Julia Moskin taunts us with two tempting photographs igniting apple pie inspiration. The photos capture a pie so generous with the crust and so chock full of apples, I wanted to bake one right away. But that would have been redundant, because I was already in the thick of cinnamon sugared apples and pate brisée. The sum of the twelve pies I was sliding into the oven were not nearly as dramatic as the pie pictured in the paper. I wanted to bake a gloriously big apple pie, a pie capable of feeding a small army with plenty of triangular wedges remaining. Julia Moskin’s pie was large enough to afford smidgens before bedtime and forkfuls with a mug of morning coffee. I wanted to bake that pie. And then I remembered; in my line of work we don’t need a bigger pie plate. We need a bigger boat.
Catching the pie shark that is Thanksgiving is its own thriller, devoid of Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss. Cast out into a sea of apples, we’ll be caught in an undertow of sweeteners and spices and thickeners. Arms clad in quasi-heat resistant oven mitts, the scalding apple pie overflow will know just where the oven mitt ends and the bare skin begins. There is little romance in that. Which is why the food section is a welcome respite, a glimpse beyond the bakery window.
I rhapsodized over the pie that was pictured in the Times. I wanted to eat a slice of that pie. For anyone with a hankering for fruit and crust, Wednesday’s food section provided an expansive and instructive read, an article romancing you into pie baking. It is the kind of approachable tutorial that holds your flour-dusted hands as you embark on your apple pie journey. Let’s suppose, however, that you are tasked with baking more than one pie. Maybe you’re facing stacks of needy 9” aluminum pie plates and cases of roly-poly apples desperately seeking double crust. Maybe the pie plates number in the triple digits. I understand; not everyone has a day job centered around butter-flour-sugar and fruit.
Which is why I hate to admit it, but I have a love/loathe relationship with the Wednesday food section. I look at it and look away, wanting to know, but not wanting to know. The focus on food is agreeably readable, a quick study without requiring too much of a time commitment. My problem is that it's terribly removed from my real life; it's a fantasy food world. Yes, there are those who wait for Wednesday, who leisurely pore over the 8 pages with a cup of freshly brewed coffee poured from a French press. Inspired by what you read, it is just a matter of time before you fly out the door, enroute to your local farm market armed with your eco-friendly tote bag. The result of Ms. Moskin’s beautifully written and comprehensive article will send readers flocking to the apple aisle of their weekend markets, combing the crates for fruit boasting crispness and sweetness with just the right pluck of tartness.
The quest to replicate the pie featured in the paper doesn’t end with the apples. If you read the entire article, you’ll know. The pie enhancer formerly-known-as-lemon will languish in the produce aisle, while unfiltered apple cider will fly off the shelves of Whole Foods and Trader Joes. Why? Because the article in the food section of the Times says so. I heard it repeated yesterday, on the 4:47 NJ Transit train.
“Did you read the article about apple pie in the paper? I’m going to make a big apple pie.”
“Have you ever made an apple pie?”
“Yes, once. And did you read the part about the apple cider vinegar? I have a bottle of apple cider vinegar.” Pause. “Does apple cider vinegar spoil? I’ve had it forever.”
“I don’t know about the vinegar, but I have a huge casserole dish. Do you think I can bake my pie in that?”
“I don’t see why not.” Pause. “Have you ever made a gluten free pie crust?”
Clearly, I had boarded the Big Apple Pie Train, not the 4:47.
I am refusing to acknowledge the truth that in less than four short weeks from now, folks will be tucking their forks into piecrust and fruit. While we toil in the bakery peeling and slicing, filling and crimping, bakers in home kitchens will be lugging enormous pie plates and heavy casserole dishes to their kitchen counters. They will over-fill them with a farm market mix of apples, and God help us, too big a splash of apple cider vinegar. These generous, bountiful pies, inspired by the romance of the weekly food section, will be hoisted out of the oven with pristine oven mitts, fresh off the rack from Williams-Sonoma.
I haven’t mapped out a personal pie plan for the holiday yet, but I definitely see an apple pie in my immediate future. When a friend from Chicago lugs a bag of gorgeous apples direct from their very own apple trees all the way to New York City, apple pie is on the menu. Thank you, Maury Collins.
It’s possible that this pie will find its way to an unorthodox pie vessel or it may just land in the first pie plate that comes crashing out of my over-filled kitchen cabinet. I’m all for a splash of apple cider vinegar in the pie crust, but for the apples, only lemon. Yes, I know; I dream of being as hip as the food section tells me I should be, but the reality is I’m as old-fashioned as a 9” pie plate and a casserole in a casserole dish.