Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Mom's Apple Pie With Vodka

I used to be really afraid of making pies. Like phobia-level afraid of it. (And tape worms. But the pie thing too.) Pie is something that is hard to get to come correct and everyone has different expectations and on top of that it’s not exactly the fastest thing to make, and that alone is pretty fucking horrifying. What if it comes out wet? What if the crust is tough? What if you forget to cut slits in it and turns into an apple and cinnamon sugar bomb and your grandmother cuts into it on Thanksgiving Day and her face is scoured off by a wall of searing hot apples fountaining into the air?

Shut up and sit down. I’m not gonna lie: pie is not fast. We’re not talking about putting a steak in a pan. But it’s not hard. Pour yourself a drink, no ice allowed if it’s scotch. This recipe was passed on to me by my mother, and if she heard you were drinking scotch with rocks she’d write me out of her will for even knowing you.

The number one important lesson is that everyone loves home-made dessert. Doesn’t matter how bad you fuck it up! I made a four-layer Italian wedding cake for my own birthday in college and the top two layers split in twain and fell to the sides in a frostinglanche. And NOBODY CARED. They were all, “Holy shit, your cake didn’t come from a box? I didn’t know that was an option!” So no matter what, if you attempt this pie, you’re golden. Put something in a pie-tin shaped container out on a table at Thanksgiving and people will eat it all and will compliment you forever. They’ll give you the key to the city. You are going to be a dessert hero!

Feeling cocky? Good. That’s how you should feel when you’re baking: like you have just made love to a beautiful lady or man or ladyman, and it is the next morning and you know that anything is possible. Being afraid when you bake is like being afraid when wrestling a bear: the pie will smell your fear and will lunge at your throat. If it will help your attitude, go make love to someone beautiful and come back. I’ll wait.

All confident? Then let’s go…. to the liquor cabinet.

The secret to good pie dough is vodka. Get some out. It should be chilled, so if it’s not throw that bottle in the freezer and come back later. (Why isn’t your vodka in the freezer? Did you leave it under your pillow again?) Start by learning how to stop being a wuss and make a pie crust. That recipe is basically right. (BASICALLY.) Mostly his recipe lacks excuses to drink, so: replace about half the water with an equal amount of vodka.

SCIENCE CORNER: The vodka makes the dough flakier by evaporating as the dough cooks. The flavor disappears, so your family won’t know that you can’t even bake a fucking pie without booze being involved. (If your family members cannot cook without alcohol [hi mom!] then maybe serve the pie with a shot of tequila?) The vodka also provides an excuse to have an open bottle in the kitchen without needing to explain why there are no mixers around.

OK choose your own pieventure time: are you a nervous person? Do you read the safety manual on an airplane? Do you have time to kill? If so: pre-bake that pie crust. It’ll guarantee that your pie does not come out with a soggy/raw bottom, and it is EASY. Preheat that oven to like 425, and put something in your pie tin on top of the crust to keep it from rising into the air like a flock of crows and flying out of your apartment. They sell pie weights, but who the fuck owns them? [Ed. Note: Umm, THOSE OF US WHO KNOW HOW TO MAKE PIES? Sorry! Carry on.] Not me. I have in the past used: Dry beans! Rice! Coins! Think heavy and dry. Put down foil first, though, or your pie will taste like nickels. After ten minutes, yank the foil and the nickels and turn the heat down to 375. In ten more minutes, tug that shit out and it will be GOLDEN and DELICIOUS LOOKING. Don’t be fooled into eating it by how great it looks! It’s just a crust! That’s like eating just the frosting packet in the toaster streudel bag!

OK I waited till you made pie dough to tell you the bad news: apple pie involves a lot. Of fucking. Apples. You can try to find pre-sliced apples, or maybe try posting on Craigslist to get someone else to do it for you, but failing that you need to take like a pound of apples and peel them and core them and slice them. Maybe have friends help. Maybe do it while you watch a Wings marathon. Just make sure there aren’t any seeds in the slices or they will grow in your grandmother’s stomach and she’ll turn into a tree, right at the table in front of the whole family. How embarrassing!

Once you’ve got those apples ready, you are DONE WITH THE HARD PART. Set that oven to 350 and put those apples in your crust. Mix a cup of sugar, 3 tablespoons of flour and maybe a few pinches of cinnamon and nutmeg if you want to be able to brag about putting nutmeg in your pie. Watch out for nutmeg psychosis. Pour about a third of a cup of orange juice onto your apples, less if you have a fear of wet pie fillings. The orange juice makes a big difference! This is the “original recipe” version but pretty much any citrus will work! Make it your own! Who cares! Other things I’ve added before: ginger, bourbon, brown sugar, cloves.

(You may find that baking will lead you down a road of megalomania. “If I can bake a pie”, you’ll say, “I can do anything!” This is entirely 100% true. If you’re good enough at baking, you’ll be able to rob banks and the police won’t touch you. Forget it Jake, it’s Pietown.)

Dust your flour/sugar/etc. mixture over your filling and cut up a quarter stick of butter into pea sized bits and sprinkle them over your apples like pixie dust. Usually I’m pretty impatient at this point and just throw them all at once, but seriously pay attention or you’ll end up with seven slices of apple pie and one slice of butter pie. (Although, again: would anyone eating a slice of butter pie be unhappy? No. This is a matter of principle, not of making delicious pie.)

