December 18th, 2010
I’ve been baking too much lately. It all started with Thanksgiving, when I decided to break our tradition of substituting pumpkin ice cream for the pumpkin pie. For some reason, I really wanted to make a pie this year.
Served cold with lots of fresh whipped cream, it seems to have jarred something loose in my psyche. In the past two weeks, I’ve made two more pumpkin pies, a chocolate cake, and a pan of bread pudding (though I ended up throwing most of that away).
Tonight’s apple pie may have ended my baking spree however. It started with a bad omen — I knocked over the bowl of sliced apples (the last of the Union Square Farmer’s Market) while rolling out the dough. I was able to save enough to make up a decent filling after adding a few handfuls of golden raisins, but the whole thing shook my nerve. The crust, while very pretty, turned out a bit tough. I’ve been making them with only butter lately, which is far from ideal. But Crisco (the vegetable shortening favored by housewives, including my own Gram, from WWII onward) is made with hydrogenated oil, and the only lard (beloved of 19th-century cooks who craved a flaky crust) that our local market carries is also partially hydrogenated. Who hydrogenates lard, I ask you?
I made up the filling by instinct, with a healthy dose of inspiration from my dear friend Sarah over at Four Pounds Flour. She makes the most amazing apple tart, with a skillet-cooked filling flavored with sweet white wine and rosewater. My filling tonight was baked in the pie and went something like this:
– 4 or 5 sliced apples, of various cultivars
– lemon juice
– a healthy sprinkle of nutmeg
– even more cinnamon
– a spoonful of cognac
– 2 splashes of rosewater
– a generous drizzle of molasses
– scant 1/4 cup of flour
– 2 or 3 handfuls of golden raisins
Don’t misunderstand — it was absolutely delicious. We ate it warm, again with fresh whipped cream. But it was just too much. I guess that’s not such a surprise, as it followed an enormous dinner (pumpkin ravioli in basil pesto from Raffeto’s with chicken breast stuffed with prosciutto and sage and baked in red wine).