an apple pie tale

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About five years ago, I brought an apple pie to Thanksgiving from some recipe I had made up while I was going along–feh, who needs a recipe for apple pie?–and my aunt declared it the best apple pie she had ever tasted. While this should have been the best news in the world, in the years since, in my mind, at least, it has brought nothing but chaos because, without having written down my “little of this” and “little of that” approach, I’ve had a terrible time recreating it.

Fairly certain I had used only yellow delicious apples, as I had heard that they have the lowest water content and therefore spare the pie sludginess, I used them again the following year only to have an overcooked and not tart enough pie. The next year, my New Boyfriend Alex and I made a slew of stunning pies (so I could send one to his family, too, oh, I was in deep) with a mix of apples, but these ended up slightly undercooked. The following year, unbearably short on time, I used one of those Pillsbury unroll-and-bake doughs (more on this later, or another time if it gets late), but found the inner contents not to be heavy and gushy enough. Yeah, gushy is an acceptable word to describe pie, okay?

Last year, realizing I was flopping around, creating chaos and confusion where neither need be, I turned to good ol’ Cooks Illustrated, the pinnacle of reliability and sound practices in cooking and baking. I used shortening in the crust, even though shortening makes me cringe; I used their suggested mix of apples; I used lemon and lemon zest because they said I should, but I insisted upon keeping the lattice top because I think it’s just the prettiest. In the end, I still cringed from shortening (but admitted the crust was very flaky), didn’t like the lemon and felt there was not nearly enough spice. I realized that the pie kept getting dry because there was too much openness in the lid. At least this time I took notes.

This year, I opted for a tightly woven pie lid, requiring nearly double the amount of dough, skipped the lemon, doubled the spices and used Cooks Illustrated’s new-and-improved vodka pie dough.

Oh, I’m sorry, you wanted to know how it turned out? People, its only 10 a.m.! Even my family doesn’t eat that early. But I have high hopes. Fine, moderate hopes. Okay, I’m just plain nervous. So while I am all fidgety, I need to make a confession:

I am sorry to all who were harmed in the making of that vodka pie dough. After making two pies with it now, I have to admit: I simply hate it. It’s too sticky and difficult to work with. No matter how cold it was, it never firmed up enough (because, duh, vodka doesn’t freeze) and each dough had to be messily peeled from its plastic after being rolled out. That said, it does appear to be the flakiest dough that I have ever made in the history of Deb’s Apple Pie. But it was a royal pain in the butt and I am not sure I’d suggest it again without that caveat.

Whew, I feel much better now. I hope this good karma can be leveraged in that lopsided pie on the counter. I think five years is long enough to wait.

I hope you all have a warm, relaxing and charmingly lopsided Thanksgiving.

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