Believe it or not, it snowed here in Amman this weekend. Alright, so it wasn’t serious snow, but there was snow on the ground nonetheless and it was cold and dreary. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, what choice did I have but to bake? I looked into my barren refrigerator and found little more than 3 apples, about half a stick of butter, Crisco, and some other random bits of leftovers–it wasn’t looking good. Given the weather situation, there was no way I was going to drive to the store to pick anything up, so I had to improvise. I didn’t have enough butter to make a crust, but there was Crisco (please don’t recoil); I only had 3 Golden Delicious apples, not my pick of apples for pie and certainly not enough for much of anything. Given the sad state of affairs, I pulled out my adorable Emile Henry mini pie dishes (which I’ve had since we got married but hadn’t used until recently) and decided to make mini apple pies.
I am not considered the pie baker of the family. That crown has been bestowed upon my sister, I suppose deservedly, but somewhat unfairly since she’s SO much older than me and has many more years of practice. My mother and Aunt Alice’s pies have been crowned by Raj as “the best” and are the basis of any pie comparison around here (my sister comes in at a close second).
Prior to moving overseas, Raj pleaded with me to learn how to make pie like my mother. I obliged, had my mother teach me how to make her mother’s pie crust and the filling for both her cherry and apple pies (Raj’s favorites), and bought the necessary tools (i.e. a pastry blender (to make dough by hand like my mom, not in the food processor, which I prefer) a fluted pastry wheel to create a lattice crust, and I even shipped Crisco overseas to myself beforehand, in case I couldn’t buy it here (it’s widely available, in case you care to know)).
Here’s my grandmother’s pie crust recipe (written in my mother’s beautiful handwriting). I rarely use this recipe given my fear of white, solid fat (Is butter really any better? Don’t answer.), but without enough butter, Grandma Helen’s recipe it was. And besides, if my mom and Aunt Alice use this pie crust recipe, Raj will have to like it, right?
Grandma Helen’s Pie Crust
(I only used half of the recipe to fill two mini pies with and froze the rest for another (hopefully not snowy) day.)
- 2 cups flour
- 2/3 cup Crisco
- pinch of salt
- 7-8 tablespoons ice water
- Put flour mixture in bowl. Take out 1/3 cup flour and mix with 7 tablespoons water and make into a paste.
- Place paste into bowl with the Crisco and the flour and blend with pastry blender, adding more water or flour until the dough sticks together.
- Divide the dough into 2 even pieces. Turn each piece of dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into a 4 inch disk. Wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Before rolling the dough out, let it sit on the counter to soften slightly for 10 minutes.
Mini Apple Pie Filling
- 3 apples (I used Golden Delicious, but I’d prefer any other kind), peeled, cored, and sliced
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons sugar (add more or less to taste depending on apples), plus more for sprinkling
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (or Penzey’s apple pie spice)
- Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in large saute pan. Place the apples in the pan along with the 3 tablespoons of sugar. Saute for about 8 minutes, or until the apples are softened. Sprinkle cinnamon (or apple pie spice) over the apples and stir. Remove from heat.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Take the pie crust out of the refrigerator and let sit for 10 minutes to soften. Roll out the dough and place the crust into the two mini pie dishes, trimming the edges.
- Divide the apples evenly into each of the mini pie dishes.
- Roll out the remaining, leftover dough into a rectangle to make the lattice strips. Cut strips of dough evenly with the pastry wheel. Weave the strips over and under each other. Trim excess lattice from the edge. Seal the edges with water. Place a little sprinkling of sugar on top of each pie.
- Place the two mini pie dishes on a pan and place in the oven for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn up the oven to 375 degrees F and bake for 35 minutes more, or until the crust is a deep golden brown.
Postscript: I don’t deserve to be crowned best pie maker in the family, not because I don’t want the title–I want all titles, but because I don’t really like pie. I’m not a crust person so I’m not the one to tell you whether or not this was any good. I asked Raj about the pie expecting more than I got. His response, “It’s good.” No exclamation. That’s all. Nothing more. Inquiring further, I told him that I used my mom’s crust recipe (he’s always suspicious because he knows I’m not a fan of Crisco). The response was still the same. This was not the glowing review I wanted. Nevertheless, he asked for the second mini pie last night. I suppose that means something.