Brown Sugar and Spice Apple Pie, A Seasonal New Year’s Celebratory Dessert.
Scroll to the bottom of the post, if you want to skip my ambling thoughts and get right to the recipe for Apple Pie. Enjoy, and Happy New Year, Dear Readers!
Let’s Ring It In….
Before this year’s New Year’s eve with thoughts of baking an Apple Pie in celebration and to mark the old and new years with sweetness, I recall earlier New Years. I remember being told as a child that in the old days, people would lean out their windows, or go out into the streets at midnight on New Year’s Eve, and bang pots and pans together to literally ring in the New Year.
Another tale was told to me by my older brother on the way home from a party in one New Year’s eve, as we cabbed across the Brooklyn Bridge. He remembered my grandmother telling him how she and other immigrants danced on the Brooklyn Bridge in celebration of one New Year’s eve when they were new to this country. We could only imagine what that must have been like, as our yellow taxi crossed the very same bridge that evening.
Before I waltz into 2018….
There is the sense of time speeding up as we approach the end of the year. Goodbye to 2017, and hello 2018. My life begins to feel like the Millennium Falcon traveling through hyperspace. For me there is a reckoning that happens at the end of the year, sort of like my own personal yom kippur, and the feeling that my life must be totally in order before the old year passes into the new.
A year passing is a mark of time and leaves me a bit sad, in a way that birthdays or the passing of seasons do not. Birthdays are a sign of growth and accomplishment. Fall has the history of marking the new school year, and will always carry a sense of excitement despite the fact that I am well beyond my school days now. Perhaps my feelings are universal. Thus, the sadness and nostalgia to singing auld lang syne after the clock chimes at midnight, and after hugs and kisses are exchanged in celebration.
Getting one’s life in order before New Year’s Eve is like the anti-New Year’s Resolution. Why wait to change your life after New Year’s, if you could beat the clock and get things done before. And so I have been scrambling to at least clear the papers from my desk before the New Year.
While I am well aware of the rule that one should only touch a piece of paper once, I break the rule and drop things upon my desk in passing, intending to get to them later. Mail, scraps of book titles from reviews, illustrations or photos that caught my eye, recipes from the NYT, to do lists, and other bits and pieces all wind up in a pile like leaves falling from the tree branches to the ground as winter approaches.
Perhaps I just need to adapt a new sense of living in time. I was recently reminded of that magical feeling of absolutely being suspended in space and having no sense of time at all, when I saw the play, “Hundred Days,” at the New York Theater Workshop. The times I had personally experienced that feeling of time expanding into infinity, happened when I would draw or paint, or work at some type of art project. I fell in love with making art partly because of that feeling of being lost in time. There was not time, only being.
One plot point in the play “Hundred Days,” is that in order to avoid any disasters in life, the couple of the play would live their lives together in expanded time. Each minute would be lived as if it were a year. This would enable them to live a whole lifetime together within those “Hundred Days.” Magical thinking, indeed. But a reminder that there is no need to careen into the future. One could easily amble there as well, with the proper mindset. Another way of putting it is to remind yourself to stop a minute and take a breath.
Now for some Apple Pie….
And so, instead of mourning the loss of the year passing, let us celebrate with something sweet to mark this year’s New Year celebration with family and friends. I recommend doing so by baking an Apple Pie.
This is the season for apples. There are a few at my food coop with such evocative names. Species of which I was unaware, with enticing names like Envy or Pink Sparkle. It would be fun to make a pie using these unusual and flavorful apples.
I originall chosen a recipe simply entitled “Apple Pie,” from the cookbook “Chez Panisse Desserts” by Lindsey Remolif Shere. In the link to the cook book title, which talks about finding a first edition of the cookbook, there is a comment about the making of the book by Lindsey’s husband, Charles Shere. With just a few words, he brings the entire era in which it was written to life for us:
Apple Pie was always my late husband Dan’s favorite. It feels good to honor Dan by baking an apple pie, and to bring him into the New Year with me in this way.
Many years have passed since those summer days among the fields of barley
See the children run as the sun goes down among the fields of gold
You’ll remember me when the west wind moves upon the fields of barley
You can tell the sun in his jealous sky when we walked in fields of gold
When we walked in fields of gold, when we walked in fields of gold
- FOR THE CRUST:
- 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
- 4 to 10 tablespoons ice water
- FOR THE FILLING:
- 6 apples (about 3 pounds), peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
- ¾ cup light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- pinch kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into pieces
- Milk, for brushing
- Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling
- CINNAMON SUGAR:
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and blend throughly. Pour it into a small container or zip-close food storage bag.
- FOR THE CRUST:
- Step 1:
- In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the flour and salt just to combine. Drop in the butter pieces and run the motor until crumbs the size of lima beans form. Add the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse the motor just until the dough comes together, taking care not to overtax the dough.
- Step 2: Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and divide it into half. Press each half together to make a flat disc. Wrap in the plastic and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days. Or you can freeze the dough up to 6 months.
- FOR THE FILLING:
- Step 1:
- Roll the discs of dough into circles about ¼-inch-thick. Use one to line a 9-inch pie pan and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes and up to overnight. Place the other on a baking sheet and chill until needed.
- Step 2:
- When you are ready to bake the pie, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line the dough with foil and fill with pie weights, such as copper pennies, raw rice, or dried beans. Bake until the crust is pale golden and beginning to crisp, 30-35 minutes.
- Step 3: When the piecrust is in the oven, prepare the filling. In a large bowl, mix together the apples, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, ginger, and salt.
- Step 4: When the piecrust is ready, remove the foil and pie weights and fill with the apple mixture. Dot the apples with the butter pieces. Place the remaining circle of dough on top, fluting the edges and cutting steam vents. Brush the raw dough with milk and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the juices are bubbling and the crust is golden brown. Transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes before serving.