Thursday, May 1, 2014

Motherhood and Apple Pie

These days, my routine is comprised of the timeless trifecta familiar to all mothers: nappies, nurse, nap (for the baby, not me, regrettably.)  That initial, dizzying, post-birth shock to the system is subsiding; I no longer feel like sobbing from sleep deprivation and usually, I'm dressed by midday. Success! Nothing signifies normal like being able to pull on a pair of pants and leave the house - even if those pants are your battered maternity leggings. (I am cheerfully ignoring the fact that I am still wearing saggy maternity leggings more than a month after giving birth.)

But this is not a post about the aesthetic shortcomings of postpartum maternity wear. It is a post about pie. Ordinary apple pie. Once I was feeling up to it, about a week after the wee one and I returned from the hospital, apple pie was the first thing I baked. It was a chilly and wet Sunday in April, and I craved the restorative properties of quintessential, fat-laden comfort food. I ate the first slice warm, smothered in a thick, handmade crème fraîche that I recently discovered at our local health store. Maybe it has something to do with breastfeeding - I cannot consume enough dairy products these days: yogurt (chestnut or plain, heaped with sugar), lattes, stinky cheese (a godsend after an 8 month period of abstinence), chocolate ice cream, my beloved crème fraîche, and coconut milk - which, although technically not a dairy product, is creamy and luscious, and fits the bill. I unabashedly polished off almost the entire pie toute seule over the course of two days. No shame. Sugar + fat = endorphins = happy mama (= continued use of maternity leggings, but whatever.)

My tried-and-true apple pie recipe is one that I discovered a few years ago, while prepping for a 4th of July party in Dublin. I came across a recipe for "White House Apple Pie" and gave it a go in honor of the occasion. It turned out to be quite delectable, and, with a few minor modifications, has been my go-to apple pie recipe ever since. I'll include only the recipe for the filling below, as I use a basic pâte brisée for the crust.

White House Apple Pie
(slightly adapted from Sam Kass's recipe)

Filling ingredients:
2 pounds apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks (I use a mix of apple varieties for contrast)

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup cornstarch
1vanilla pod
1 tsp. cinnamon
Zest and juice of 1 lemon


1. Make your pie crust as usual, set aside to chill for at least an hour (overnight is better.)
2. When chilled, roll the crust out and line a buttered pin tin with the crust, trimming the excess from the edges. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 375/190. Bake the crust, lined with baking paper and filled with weights, for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
4. To make the filling: combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the fruit thickens. Let cool. When the filling has cooled, pour it into the baked crust.
5. Top the pie with pastry lid and seal the edges with egg wash. Cut a few steam vents in the top (I sometimes use cookie cutters to make designs, like small hearts or stars) and cover with egg wash. Sprinkle generously with sugar. Bake for another 30-40 minutes - pie should be golden brown and fruit filling will bubble through vents in the top.