Friday, November 16, 2007

Grandma Rose's Famous Apple Pie

We all have those special memories from childhood, the things that still make us feel warm and happy whenever we think about them. For me, it was Grandma Rose’s Apple Pie. YUM!


©2007 by LeeZard


Grandma and Grandpa lived in Brooklyn on Ocean Parkway, a broad, eight lane boulevard with grassy malls seperating the six major lanes from the two side roads that fronted the red brick apartment buildings and numerous synagogues. From our home in Queens, it was a 20-minute-to-one-hour drive along the Belt Parkway, depending upon traffic. We visited often and Grandma always had something special, a favorite lunch or dinner, some brownies or, on those very rare, special occasions, THE pie.

I didn’t realize it at the time but, creating this masterpiece was, and still is, very labor intensive. Four pounds of Macintosh Apples have to be peeled and cut into sections (and it has to be Macs; no other apple will do!). No store-bought pie crust either because that was the secret to the pie’s success.

Grandma made the crust from scratch the night before. Then, she’d put it in the refrigerator overnight so it could reach its full flavorful potential. And, believe me, the trick worked. The crust is what gives the pie its unique and mouth-watering personality.

While most people talk about a pie-crust’s flakiness as a measurement of its goodness, this crust is moist, almost cookie-like, and has a taste like none other.

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CRUST
2 ¼ cups, flour, plus 1 tablespoon (don’t ask me why the extra tablespoon. Don’t question Rose.)
1 teaspoon, baking powder
2 tablespoons, sugar
1/4 lb. butter
1 ½ teaspoons, vanilla
¼ cup, orange juice (THE secret to the secret recipe!)
4 tablespoons, Crisco

Place the dry ingredients in a food processor with the butter then, add the liquids after you turn the processor on. Let everyone get acquainted until it all comes together and starts rolling around the sides of the container in one big blob. Divide the dough in half and refrigerate overnight.

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This is not to say the pie filling is merely ordinary. Au contraire! It is a sugar-charged, cinnamon-tinged apple bonanza, the perfect complement to the melt-in-your-mouth crust. Before I share the rest of the recipe, though, let me tell you about my first experiences wrestling – and, I mean WRESTLING – with the crust. If you are a pie-baking rookie, it might help you avoid some of my mistakes – and, messes.

I’d never baked a pie before, never even thought about baking a pie but, in my early 20s, the threat of no more Apple Pie suddenly loomed dangerously over my taste buds. Grandma Rose was in her late 70s and slowing down. Her pie output was waning.

My Mom, who had the recipe down pat, was getting arthritis in her hands and could no longer peel four pounds of apples. Things were beginning to look desperate for the five grandchildren: me, my two brothers and Aunt Ruth’s (Mom’s sister) two daughters. Someone had to step into the breach so, I asked the family matriarch to commit The Recipe to writing. I had no idea the learning curve would be so steep.

It seems Grandma Rose left a few key pointers out of the recipe and, so, it became trial and (t)error for my first few attempts at recreating the dream. For example, who knew anything about putting a light sheen of flour on the surface upon which you roll out the crust? Not moi. The result on my first run was the dreaded crust adhesion syndrome; there was no way I could get the rolled-out crust separated in one piece from my (newly purchased) big wood cutting board.

I had to swallow my embarrassment instead of pie and call one of the experts to learn the flour-on-the-cutting-board trick. But, that was only the beginning of my Apple Pie initiation.

Once I achieved “crust separation,” I realized I had not a clue about how to transfer it from rolling surface to pie plate. I was confronted with a thin and pliable medium pizza-sized object and no idea how to complete the operation. Male pride being what it is (put this in the category with not asking for driving directions), I wasn’t about to make another phone call. BIG mistake.

My first strategy was to slip my hands under the crust and slowly (gently) raise the crust so it draped over my wrists and arms. I would then swing it over the pie plate and slowly (gently) lower it into position. BAD idea.

Not only did the crust start to fracture before my very eyes – and, before I got it a mere three inches off the surface – I was now sporting two-toned arms, flour-white from the hands to the elbows and flesh-colored beyond. Oh, I also had to start re-rolling the crust and, this was only the bottom half. I couldn’t even begin to think about how I was going to place the other half on top of the filled pie. Nope, still wasn’t making that phone call (I’m also a rather bullish Taurus).

