Snow Day Apple Pie

applepie 021

My coping strategies for yet another snow day–this one coated in ice–are almost depleted. I’ve done puzzles, read several books and caught up with all the wash and my e-mail.  Naturally, I fled to the kitchen.  It was time for pie.

Apple pie, in particular. I needed comfort. I wanted cinnamon-spiced air to envelope me. I yearned for a slice of a summer day. So yeah,  pie was the answer.

This Spry recipe booklet from 1942 has been tempting me for months. The kindly older woman on the cover is Aunt Jenny, Spry’s spokesmodel of the day. She was created as part of the advertising campaign against Crisco (which is what I’m using today) and apparently had great success luring customers to Spry. Her homespun, folksy tone was featured in a popular radio show and of course, promotional materials like the booklet below.

applepie 007Aunt Jenny’s got a bit of a pastry secret inside:

applepie 003Her recipe included an extra step that was new to me, and it promised a flaky result. Since I’m far from a pastry maestro, perhaps Aunt Jenny knew something I didn’t. Here are her instructions for a one-crust pie:

Spry (or Crisco) Pie Shell

Mix 1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Measure out 7 tablespoons Spry and divide into two equal parts. Two parts? Two steps? This was all new to me, but I followed along willingly.

Step 1: For Tenderness:  Cut in first half of Spry until fine as meal. Be sure to use a light cutting stroke (I used a fork).

applepie 010Step 2: For Flakiness: Cut in remaining Spry until particles are size of large peas (I went back to my best pastry-making tool—my hands).  Do not overmix.

  Add 3 tablespoons cold water (no more, no less), mixing thoroughly into a dough.

applepie 012Roll 1/8 inch thick  and place dough in a 9-inch pie plate.

Now , on to the filling:

Apple Pie

6 large tart apples (I used 8 medium and sliced in chunks)

1 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon butter

  The recipe directs you to first fill the pie shell with sliced apples. BUT I went off Aunt Jenny’s pie reservation here and did things differently. Why? Because of my mother, the best pie maker EVAH.

   She always added flour to the bottom of the pie before mounding the apples inside the pie plate. Those juicy apples will release lots of liquid and you want, you crave that thick gooey pie (plasma?) globbing around inside. So, I added 1 tablespoon of flour to the bottom of the pie and added another 1-2 tablespoons to the sugar-spice mixture above.

   Mix sugar, spices,  flour, salt and lemon juice. Sprinkle over the apple slices as you gradually layer on the fruit. Dot with butter.

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Bake in 425 degree oven 50-60 minutes.  I lowered the oven to 400 after 45 minutes and baked the pie a total of 65-70 minutes.

The results: Aunt Jenny’s two-step method was a winner, and I believe the crust was the best I’ve ever made. It certainly was the flakiest crust I ever turned out. I should know because I did exhaustive taste testing afterward. I had pie for a late-afternoon snack and then again as a dinner entree later that night. Now don’t tsk, tsk. I’m in good company. The highly authoritative American Pie Council reports that “pie just isn’t for after-dinner dessert. Thirty-five percent of Americans say they’ve had pies for breakfast; pies as lunch (66 percent) and midnight snacks (59 percent).”

  Furthermore, I joined the tribe (32 percent of Americans) who prefer no crust on top of their pie (we all cut down where we can, don’t we?) and the 90 percent who agree that a slice of pie represents one of the simple pleasures of life. To quote a famous, fastidious food and style diva: ‘Pie–it’s a good thing.’

P.S. Thankfully, there’s a statistic I didn’t replicate today:  1 in 5  Americans have eaten an entire pie by themselves.

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11 thoughts on “Snow Day Apple Pie

  1. I too am not a good crust maker. I’m going to try that two-step mixing next time. Good tip. Your pie looks awesome, and I always add a little flour or other thickener to my pies. I have had pie for breakfast but I’ve never eaten a whole pie.

  2. Ok, you’ve done it. You’ve made me want to bake a pie. I haven’t made a real home-made pie in 2-3 years. My crust making is pitiful. I think I will try Aunt Jenny’s method. Wish me luck!

  3. Your apple pie looks amazing, I’m drooling over it. If you read Joyce Maynard’s book Labor Day (or see the movie) you’ll see a different idea- Minute tapioca sprinkled in the bottom of the crust to soak up the juices.

  4. Beautiful pie!

    My flaky pastry crust secret came from Julia Child — but it involves the very modern touch of a food processor.

  5. Pie is ALWAYS a good thing. I’ll admit though—I’m afraid of making crusts. Maybe being snowed in and unable to get to the store to buy a pre-made would make me brave enough to try. (Little chance of that here in Fla though!) Enjoy!

    • I’m not sure if Spry is even around anymore, but it’s vegetable shortening. It’s very similar to Crisco, the product I always use for pastry dough. I know some recipes require butter, but I’ve never made any of those. I’d stick with Crisco for this recipe.

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