Nothing says 'comfort' to me like pie. Pie brings me joy because I find calmness that descends over me when I roll out dough, slice fruit and slide it into the oven. It's meditative and restorative.
My love affair with pie began as a child, thanks to my grandma and nana. Both are pie goddesses. Their crust? Light, flavorful and delicate. Grandma's fillings? Sour cherry, fragrant apple and spicy pumpkin were my favorites. Nana's signature pie? Peaches and cream, perfectly enhanced with nutmeg.
I made my first pie when I was 16. I made a fresh Oregon blackberry pie and it was disgusting. I didn't use any thickener or enough sugar and my crust was tough as crap.
Nevertheless I kept trying over the years and now I consider myself a fairly decent pie baker. I have a few little tricks that help. For instance, a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in my crust tenderizes it and makes the crust more flaky.
Brushing a beaten egg over the top crust right before baking makes for an even browned crust and prevents sogginess.
Don't cube your apples, slice them evenly and thinly.
Be liberal with cinnamon, add a touch of vanilla, a little lemon juice.
Stuff like that.
Anyway, my seasonal pie baking urge hit while I was at a local farm market last week so I loaded up on a variety of orchard fresh apples.
My personal favorite baking apple is Golden Delicious or Granny Smith. Braeburn is a good one, too.
Back home, I went to work and enjoyed the task at hand. The rhythmic slicing of apples, the cubing of the butter, the fragrance of the spices and the comforting tick of the preheating oven, quieted my racing mind.
No one was home yet and the simple act of pie baking became a therapeutic act. It always does. When I experience turmoil, I like to bake pastry. It beings me moments of calm in the midst of life's storms.
Over the years, pie baking brought sense to the chaos. I saw the joy it brought to family. My grandmothers proved that. Now I see the joy it brings to my family. And to me.
I'm not saying baking pie cures all ailments but it sure helps the symptoms.
Make little turnovers with any extra dough or filling you have.
Or if you want, forget the top crust and just fold the bottom up over the fruit. Brush with a little jam and pop it in the oven.Very French, very rustic, very delicious.