ALMOST DONE: Put that lid of dough on your pie (a pie, like a lady, is uncivilized if it goes to Thanksgiving dinner topless) and if you are feeling fancy brush on some evaporated milk and sprinkle it with sugar. Cut some slits in it, too, because pie bombs are something you can never be too careful about. Make sure you pinch the edge of your pie dough all around the rim so it doesn’t come off in the oven leaving your pie with a little yarmulke of dough in the middle.

Put it in the oven! THERE. Pie ACCOMPLISHED. It is not hard, it is just a little time consuming. And speaking of hard and time consuming, consider doing this in front of your significant other: pie gets mad ass. Seriously. Nobody is unimpressed by a homemade pie, including all sorts of attractive ladies and men. Your pie will bake for 40 or 45 minutes (until it looks delicious) so I would use this opportunity to go back to the bedroom and work off those calories you’ll be eating later. Bring it to your friends’ house/grandmother’s/soup kitchen and impress the shit out of your friends/family/homeless people. Although knowing them, they’ll probably be too drunk to be impressed. Tell them how great it was when they’re all hungover the day after Thanksgiving and they’ll believe you.

Christian Brown is thankful for Mary HK Choi, long-form reporting and scotch.

18 Comments / Post A Comment

deepomega (#1,720)

For what it's worth, I stayed up till like… 2 am writing this, after a 14 hour day, in the middle of 14 straight days of work. And yet I regret nothing.

cherrispryte (#444)

:) I wrote mine the day after I finished my thesis, so suck it.

Also this is fantastic and hilarious and I was looking for a pie recipe and might just do this. Or at least, I will make sure there is vodka in the crust.

C_Webb (#855)


carpetblogger (#306)

Crazy! I made my best pie last year, with THAT CRUST RECIPE, using a vodka bottle as a rolling pin. It never occurred to me to actually put the vodka in with the flour and other stuff. That mistake will not be made this year…

Art Yucko (#1,321)

Deepo, I'm disappointed in you. This was supposed to be a sad story about how you worked a 16-hour shift with a deadline breathing down your neck and celebrated Thanksgiving alone with your 3am McDonald's apple pie that you ate sitting in your car and some of the hot filling scorched your tongue kinda harsh so then you figured maybe if you poured some of your Popov into the scalding pie-crust it would cool it down, and then you were like "hey this kinda tastes good, actually."

Which is to say, "save me a slice, dawg."

Kevin Patterson (#5,933)

I made the fuck out of this pie last Thanksgiving and it was delicious and I'm still working through all of the mad crazy sex I got out of it.

Bittersweet (#765)

I'm thankful for deepomega, frostinglanches, vodka (in and out of pie crusts) and those apple peeler/corer/slicer thingees you can get for $20-30. Then the zillion apples you need are ready in 5-10 min. and you don't even have to watch Wings!

deepomega (#1,720)

When my mother retired to Florida, she mailed me her apple peeler/corer/slicer, which means there is no reason that I'm not eating apple pie EVERY DAY. I don't know what my problem is.

KarenUhOh (#19)

I was going to ask what kind of apples you recommend, but I got with the spirit of the project, and just used a bottle of Calvados instead.

Definitely going to make this this weekend even if my country doesn't actually have a Thanksgiving because we're too ungrateful, generally.

egad (#1,355)

Tell me about it. I actually googled 'when is thanksgiving?' in order to make this pie on the correct day. On discovering it wasn't on a weekend (really?!) I have postponed pie making plans.

That, and it is 30 degrees out so baking sounds unpleasant.

Any time someone in my house opens the oven (to, like, make dinner and stuff) I have to leave the kitchen. It's practically too fucking hot to be in the same room as a toaster right now. Can't wait until summer actually arrives for real.

KarlLaFong (#3,568)

One year I put some Thunderbird in a pumpkin pie and people went insane, insisting I open a bakery or something. I'm fairly certain it was the Bum Wine talking.

garge (#736)

If the moms fall through, you are heartily invited to my The Wire marathon if you bring one or four of these! Also, I happen to be deathly afraid of wet pie fillings, so thank you for respecting my demographic within your instructional. h/t h/t xox

Annie K. (#3,563)

I am so proud of you, DOmega, just pleased and proud to know you. You did good.

“If I can bake a pie”, you’ll say, “I can do anything!”

I agree with this statement. After I successfully made a key lime pie, I felt invincible. Like, punching-babies-on-the-subway invincible.

However, do not do that.

LotaLota (#1,703)

Do it backwards, and you might decide you can get away without baking a crust.

Drop a knob of butter into a frying pan. Quick peel about twice as many apples as you think you'll need. Take that knife and cut them into quarters, then slice off the bits of core. Now you just slice those apple quarters right into the pan. Turn on the heat and sweat the apples for about ten minutes, enough to get the excess moisture out and get them crisp-tender. Mix up some sugar, a spoonful of cornstarch and some sweet spices. Whatever you've got – if it's cloves, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice – they're all good with apples. Dump it on the apples and cook another five minutes or so, till the cornstarch thickens the remaining juice in the pan. There you are: warm spiced apples. Turn it into a pie crust and bake for 20 minutes at 450. Simpler yet: forget the pie crust, serve with shortbread cookies and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum.

tumblingwall (#8,185)

My grandma told me that when I was home for christmas. Maybe she reads the Awl?
I remember the look on my teetotaler grandpa's face. It was a mix of "oh my god I will not get drunk off a pie" and "what has this child done to my home, encouraging my wife to bring alcohol into it."
Also instead of putting flour on it when you role it out put the dough in between saran wrap. It works like a dream.

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