So today is my husband's birthday (hi Honey!) and I decided to try and make him his favorite dessert, apple pie. Now a sane person would have gone to the store and picked up a Mrs. Smith's frozen pie and called it a day, but NOOOOOO, I had to get all cocky and Suzy-Homemaker and try to make a FROM SCRATCH apple pie. This was a mistake.
Here's the thing. I am actually a pretty decent baker, I can make bread and cookies and cake and even pretzels and doughnuts, but pie crusts have always been my Achille's Heel. I just can't seem to get it right, too little water, too much water, the butter never seems to melt into the crust enough, or sometimes too much. It all gets very confusing and then I have to go lay down for awhile.
I decided to try and make a butter/lard pie crust because I don't use vegetable shortening (unless I am making something for a vegetarian) and my previous attempts at an all butter crust (pate brisee) have all been unmitigated disasters. The Hindenburgs of pastry making really, people standing around weeping, screaming, "Oh, the humanity!". My last pie looked like someone had dropped an apple cobbler from a very high place, and then maybe stepped on it. The others... I can no longer recall anything except the acrid smell of burnt crust and defeat.
Today was going to be different. I had a nice clean kitchen to work in. The kids were down for a nap. I had been studying pie techniques for months. I had all of my ingredients, bowl, pastry blender, even the glass holding the ice water for the crust in the freezer and refrigerator. I was told by a reliable source to keep everything, right down to the salt and sugar in the ice box for at least a half an hour.
I got out my chilled bowl and added the cold butter, flour, salt and sugar and began to work it in with my pastry blender when no more than 30 seconds into blending did I feel a "snap" and one of the tines broke right off into the flour. I pressed on now adding my lard. The butter had been really easy to cut into the flour, but the lard had FROZEN right into the stainless steel measuring cup I had placed it in. I managed to dig it out, but mostly in one large piece, it took a lot of arm muscle to get it broken down at all.
Then you are to add 3 TB of ice water to the proceedings. If the dough holds together when you squeeze it then you leave it alone, if not you need more water, 1 TB at a time. Sounds pretty easy right? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! See, some of the dough squeezed together, but some of it stayed crumbly. I tried to push the crumbs into the part that was holding together, but it was all slipping through my fingers. The I tried adding more water, but it made the dough gummy in spots and stuck to the bowl, my hands, everywhere but to the OTHER PIECES OF PIE CRUST. I managed to squish some of it into a ball like mass and wrap it into plastic wrap as the instructions indicated, and the other half as well. One ball/disc/blob as supposed to be larger than the other, but neither was to be larger than 6 inches. Yeah, a ruler would have been helpful in this situation since I have all the spatial relations God gave a duck. Actually, ducks fly and can take-off and land on water, so I bet they are pretty good at visual estimation after all. Whatever the case, I am not good at estimating.
I let the dough "chill" in the fridge for 30 minutes as instructed while I worked on the apple filling. I watched a handy little YouTube video but he doesn't give exact amounts so I just sort of improvised. The thing that REALLY bugged me was how beautifully and quickly he can skin an apple with a paring knife. I have all the knife skills God gave a... duck? We WILL go with duck this time.
My timer went off and I was ready to roll out the dough. Meanwhile the children had decided that even though they had not slept AT ALL they were ready to be up. There was much crying and tearful pleading and some screaming and red faces. The kids were pretty upset too. I tried to roll out my first (the smaller) crust. It exploded into a dust ball much like when Buffy stakes a vampire. POOF!
I added some more water and then it was sticking to the plastic wrap and I was sobbing and one or both of my children were attached to my ankles at various times, asking me if they could "help?" and I was like, "GRRR! Mommy is having a melt down, go watch TV if you know what's good for ya!" I put in the filling, which I must say looked and smelled pretty good, then I attempted to put the top crust on. This was an even worse experience if you can believe that. I tried rolling the crust out between two pieces of plastic wrap, but it kept crumbling around the edges and sort of was thicker and heavier than one would ideally prefer a pie dough to be. It was somewhat more like a piece of fraying wet felt, smeared with concrete and big hunks of butter. There was no crimping the edges, or fluting the edges. There were no edges. The top and the bottom simply, sullenly, fused together like some sort of grayish-beige (possibly deadly) mold. I carved some vents in the top and threw the whole thing dejectedly into the oven.
When my husband called home to tell me he was on his way, the kids were watching cartoons and wrecking my living room and I was reading celebrity gossip on the internet to calm my shattered nerves. He sweetly asked if I needed anything from the store. I answered in one poignant word, "dinner". He brought home some rotisserie chicken, a tub of already mashed potatoes, and amazingly a tub of Edy's Vanilla Ice Cream! I made a salad and some green beans. Afterwards we attempted the pie with generous scoops of ice cream with it (because, what can't ice cream fix?) and it was eh, the crust was flaky but not tender at all, too heavy by half and the apples were somewhat over done since my "air vents" that I had carved into the top crust had sealed themselves shut in the oven. To put a good spin on it... best pie I ever made!