Even though it was almost 90 degrees yesterday, I felt the urge to bake a vegan apple pie, something I haven’t done since the big change in our diet. And I really enjoy being innovative with an age old recipe pilfered from my ancient Better Homes and Garden red checked cookbook. It’s fun!
Perfect Vegan Apple Pie Ingredients
Serves: 8 adult
Prep time: 30 minutes
Bake: 50 minutes
Oven: 400 °F
Perfect Vegan Apple Pie Recipe
If apples lack tartness, sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Combine “sugars”, flour, spices, and dash salt: mix with apples. Line a 9-inch pie plate with pastry. Fill with apple mixture: dot with vegan butter. Adjust top crust, cutting slits for escape of steam: seal. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400° for 50 minutes.
Plain Vegan Pastry 9-inch double crust pie Ingredients
- 1 ½ cup sifted all-purpose flour
- ½ cup King Arthur Flour 100% Whole Grain Whole Wheat Flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ⅔ vegan butter
- 5-7 tablespoons cold water
Plain Vegan Pastry Recipe
Sift flour and salt together; cut in vegan butter with a pastry blender till pieces are the size of small peas. (For extra tender pastry: cut in half of the vegan butter till like cornmeal. Cut in remaining till like small peas. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of water over part of the mixture. Gently toss with a fork, push to the side of the bowl. Repeat till all is moistened. Form into a ball and divide for lower and upper crust. Roll top crust on lightly floured surface, until the right size. Gently slip the spatula around the edges and lift until you’re at the middle of the dough, then I gingerly fold in half and gently run the spatula and lift into pie plate. Fill with apples (don’t forget to dot with vegan butter, like I did yesterday:) Repeat with the top crust and place on top of the apples. Seal by going around the edge by pressing with a fork. Press tines of a fork around the pie for a steam vent. If you’re feeling wild, paint a design with food coloring. Put in a hot oven with a baking sheet under to catch any juices.
I mentioned in my first blog Cooking for You My Love, in the About Me section, that I have written a memoir. Yesterday as I got out my 47 year old Better Homes and Garden Cookbook I was reminded of my first endeavor into baking a pie. So for your pleasure, I’m including the first chapter; Killer Pie. Have fun and lose yourself for a few minutes with a trip backwards into the wild 70’s.
By: Clio Muir
The first time I was accused of trying to kill my husband, Rick, his family still owned the farm and Dewey was alive. My Dad, using an alias, was living somewhere in the Aleutian Islands. A lot has happened and we’ve all changed, but there is a simple truth you can’t mess with; cherry harvest always has been, and always will be in the early part of June in Northern California.
I knew those were Granddad’s cherries the second I saw a full bowl sitting in the kitchen sink. Rick had picked Granddad’s tree. The twenty-five foot cherry tree was at least fifty years old. Rick had to fire up the pruning tower, motor through the walnut orchard and cross the slough in order to pick the best fruit growing near its top. It was never clear whose cherries they really were. The cherry tree grew out where the ground boasted fifty feet of rich loam topsoil on the opposite side of the southern boundary of Muir Orchards.
Rick’s granddad referred to the tree and the fruit as his, when Granny carried a homemade lattice top pie to the table. He bragged about Gracie’s pies being the best and told about the long hours picking the cherries. His boasting became serious when it came to her crust. Granny always followed with a short critique; just a little dry or a little tough, but it tasted like heaven to me.
In recent months, after a wild deer hunting trip, Rick and I woke up stone-drunk in Reno married. When we returned, to avoid seeing my mother, I had my brothers, Greg and Andrew, bring out my old red dresser to the house Rick was renting with a friend. My Mom, I’m sure wanted to wring my eighteen year old neck. I could feel her hands around my throat when talking to her on the phone.
“I’m not even going to ask why?” She simmered across the phone lines and then got into a full rolling boil with, “How could you do this?” and ended the call, giving me a break by telling me not to answer. I couldn’t have answered anyway. One moment we were racing across the mountains with a crisp wind at our backs, partying like crazy, and the next we were standing in line, or swaying in line with about ten other hopefuls buying marriage licenses. Actually, if she had said, come home, I think I would’ve. For Christmas that year, she gave me a satin ribbon ornament with the words etched in gold, Brides First Christmas.
