A few weeks ago we were all about pies – apple, pumpkin, pretty much anything in or on a crust. But Thanksgiving came and went and Christmas muscled in to shove pies right out of the oven. Then it was all chocolate reindeer and cookies.
Now New Year’s has gone and we’re supposed to be working on our new, perfect selves. And by perfect selves, they mean perfect pie crust, right? Because I still have a garage full of apples.
I have spent years trying not to entomb perfectly good fruit inside tooth-breaking shells. I think, finally, I am gaining on it. Not that my crusts near my mother’s light, flaky perfection, but the tooth-breaking days seem to be over.
I am a liberal arts baker – you won’t find me leveling the tops of any measuring cups – which I realize might have extended my quest for crust nirvana. But I do believe in a good math ratio. And this is the one you need for crust: three parts flour to two parts fat to one part water (aka Michael Ruhlman’s 3-2-1 pie crust). I like that so much better than a cup of flour plus one tablespoon. Who does that? Wait. I know. I try not to bake around them.
It’s also about keeping the butter cold. Crisco adds a certain level of insurance, but I am trying to wean myself off of that hydrogenated mayhem and achieve flakiness with butter alone. Many a blog and cookbook promise it can be done.
This year’s epic apple harvest has provided ample practice material–for cakes, pies, cider hard and sweet, apple chips, apple sauce made from an esoteric collection of oddly named heirhooms: Blue Pearmain, Winter Banana, Northern Spy, Baldwin, Westfield-Seek-No-Further, Black Oxford, Twenty Ounce, Belle de Boskoop, Zabergau Reinette.
Then there are the apples in the garage – a whole tree’s worth of golden delicious. That means the race is on. We have no basement or root cellar to store them in, so they’ll be mush if we don’t get moving. If I weren’t a snow lover, I would say that was one more reason to love our warm December.
We have made a gallant effort to preserve the bounty. Our freezer is filled with peeled and sliced fruit. We have given apples away by the bag full. Yet we still we have apples.
So if you’re looking for me anytime in the next few weeks, chances are I’ll be peeling apples at the kitchen counter. My peeler blade may be worn out before I find the bottom of the apple boxes, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.