Memorize this fact about apple pie making, and you’ll be set for life: it’s not about the recipe, it’s about your state of mind.
That nugget comes from Craig’s dad, the master of apple pie (see here), who’s said to me, in the past: “I think you’re overthinking it.” And in the past I had overthought it over and over again. But the truth is once you understand the WHY of everything, the rest takes care of itself. And that’s what helped me produce the best apple pie I’ve ever made, the one you see above.
I’m a pie fool which isn’t the same thing as being a fool for pie. Julie Klausner recently pointed out in her podcast that Jews are cake people, Christians are pie people. From my own life experience, I find that to be true: my Jewish parents and grandparents, when at a social gathering, would put out cake. My dad would eat Entenmann’s crumb cake or lemon coconut cake at home for breakfast or dessert. I can’t recall a single time that a pie ever made an appearance at my house in my childhood. Whereas Craig, who grew up in a Christian family in Bellingham, Washington, ate pie. His dad makes a killer apple pie; pie is part of the fabric of their existence. Which is probably why when I make a cake, I could eat the whole thing and Craig will have a little slice; when I make a pie (especially apple), he goes nuts for it.
It’s considered a hard and true fact in the food world that baking is a precise discipline and that cooking–sauteing, roasting, salad-making–is looser, freer, more of a vehicle for personal expression.
Why does that always have to be the case? Isn’t it possible that, if you know a thing or two in the kitchen, you can whip up a batch of cookies with as much freedom and joie-de-vivre as you might employ while making am omelet? I decided to challenge the status quo yesterday by making a batch of cookies without following a recipe.
I never know if I’m stealing an Edible Manhattan when I remove it from a coffee shop or store. Usually there’s a price on top of it, but they’re stacked up next to The Onion and the Onion’s free, right? So I’m either wanted by New York City police or I’m perfectly within my rights to pilfer a copy each month.
And this month I’m glad I did it, because it was in the pages of a pilfered Edible Manhattan that I learned about the lard pie crust from Flying Pigs Farm.
Some of us have Oedipal complexes, others have Electra complexes, but very few of us have a complex based on apple pie. Allow me to lay on your therapist’s couch for a moment: I have a serious pie issue. My apple pie is inadequate–it comes from Martha Stewart–and though it often inspires a happy nod and a fleeting smile, it rarely induces the kind of exaltation that comes when Craig’s dad–who we’ll call “Steve” because that’s his name–makes his signature apple pie.
What is it that makes his pie so good? Why do my pies never measure up? On a recent visit to Bellingham, Washington–home of “Steve”–I decided to solve this mystery once and for all. What follows are the closely-guarded secrets of Steve’s Signature Apple Pie; a pie that I finally recreated at home to much acclaim–so much acclaim that I don’t need this therapy anymore. How much do I owe you?