|Bake juicy pies, like apple, on a cookie sheet lined with foil to catch the overflow.|
I sat in church beside David, staring at his feet. Being that I come from a gene pool which includes men who are substantially taller than 6’, whose shoe sizes are always in the double digits (and I’m talking males and females), I have always been rather impressed with the relative normalcy of my husband’s family. We Parrishes are Jolly Green Giants and the Connors’ are more like Petite Peas. Dave’s nice normal size 9.5 feet fit without any bulging into his soft Italian leather shoes. Mine are lucky to squeeze into a 10 extra wide. Such is life.
I was fortunate enough to know each of David’s four grandparents. Not one of them stood over 5 feet tall. While the name Connors evolved from John O’Connor of Ireland, most of David’s bloodline is French Canadian. His Grandma and Grandpa Roy both spoke with thick French accents. I can still hear the glottal tones in my mind when I think of them. My fingers cannot find the correct keys to write the way Grandma Roy said my name. I loved hearing her say it, in that romantic musical way of hers.
|The Mackinac Cottage|
Grandma Roy was a fabulous cook. I knew it the first time I walked into the kitchen on Mackinac Island, on our honeymoon. She and Grandpa had left the Mackinac Home and travelled to their Tawas Cottage on Lake Huron, so Dave and I could have the grand old place to ourselves. We entered the cottage from the back door, so the first room I entered was the kitchen. All crisp and white and clean, but infused with warmth and aromas that said love lived here.
It was Grandma Roy who taught me to make tender beef stew. Michigan Baked Beans, and Apple Pie (the French way, with apples sliced so thin you could see sunlight through them.)
Apple pie begins with quality crust, and that begins with my own mother, who combined good cold butter with cold hard lard and shortening if you were short on lard.
One important aspect of pie making, that some people fail to recognize, is the pie pan. Thin aluminum just won’t do it. Even thin tin is going to weaken the result. Use a good quality glass pan, or a heavy metal one, or if you are very, very lucky, use a piece of Bennion pottery, thrown by the divinely inspired hands of Joe Bennion (Horseshoe Mountain Pottery). The weight of these pie plates ensures a good even heat for the pie. I love to press my thumbs in the places where Joe had pressed his thumbs in the clay. It creates a very easy and pretty pie edge.
|My thumb is about the size |
of Joe Bennion's,
the pie pan potter.
At Thanksgiving around here, this place becomes a pie factory. Wednesday night is pie night. Whoever is in town for the holiday joins in; peeling apples, mixing ingredients, telling jokes and stealing bits of dough from the mixing bowl. We generally make about 12 pies. We are blessed with two ovens in our house, and two ovens in my sister Libby’s place, one house away. Annie is our Pumpkin Pie queen. And Kate handles the cream pies. Chocolate, and banana cream, and sometimes coconut, though people usually opt for more chocolate. The cream pies use the same base, so you can make a variety with one triple batch on the stove.
PIE CRUST – Gram - (for a recipe that makes 10-12 pies, check the recipes in the back of this book)
Makes 3-4 two crust pies or 5-6 one crust pies
6 c flour
2 t. Salt
3 c shortening, lard or butter. My favorite incorporates all three
1 ½ c ice cold water.
If you’re making two pies, use 3 c flour, 1 t salt, 1 1/2 c fat and ½ - ¾ c cold water. In my opinion you have to make at least two pies to justify the mess and the effort. Otherwise use a frozen pie crust and call it OK (you can’t call it good…seriously!) There is something earthy and generationally connecting when you make home made pie, don’t you think?
Basically, crust is two parts salted flour to one part fat. Put the flour in a large bowl and mix in salt. Add your fat in chunks. Cold fat works best, by the way. Use a pastry cutter, a fork, or your fingers to mix the fat into the flour until the meal is pea sized or smaller. You may press the flour between the palms of your hands, forcing the fat into the dry flour, but be careful that the warmth of your hands does not make the mixture too warm. If so, chill the meal outside if its winter, or in the fridge in summer. To this mixture add cold water (icy cold) and stir till it binds in a ball.
Cover a pastry board or counter top with flour, spread with your fingers till it has a nice even dusting.
|What I did last night. |
That crust there is ready to be
trimmed, folded under, and crimped.
Take a piece of dough and press it in your hand so it’s about the size of a softball. Press it flat, then roll out with a rolling pin which has been dusted with flour. You’ll have to repeatedly dust the rolling pin and the counter top so the dough does not stick. Do not overwork the dough, it will make it tough. Hold your pie pan over the rolled out dough and then cut a circle larger than pie pan. If your dough sticks to the counter you may not have enough flour under it. Scoop it up, shake off excess flour, work it into a ball and try again. Hopefully it will work the second time.
Fold rolled dough in half, lift it to your pan, and gently press into pan without stretching. Trim with a knife to the edge of the pan, putting the excess you trimmed off in a separate pile. Use these trimmings for your last crust, or for a pan of plain old crust baked on a cookie sheet with sugar sprinkled on top (bake for 20 minutes and feed it to your helpers)
If you’re making a precooked single pie crust, look in the cream pie directions below.
