The month of Pie!
November is the highlight of pie love. At the end of the celebration of Thanksgiving nothing satisfies like pie. It is usually an apple, pumpkin, sweet potato or pecan pie in this part of the country.
Many years ago I had been invited to be the official pie judge at an event at The Cincinnati Art Museum. The only rule for the pie entrants was that it had to be an apple pie.
I have never seen so many varieties; double crusted, crumb topped, custard laden braided on top, smothered with caramel and even purchased from a store (it was easy to tell). It wasn’t until I began tasting, and there were easily 25-30 pies, that I realized two things
- There are probably as many apple pie recipes as there are cooks to bake them and
- It is difficult to make a really great apple pie.
Think of all the variables that contribute to its success. The choice of apple is like the choice of grapes for wine. Where they were grown has an impact on the taste. How long they had been sitting in storage and how they were sliced, thin or thick have an impact on taste and texture.
The next variable is the crust and the hand of the baker. There are so many ways to ruin a crust: it can be overworked, too thick, too thin, bland, soggy and scrappy .Another critical element with regard to a good crust is the fat that is used. Everyone can swear the only way to do it is with either lard, vegetable shortening, butter or a secret blend of two of the three.
How about what kind of thickener to use? How fresh are your spices? How about the amount of fresh butter?
Then there is the temperature as well as the quality of your oven. Bake it hot first, then turn it down, just bake it at 350 degrees until it bubbles. The best intentioned pie can be ruined by being baked in a bad oven.
So as we approach Thanksgiving there is one thing to remember, to bake a pie is a risk that many brave members of your family may attempt, so give them a little slack and reward their courage with an empty plate.