December 3, 2012

Apple Pie, American Gothic Style

Remember when I mentioned that I was reading Making Piece back in September? Well, there's more to that story...

At the end of the summer, Corey and I took a roadtrip to Des Moines for the Iowa State Fair (foods on sticks!). On the way there, we saw one of those brown tourist attraction roadside signs in the middle of Iowa for the American Gothic House. Here's how it went in my head:

Does that mean what I think it means? I dunno, what do you think it means? That's the house in Grant Wood's American Gothic painting? Could be, look it up. OH MY GOD, it IS the house. Go, go, take the next exit!!

Sure enough...there is was:

Just like in Wood's iconic painting:

At the little visitors' center across from the house, we got dressed up and took our own American Gothic photo:

We also learned that a woman named Beth Howard actually LIVES there. We were told that she rents the house from the state, runs a pie stand out of the house on the weekends (summers only), and writes a blog. It sounded vaguely familiar, so when we got back into the car I looked up her blog. Beth wrote the memoir Making Piece, which the Novel Cuisine book club class at Kitchen Conservatory had just read. I hadn't read the book yet myself, so I decided to get a copy as soon as I got home.

When I finished the book, I emailed the author about scheduling a pie-baking class. So, yesterday we drove 4 hours (one way) to Eldon, Iowa, with a group of our foodie/blogger friends to bake apple pies with Beth IN THE HOUSE.

This is Beth. She is pretty awesome and damn adorable in those overalls.
I was so excited about this trip, and I am thrilled to have gotten to meet Beth and perfect my pie-making skills. Here's what I learned (you can see Beth's actual recipe here):

1. "FUCK THE RECIPE!" You don't need to be persnickety. Just use 3 cups of flour (total) to 1 cup of fat, preferably half butter & half shortening. Break the cold fat into the flour until you get peanut & almond sized pieces. THEN STOP PLAYING WITH IT ALREADY!

2.  Add ice water a few tablespoons at a time, using your fingers to "fluff" the water into the flour/butter. Only do this three times before adding more water. Keep doing this until the dough sticks together. DON'T FORCE IT! Let the water hold it together, not your squeezing.

3.  Rub lots of flour over your hands (Beth calls them "Flour Mittens") & gather the dough into two disks, using your fingertips to press the dough gently together. This is a fairly sticky dough, so use lots of flour to get rid of the stickiness. 

It is not required that your apron match the tablecloth, but it helps.

Now, I've always heard that you should chill your dough disks before rolling them out. Beth says you don't have to. You can roll out the dough right away, using enough flour to prevent the dough from sticking to the table and your rolling pin. However, you should keep whatever dough you're not using in the fridge until you're ready to use it.

4.  After rolling out the dough & placing it into a pie plate, use scissors to trim the edges. Leave an inch hanging down to create a crimped edge later.

5.  Fill your pie with 7 large Granny Smith apples that have been peeled & sliced. You can use a fancy apple peeler/slicer/corer like this or simply peel the apples with a paring knife and slice them right into the pie (slice all around the core). The apples are layered twice with "white mountains" of sugar & flour and a sprinkling of cinnamon & salt.

6.  Roll out your top crust and place it into an aluminum pie plate; this makes it easy to just flip the dough on top of your filled pie. 

7.  Create an edge by rolling the dough under & crimping to seal the pie, brush with egg wash, decorate with extra dough, & cut a few slits for vents. 

That is--hands down--the most gorgeous pie I've ever made.

8.  Bake the pies at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375 & bake for another 30-40 minutes, until the juice bubbles and the tops are deeply golden brown. 

Aren't these some super sexy pies?

Afterwards, we got to take more fun photos in front of the house:

Farmer Jen with her sister-wives.

American Pie

It was such a fun day!
THANKS again to my friends Jen, Steph, Chuck, & Kimberly for going along...and to Beth for welcoming us into her home & sharing her pie-baking superpowers. SPECIAL THANKS to Corey for driving us & for taking hundreds (literally) of awesome pics throughout the day.


Woody said...

Sexy pie indeed. The leftover dough made a damn sexy quiche as well.

Anonymous said...

OUT.....STANDING!! Now I'm hungry, again.

~ John B.

Dissertation Girl said...

Wow! What a fantastic story! And great pictures! It is so cool that you did this! And -- as usual! -- you write about it so awesomely!