This Thanksgiving, don’t settle for a store-made apple pie, a bland mass of cheap flour and processed apples that reveals its deadened charm through the box’s plastic window.
Impress your girlfriend, maybe your tough-guy brother, by baking one. It’s so simple that even I – someone who shakes like a jittery blender when near a kitchen – have made dozens.
Win the raves of relatives and the sensibilities of strangers with a Swedish apple pie. (If this reads like an infomercial for apple pies and Sweden, rest assured it’s not. Apple growers and Swedes would gain nothing by lining my pockets.)
All that’s required are butter, flour, sugar, an egg, cinnamon, about 90 minutes of time, a smartphone and good book. Oh, apples, too.
Start by peeling three pounds of them. Try McIntosh or Granny Smith. They last a bit in the bag and are juicy.
Plop the peeled apples in a glass pie plate. It’s sturdy and has an old-cooking-school aesthetic. You can see the melted apples after baking.
The peeling process doubles as a time of peace and reflection. As I slice and chop, I’ll set my iPhone at the edge of the kitchen table and play a podcast of NPR’s On Point or PRI’s This American Life. My mind will also wander, chasing ideas and dreams that should be written down but are usually forgotten.
Usually, no one usually disturbs me. They’ll want a slice later.
When down to the last three apples in the bag, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and start preparing the crust, the confectionary topping that makes or breaks the pie.
First, chop a stick of butter into pieces and drop them into a small pot. Place the pot over low heat on the stovetop.
Return to the last three apples. Strip ‘em bare.
Pour a cup of flour and a cup of sugar into a mixing bowl. Beat an egg and dump it over the flour and sugar. Stir it by hand with a fork. Once the mix has moistened, add the melted butter. Repeat the forkin’ routine.
The crust batter should look gooey. Steadily spread it over the peeled apples in the pie plate. There should be enough to cover the whole pie. If not, apply a healthy dose of cinnamon over open pockets when sprinkling it on the pie. Don’t use too much cinnamon, though. You should still see the batter.
Glide the plate into the oven. Prep work should have lasted about 45 minutes. Now, set a timer for another 45 minutes. Read a book. If anyone asks, you can’t do much else around the house with a pie baking.
When done, the pie should have a crisp crust the color of a burlap sack. You’ve won a sack of apples if you achieve this. The tautness of the crust means its sweetness will linger and act as a bridge for the melted apples.
If all your peeling, mixing and reading produced a soft, almost soupy, crust, don’t worry. It’s still a pie.
The next step is the most difficult. You’ll understandably want to brag about your culinary feat. Don’t.
Humbly give the pie to the Thanksgiving dinner hosts, leaving them to announce dessert will include your Swedish apple pie. That will stop everyone dead in their tracks to the couch.
Published Nov. 27, 2013