My second strategy actually worked – sort of. I re-floured the cutting board and used a big spatula to slowly (gently) separate the re-rolled crust from the board. Then, I lifted the whole board and positioned it just perfectly over the pie plate. Slowly (gently), I began moving the board side-to-side on a slight downward angle and, slowly, the crust began to slide toward its destination – sort of. With about half the crust in the pie plate and the other still on the board, the damned thing split in two. Ah, but it was a pie plate half-full. I continued the slow (gentle) side-shake until the second half nestled comfortably next to its mate. I was drunk with flour, er, power.

Now, I faced a critical tactical decision. Should I do the filling next or, should I roll the rest of the crust? Hmmm. If I cut the apples first and then rolled the crust, the apple sections would turn brown (even I knew that). Okay, first we roll, then we fill.

At that point, I was emotionally and physically fatigued. My little jaunt into home economics was creeping up on three hours and there was a lot riding on my success. Family palates up and down the East Coast were salivating in anticipation of the next generation’s first Apple Pie.

Pressing on, I decided to invent my own little short-cut. It always seemed the most labor-intensive part of the whole affair was peeling the apples. Frankly, I couldn’t see any reason for that so, I decided to just cut the four pounds of Macintosh Apples (and it had to be Macs; no other apple would do!) into sections and toss ‘em in with the other ingredients fully clothed.

A few other things I missed. I forgot to grease the pie plate for my first pie. BIG mistake. The bottom crust and the glass pie plate were permanently wed to each other, the crust a nasty shade of burnt toast. And, DO peel the damned apples. Otherwise, in the final product, they add an uncomfortable and unpleasant chewy texture to the otherwise perfectly consistent filling.

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FILLING:
4 pounds, Macintosh Apples
½ teaspoon, cinnamon
2 tablespoons, lemon juice
½ cup, sugar, plus 1 tablespoon (there’s that mysterious extra tablespoon again)
2 tablespoons, tapioca

Roll each half of the pie crust until they are about an inch larger than the pie plate (GLASS pie plate should be at least 9” in diameter). Grease the bottom of the plate before placing bottom crust (I use butter for the flavor). Cut up the apples and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice and add the other ingredients. Gently (so as not to break up the apple sections) mix the ingredients around the bowl to introduce everyone. PRE-HEAT YOUR OVEN TO 450°. Pour the ingredients into the pie plate – you’ll be amazed at how high the mound of goodies looks when it’s all in. Do not fret; it works out in the end. Place the top crust, flour side down. Flute and prick the top crust with a fork.

Okay, I’ll explain flute; it’s taking the front third of the fork tines – and pressing them along the one-inch bigger edge where both crusts meet. “Prick” means use the fork to poke a series of holes in the center of the top crust for venting. Otherwise, you’ll have Mt. St. Apple Pie erupting in your oven. Bake at 450° for ten minutes then 45 minutes at 350°. Let cool for several hours.

P.S. You're on your own to figure out YOUR best way to get the crust from cutting board to pie plate. Good luck!!



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And, as Grandma Rose would say, “You should eat well!"

Monday, November 12, 2007

Lucky Vacation

Don't ask me why but, one day I just got the idea in my mind that I'd write a "raunchy beach song." Sometimes the muse is inexplicable and, I don't fight it. BTW/if you think you have music for this, or could write some, have at it! And, of course, hugs & hisses are always welcome.


©2007 by LeeZard

Palm trees dancin' in the breeze,
Are you real or just a tease?
We met a few short hours ago,
So, is it yes or is it no?




I want to lay with you in the nighttime,
Doesn’t matter if you want to be mine.
I want to throw you down on a beach dune,
I want to sing a lucky vacation tune.

Let’s get out of this dingy bar,
Let’s hop in my bargain rental car.
Let’s drive ‘til we lose the road,
I'll ride ‘til I lose my load.

I want to lay with you in the nighttime,
Doesn’t matter if you want to be mine.
I want to throw you down on a beach dune,
I want to sing a lucky vacation tune.

I’ll hold you and make you sigh,
I’ll caress your silky inner thigh.
If you say no I will not cry,
I’ll go home and tell vacation lies.

I want to lay with you in the nighttime,
Doesn’t matter if you want to be mine.
I want to throw you down on a beach dune,
I want to sing a lucky vacation tune.