.
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 deep-dish pie crust, unbaked
2 large, Golden Delicious apples, cored and sliced
1 ½ cups milk
½ cup light cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup sugar, divided
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter the bottom of the pie crust and arrange apple slices in an overlapping pinwheel design. In a large bowl, blend together eggs, milk, cream, vanilla and all but 2 teaspoons of the sugar. Carefully spoon mixture over the apples. Mix remaining sugar with nutmeg and salt and sprinkle on top. Place pie in a roasting pan and pour boiling water to reach halfway up the side of the pie. Bake 40 minutes. Reduce oven to 300 degrees and bake 20 minutes more, or until custard is set. Cool completely before slicing. Store in refrigerator. Robin Benzle hosts the food and travel website, www.robinbenzle.com. ©2009 by Robin Benzle. All rights reserved. First one-time world rights to Westlake/Bay Village Observer.