Add apple mix,(recipe below) piling apples all the way to the depth of the pan or a little higher. The fruit will shrink as it cooks. (This would be the same for blueberry pie, or rhubarb.)
Roll out a top layer of crust, cutting it larger than the circumference of the pan again. Lay it over the apples. Tuck the top crust under the edge of the lower crust. This will make a little excess thickness around the border of the pan. Using your thumb and the upper knuckle of your forefinger, pinch the crust together. You can also use a fork to pinch the crusts together.
Whip one egg white with a fork and spread a thin layer over the top pastry with a pastry brush or your fingers.
Cut vents in the top crust, so steam can escape. (I use scissors for this)
Sprinkle with white sugar, and bake as directed.
Apple Filling – Helene Roy:
Grandma Connors Apple Pie
8-12 tart apples
½ to ¾ c sugar
2 T flour
½ - 1 t cinnamon
Dash nutmeg and salt
Butter (around 2 T in slices or chunks)
Pastry for crust
Pare apples and slice VERY THIN. Sprinkle with lemon juice as you work with apples; keeps from browning and enhances flavor.
Combine sugar, flour and spices. Mix with apples. Place in crust, jiggle down the layers with your fingers till its pretty even. Dot with butter. Add top crust. Brush with egg whites or milk and sprinkle with sugar. Cut steam vents. Bake 400 for 60 minutes. Bake on cookie sheet in case it bubbles over.
I use a variety of apples. Never use Delicious. Always include some Granny Smith or similar crisp tart apple. Jonathan, Rome Beauty, Mackintosh, Braeburn and Gala- I’ve used all of them. I figure about 20 apples per two pies. (This is a guess, I can’t remember for sure. More often than not I am peeling a couple more apples to add after I’ve filled the shell.) Bake the full hour, if not more. Because this is a heavy filling with thick layers of thinly sliced apples, it takes a good 60-75 minutes to cook. Bake at 400. (Tip- last time I made this I par-baked the sliced apples on a cookie sheet, at 400 for 15 minutes. Cooled them, then continued as per recipe. It was GREAT! Sometimes the apples, because they are so thick in this recipe, don't cook well enough in 1 hour.)You may want to put strips of bent aluminum foil over the edges of the crust so they won’t burn. You would add these about halfway through the cooking. Lately I just let the pies cook…what will be will be. You can turn down the heat in the oven to 375 half way through as well, and lengthen the time by 10 minutes.
Lion House Recipe
ALL OF THESE CREAMS ARE POURED INTO PRE-BAKED SINGLE PIE CRUSTS:
SINGLE PIE CRUST:
Roll out dough, gently lay into pie plate, ease down into the pan, roll edge of crust under at the rim, crimp edges, prick crust all over with a fork and bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes or until golden. Ovens will vary. You prick it to let the crust expand when it cooks without creating big bubbles. Let cool before you add cream filling.
BASIC CREAM FILLING:
5 T cornstarch
1 c sugar
¼ tsp salt
2 ½ c milk
¾ c half & half
3 egg yolks
2 T butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 c whipping cream
1 9 inch pie shell
In a 3 qt sauce pan Mix cornstarch, sugar and salt. Add milk and cream and cook over med heat until smooth and thick stirring constantly. Pour small amount of hot mixture into egg yolks; blend thoroughly, then pour back into sauce pan. Cook another 2-3 min. Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla.
Coconut Cream Pie - Lion House
Add ½ cup coconut (toasted, if desired) to pie
filling. Pour into baked pie shell. Chill 3-4
hours. When ready to serve, whip cream and
spread over pie. Top with another ½ c coconut.
Banana Cream Pie - Lion House
Slice 2-3 bananas into baked pie shell. Pour
filling over bananas. Chill 3-4 hours. When
ready to serve, whip cream and spread over pie.
Chocolate Cream Pie - Lion House
Add ½- ¾ c semisweet chocolate chips to hot
pudding. Stir until melted. Pour into baked
pie shell. Chill 3-4 hours. When ready to
serve, whip cream and spread over pie.
1 9 inch deep dish pie crust, unbaked
3/4 c sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ginger
1/4 t cloves
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin (NOT pie mix)
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees
- Combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs lightly in another large bowl. Add pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually add evaporated milk as you stir. Pour in pie shell. I put my pie shell on a cookie sheet on the oven rack then pour in my filling. It is very liquid and sloshes around easily.
- Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then lower oven temp to 350. Bake and additional 40 to 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
TOLL HOUSE PIE (chocolate chip cookie dough pie)
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c flour
1 c butter, melted and cooled
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c chopped walnuts
1 9" single pie crust, unbaked
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Add the flour, white sugar and brown sugar; beat until well blended. Blend in the melted butter. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Pour batter into one unbaked 9 inch pie shell.
3. Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 1 hour. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.
(Holy Toledo, if you have read this far you get an award! It’s nearly 2 am and I realize this is a lot of info in a lot of words. Sorry. Really, it might be easiest to find someone you know who makes a good pie and ask them to teach you. A generous suggestion would be to buy the ingredients, ask them to show you how to do it, then let them keep half and you keep half.)