Friday, October 15, 2010

As American as Mama Burnout’s birthday pie.

During my work-induced blog hiatus, I baked my first apple pie. I was excited, because I’d never baked an apple pie before and it was for my mom’s birthday. I was also nervous, because my dad, while always a good sport about vegan food, is an apple pie snob nonpareil and I didn’t want my sweet little vegan pie to be disdained.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time, even for me, choosing the perfect recipe that would result in a pie to render the pickiest omni swoony with delight. Nothing with whole wheat. Nothing involving additional fruit. No crumbly crust. This would not be a “vegan” apple pie: It would be THE BEST GODDAMN APPLE PIE EVER.

In the end, I went with a classic: Betty Crocker. Even better? It’s naturally vegan (well, except for the butter)! In your face, Dad!

The bottom half of the crust went easily enough. I freaked out the entire time I unfolded it into the pie dish, but the pastry gods smiled upon me and the crust didn’t fall apart. Hurdle 1 cleared!

(Note: I am so, so glad we finally bought a pastry cutter. You may think it’s a bullshit kitchen gizmo that you will never need, and that if you do need it the old “use two knives to cut your shortening and flour together while trying not to stab yourself” trick will work. It won’t, and you will never regret buying even the cheapest pastry cutter. It’s worth it for that one pie a year.)

Faced with a pile of Granny Smith apples (my favorite kind), Red and I pondered for a while how best to slice them for maximum apple-iciousness. Genius that he is, he hit on using our mandoline to slice them super-thinly, the better to layer them with! We learned that slices stick together and are a little more difficult to toss with the sugar and spices, but we got it done. Into the crust they went, tucked in as snugly as possible. We even had too many, and cooked the leftovers later for a snack.

The top crust was the real challenge. Have I mentioned that I’d never done this whole top-and-bottom-crust thing before, and that I’m clumsy in the kitchen? Our pie pan was ever-so-slightly larger than Betty Crocker’s, so we had to get creative with stretching and patching the top crust to make it fit as we draped it over the apples. Next time, we’ll make extra dough so we don’t have this problem. Once we got the crust situated, I was feeling artsy and wished for tiny cookie cutters to cut out sweet little leaves or something to decorate the crust. Say it with me: Next time.

After that, we cut slits in the pie and popped it in the oven, praying for perfection. Partway through, there was some wonkiness as we tried to cover the edges with strips of foil to keep them from browning too much, but Red saved the day. When the pie finally came out, it looked beautiful:

The next day was my mom’s birthday, and the pie’s moment of truth. Would my parents wish I had bought a crappy grocery-store cake instead?

Darlings, I can happily report that they loved it. The crust was appropriately crusty, and Red’s apple-layering technique was a huge success. Not only do you get more apples, it creates a more evenly distributed internal surface (like lasagna), so the pie is easier to slice! We left half the pie with my parents, and took the other half home for noshing over the next few days.

I am now officially over my fear of baking pies, and Mama Burnout had a happy birthday indeed.

Close-up for maximum layering action.


  1. Wow, it looks absolutely perfect (and so delicious!)!

  2. God that looks amazing! What a great first attempt! I have been craving pie for a couple of months now I have to make one soon.

    Speaking of Betty Crocker I read an article in better homes and gardens yesterday (what has happened to us?!?)about pie making and they said to add as much fruit as you can because it all cooks down and they your pie looks more stuffed.

  3. HOT DAMN. That pie looks AMAZING! Well done, lady! I think I'm going to need one of those pies myself.