It is fall, right? For us in Southern California, temperatures hit triple digits and other parts of the country had their first snow this past week! But there are apples in the markets, and apples = autumn to me. Last week’s trip to the potato fields of Idaho was a gorgeous reminder of what we miss here in the way of seasonal changes and, coming home to 100 degree temps due to Santa Ana winds that come off the desert every year around September/October, had me missing the kitchen aromas of apples pies and hearty stews and chili that seem in sync with the vibrant hues of the hillsides and brisk cool days.
I usually get homesick this time of year and am gleefully anticipating my annual trip to the Ozarks later this month to see family and indulge my senses with the sights, sounds, and smells of Fall. In the meantime, I dug up this recipe from the archives to share with you and fill my house with the lovely aroma of apples and cinnamon – or in this case Chinese 5-Spice for a little twist on good ole traditional apple pie like mom used to make.
View from our deck – see why I miss it?
This is from a series I called “Bon Appétit Challenge” that had me cooking the covers of some of my favorite decade-old issues.
The issue was the September 1999: Special Millennium Edition and on the cover was apple pie. Inwardly I groaned because I am not a baker – I can count on one hand the number of homemade pies that have seen my oven.
I could have shirked from the challenge because you all would never know, but I’m not like that. So I read through the recipe, check to make sure I have all the ingredients, buy Crisco (eek), apples at Plowboys, my current fave market, and – oh crap, I don’t own a pie pan – go to Target and buy a Pyrex glass pie dish.
Now, I never use Crisco, but I have heard that it does make the best pie crust… so putting aside the fact that it is made from partially hydrogenated oil; and everything we’ve learned about harmful trans fats (ignorance was bliss in 1999); I tackled the job of peeling all those apples. This didn’t take as long as I thought it would – only about 10 minutes; coring and slicing them took a little longer.
I bet that you did not know that Crisco came out in 1911 and that early sales were largely generated by Orthodox Jews. The recipe for Five-Spice Apple Pie begins with this anecdote:
“By the time Crisco came out in 1911, apple pies had long been an American classic. But Crisco, the first hydrogenated vegetable shortening, gave cooks a boost. Here was a shelf-stable alternative to perishable butter and lard. While a lot of consumers were skeptical of Crisco, many early sales were generated by Orthodox Jews,who bought the shortening after a recipe booklet was published in Yiddish showing how Crisco could be used without breaking kosher dietary laws. Crisco’s success was assured when rationing made lard scarce during World War I.” Bon Appetit, September, 1999
Five Spice Apple Pie
From Bon Appétit’s special edition The American Century in Food: An apple pie like grandma used to make but with a twist from Chinese Five Spice powder.
2 cups all purpose flour
2 T. sugar
¾ t. salt
⅔ cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
5 T. (about) ice water
Mix first 3 ingredients in large bowl. Add shortening, cut in using pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal with a few pea size pieces. Mix in enough ice water by tablespoonfuls to form moist clumps. Form into 2 balls, one slightly larger than the other, flatten each into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hr. (Can be made 1 day ahead).
5 lbs. Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2 inch-thick slices
2 T. fresh lemon juice
6T. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 c. (packed) golden brown sugar
2T all purpose flour
1 ¼ t. Chinese five-spice powder
Toss apples and lemon juice in large bowl. Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add apples and brown sugar; cook until apples are just tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Using slotted spoon, return apples to same bowl. Boil juices in pot until thick, about 15 minutes. Pour juices over apples, cool completely. Mix in flour and five-spice powder.
Position rack in lowest third of oven. Preheat to 375°. Place baking sheet on rack. Roll out larger dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-Inch glass pie dish; trim overhang to 1 inch, if necessary. Spoon filling into crust. Roll out smaller dough disk to 10-inch round, drape over filling. Press top and bottom edges of dough together, crimp decoratively (there’s a technique to this, but I don’t know it). Brush crust with cream and sprinkle with sugar.
Place pie on baking sheet in oven; bake until crust is golden brown and filling bubbles thickly, about 1 hour 5 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
Serve simply as is or with whipped cream, ice cream, or cheddar cheese – whatever your family tradition is.
What I learned from this experience:
If I am going to bake more pies, I need to have a pastry blender so I don’t need to use two knives and a peeler with a more comfortable handle (see wish list); and homemade apple pie is the best, so much better than Mrs. Smiths!