Having a Bad Day…NEED PIE!!!

Oh GAWD it’s been one of THOSE days! Woke up with a phantom ache (welcome to middle-age kiddo); knocked bottle of mouthwash all over now minty-fresh bathroom floor; burned arm (again) on oven rack (why don’t they make oven mitts in opera length?); and received another email of ‘while your qualifications are impressive(BITE ME!), we’ve decided to go in another direction…’


Despite the countless pharmaceuticals out there to combat anxiety, depression, manic behavior, and just plain AW-CRAP-ness, the only one I’ve found to work consistently is pie. The dosage and packaging may vary, but as long as there’s a crust with sweet medication contained there in, it’s good to go for me. I mean, how can you possibly remain in a bad mood once you’ve had that first bite? OK…maybe you need a second one…a third? Regardless, somewhere into the wedge your shoulders begin to drop, the knot in your neck unwinds and the corners of your mouth curl upwards. Why, if world leaders used a slice of sour cherry crumble instead of missiles the word would be a much saner (safer) place. And imagine if a warm piece of apple pie was handed to every member of congress before sending a bill to the floor. Not only would they settle the deficit issue in the fairest way for ALL, Nancy and John would be skipping down the freakin’ aisle, holding hands! Yes folks, pie equals peace, pure and simple. So the next time you are ready to rip someone a new one, stop…take a deep breath…and sink your teeth into a slice of flaky-sweet therapeutics. Humanity will thank you.

My favorite pie list is at least as long as Santa’s naughty. Fruit pies, nut pies, chocolate or lemon curd filled, I can safely say I’ve yet to meet a pie I didn’t like. And I could happily share any of them with you. Yet the one I’ve chosen is probably my first pie – the first I ate, the first I ever made, and easily top of my list for simplicity, flavor, therapeutic efficacy, and happy, happy memories. It’s mom’s apple pie – specifically my mom Eleanor’s. The recipe, or rather the framework of the recipe is contained in mom’s ‘little black book’, a small binder of recipes she wrote down while sitting at her mother’s kitchen table. She has since improved upon the original, adding a little this or touch of that, which is just what my grandmother would have wanted. And today I wrote the recipe down for the first time, sitting next to mom as she read it to me and edited…from her little black book.

Eleanor’s Apple Pie

Makes one 9″ pie

This is a terrific basic apple pie recipe. It’s my favorite not just because it’s my mom’s (with the bones from her mom), but also because it’s that good. I’ve found the best recipes let the featured ingredient shine, and this is that in a pie shell. You can obviously make it whenever you like, but we seem to only have it on Thanksgiving, making it even more special. Most importantly, we have to make certain there are leftovers so we can have it for post-Thanksgiving breakfast. It’s healthy, really…or as my grandmother would say, “it’s just fruit!” In fact, we often looked forward to Friday pie breakfast more than the previous day’s culinary cornucopia.

Back when mom was home full-time, a scratch pie crust was the way to go. Out came the Crisco, butter and plastic pie crust guide from Tupperware. However, when she started working full-time, adding one more thing to the list of Thanksgiving preparations for an extended family of 20 seemed like one more way to ratchet up the stress. The pre-made pie crust was the wise way to go to preserve sanity and familial love (well that, and a well-made manhattan.) The quality of pre-made crust is quite good, so just choose your favorite (Pillsbury or Whole Foods are mine.) They really do taste great. And if someone at your tabledares say they can taste the difference, revoke their pie privileges IMMEDIATELY. They don’t deserve pie! However, if you still feel the need to get your ‘Martha’ on, go ahead and use your favorite recipe (there are hundreds out there). My advice? Use a recipe that has half butter and half shortening. The shortening makes a flakier crust, and the butter gives you the best flavor.

1 package of ‘unroll and bake’ piecrust (2 crusts) or two frozen pie shells, or a double-crust recipe of homemade piecrust 5-6 large granny smith apples (about 2 lbs), peeled and cut into 1/4′’ slices 3-4 rounded TBSP of sugar 1 tsp cinnamon Zest of one lemon (about 1 TBSP) 3 TBSP cold butter, cut into about 1/4 ” cubes Optional but yummy add-ins: 1/3 cup golden raisins, dried cranberries, chopped walnuts or a combination of all confectioners sugar for dusting top of finished pie

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Peel and core apples, cut into slices ¼” thick slices. Put apples in bowl, sprinkle with the sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest. Toss the apples and set aside.

Put one sheet of prepared pie crust into 9″ pie plate (Mom uses a Pyrex dish, so I do too). Pile the apples into the pie crust and scatter the chilled butter cubes over. Cover with the second crust and crimp the edges. Cut 4 slits around center of top.

Put on a cookie sheet (it makes it easier to move in and out of the oven and catches any drips). Bake at 400°F for 30 minutes or until crust is lightly browned.

Let cool 20 minutes. Dust the top with confectioners sugar. And most importantly, don’t cover the leftovers – the crust stays crisper for breakfast pie!

Calories: approximately 350/slice (based on 8 slices)

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