When I woke up this morning, it was snowing! Two days ago, my air conditioner was on, I was in flip-flops and short-sleeves (not because I was having a hot flash either--though those DO happen, but just not this week. It was eighty-three degrees!)--that's why I was in short sleeves! However, yesterday, we had to have a fire in the fireplace. (I woke up and the house was sixty degrees. . . good god!) Is it any wonder I'm still not fully mended over my winter-early-spring-nearly-killed-me-virus I contracted over two weeks ago? Though, I will say that I am kinda used to not really being able to smell very well, so relying heavily on "visual eating" has helped keep me in the kitchen.
For several days, there wasn't a whole lot of any cooking going on--soups. Lots of soups. I've lost five pounds. Sweet! (I know that's horrible to say, but truly, if you're going to be this ill, for goodness sakes, a girl's got to have something to make her day a little brighter.) So, we're supposed to have snow tomorrow--about three inches. I refuse to stress out over my little veggies I put in the ground. They are a cold tolerant bunch. We'll just see how cold tolerant they really are. Perhaps this cold snap is what got me all into my pie baking. But truth be told, I'd take a pie any and every day. Even . . . dare I say? Over cake. It's true. Offer me a cake or pie: I'm pretty sure pie wins.
I once bid over twenty-five dollars at a fundraiser for a lemon meringue pie--I won the pie. (This was BV: before vegan). I LOVE lemon meringue pie. Love. It. If I can come up with a way to create a vegan version of that pie, you'll see it here. Meantime, my pie baking has centered mostly around the apple, the strawberry, the rhubarb, the chocolate cream, and once a peach pie (I say once because I was the only one in the house who'd eat it). Pie is something everyone will talk about because we all know someone who "makes the best crust". Pie IS all about the crust. You fail at crust, you fail at pie. This week, Martha Stewart's New Pies and Tarts: 150 Recipes for Old-Fashioned and Modern Favorites was released. I had my hand on it by ten thirty on Tuesday as they were just bringing it out to the floor at my local Target. (Just an fyi, Martha began by selling pies--and this book is a bit of an update on her original book of pies.) What was even funnier--on top of the fact this crazed-mid-life woman just HAD to march in and get her copy of this new pie cookbook--was when the pleasant red-shirt wearing sales people asked, "You bake pies?" Then ensued a brief encounter of the pie kind whereupon ideas and methods of crust making were exchanged and bragged about. These were two men who obviously would have loved it if I'd happened to have had a pie in my purse. By the time the pie chat had ended, we all wanted pie.
My vegan apple crumb pie is not a Martha pie. However, don't be sad. There are quite a few other worthy pie baking cookbooks on the market (I've yet to get my hands on ALL of them, but I'm working on it). During the Borders "good-bye" sale here in St. Louis, I got my hands on a copy of Rose Levy Beranbaum's, The Pie and Pastry Bible (which is where this pie recipe comes from--and the book sells for fifty bucks! I know: OMG! Thank goodness for going-out-of-business sales). I have poured over this cookbook, read and re-read the introduction and her careful, ever-so-detailed, how-to-do-pies instructions. I had learned a ton by page five! She makes no bones about certain "musts" in pie making: all ingredients MUST be cold. That means, measure out the dry ingredients, put 'em in the freezer. (I already knew the perils of baking without using freezing cold butter or shortening and water.) When she calls for you to blind bake--that is, bake the pie shell before adding your filling--DO it!. The book is written with a whole lot of attention to detail, so I don't recommend you try watching Oprah, bake and update the Facebook page or whatever--just keep it you and the pie cookbook and all will be fine.
This pie took me half a day to bake. I was ready for a nap by the time the slicing of the three lbs. of apples came around. No, seriously, I needed to take a nap. I actually fudged a part of the directions--the part where Rose says to place the rolled out pie crust (already in the pie pan) into the fridge for another thirty minutes. I was NOT spending another precious second waiting to bake this darn pie. So, in the oven it went. I can't tell any difference. I probably was told (about page four) how much better the pie would be IF indeed, that extra thirty minutes in the fridge would have happened. But by this time yesterday, I was just through with the pie stuff. Give me my pie already.
Rose has a lovely, and I mean lovely website, Real Baking with Rose Levy Beranbaum. *I know I've mentioned it here before, but still worth mentioning again. If you have any pie, or cake or bread or anything having to do with all things from the kitchen, just go there. She'll have an answer. Which is what I found myself doing last night as we had some of this pie. I was not one hundred percent in love with the crust--the bottom part, that is. I loved the top part--the crumble part. The bottom part, well, to be honest, I think my Julia Child's crust is better--just click here to see my pie exploits from last spring. Yum. Though Rose states in her pie book that this crust took her some fifty attempts to get right, I had greater expectations for it. I am sure it was my vegan adaptations--using tofu cream cheese vs. the regular cream cheese called for in her crust. She insists the cream cheese is what sets this crust apart from others. I'm not sold on that idea yet. However, being ever-so-loyal to Rose, I did take a moment to try to troubleshoot my "sorta soggy bottom crust" issue. And brilliant as ever, Rose told one reader who had the same problem with her apple pie, to brush some melted chocolate over the bottom of the baked crust--just a thin layer of this chocolate will seal the crust's base after blind baking and viola--you will have a flaky, crisp crust. The crumb part in my pie was made with ground pecans, brown sugar, regular sugar, some cinnamon, a bit of flour and a bit of vegan unsalted margerine--placed in the food processor until crumbly, then after the pie baked an hour, it was carefully spread across the top of the pie, patted down ever so gently, as Rose instructs you to do, then baked an additional twenty minutes or so. I was and am still in heaven over this pie. Sure, the bottom crust could have held up better, but given all else--my apples came out a bit chewy and not at all mushy. The crumb topping: perfect. I loved it! We had it with vanilla soy ice cream and it was divine! If you'd like to try one of Rose's pies out--she has plenty on her website. Just don't expect to whip this up in an hour!