Life was full of firsts for me. I felt a warm flush of freedom knowing I could buy anything I wanted while grocery shopping. I bought the food my Mother never would have; the stuff in television commercials. My shopping cart was filled with packet foods, canned Chef Boyardee, hamburger helper and tons of cool whip. I was living on Captain Crunch Cereal and drinking three envelopes a day of chocolate instant breakfast.
And now my first pie. As I ate a couple of cherries, I tried to conjure up a memory of my mother baking a pie. She makes fabulous guacamole, a refreshing Crab-Louie, and is well known in her bridge group for her martinis. Her standard yellow cake mix, pineapple upside down cake was just that, her standard. I don’t remember the national favorite pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, unless one could count the store bought frozen pies thawing with the turkey on top of the washer in the garage. But a homemade pie, never.
Rick assumed I knew how to make a pie. His sister bakes a masterpiece of an apple pie. She even adorns the top with cutouts of little leaves and things with the extra dough. Her lemon pies were perfect. I couldn’t imagine how her meringue fluffed like it did, or what meringue really was before it blanketed her pie in a cloud.
I had no idea how to make a pie and where to start with the fruit, but I knew enough to consult my red and white checkered Better Homes and Garden recipe book. The cookbook was a wedding gift from Rick’s aunt. Recently I had sampled her peach pie at his annual family gathering held at a lush, green, grassy park under a canopy of towering Oak trees. Aunt Maxine’s crust was a delicious full inch thick where it roped the pastry shell rim.
Fresh Cherry Pie, page 238 or under Tab-12, between Meats, and Tab-13
Poultry Fish and Eggs:
BH&G assumed you’d made the crust, pitted the cherries, and launched right into the body of the recipe.
Fresh Cherry Pie:
Pastry for an eight inch lattice top pie: line pie plate with pastry. Combine 3 cups pitted fresh ripe tart red cherries, 1 to 1 ½ cups sugar, ¼ cup all purpose flour and dash of salt. Turn into a pastry lined pie plate. Adjust lattice top: seal. Bake in a hot oven 400 for 50 to 55 minutes.
Nowhere did the book tell me how to pit a cherry. I started out with a small knife, sliced small slits and tried to remove the pit. After thirty minutes I had only ½ cup of pieces of cherries in a dismal little pile at the bottom of my measuring cup.
At this rate I’d never reach the three cups needed for the pie. As I stood at the sink slicing at the cherries, I fantasized about my pie. I discovered on page 233, a series of black and white photographs showing the dough being woven across the top. In one picture, each ribbon of dough was not lying flat, but had been twisted as it was being woven. Twisting the strip had never occurred to me. That was how I was going to make mine.
Something about the picture jogged my memory. In my mind’s eye I saw the old cherry pitter in my mom’s junk drawer in her kitchen. Fifteen minutes later I was rummaging through the small drawer at the end of the kitchen counter. The pitter used over the years anytime we played doctor, with a syringe like mechanism working by a push of the thumb. I was amazed it still functioned.
I left Mom a note and raced back to my kitchen determined to hit my target three cups of cherries. The pitter definitely was the key. In no time I filled the measuring cup with a little less than the maximum needed. I was running out of bowls. I tossed a shocking amount of sugar with the cherries into a saucepan and sprinkled a healthy coat of flour over it all. The cherries were irresistible. I popped one into my mouth and turned sugar crazed, and ate ⅛ cup of the precious fruit.
As I let the warm water wash over my hands, I thought of whom I would invite over for pie. Definitely my perpetually hungry seventeen-year old brother, Andrew. Rick’s best friend, Ralph. And another hungry bachelor in my life, my co-worker John. I assisted him in the special education class teaching fourteen year old kids how to read, and he taught them how to live in this world. John, a VietNam War vet, a pilot who’d bombed Cambodia and was trying to figure it all out himself. That got me thinking of the applied math lesson we had been working on. Maybe I’d request the van and take the kids out to the ranch and have them pick cherries. We’d have to make sure Junior got his pill, but it could work. Lots could be learned. I’d teach them how to bake pies. I’d get the cafeteria crew involved, they liked me, and one of the cooks nephews’ was in the class. The potential here was staggering.
- Plain Pastry
- 2 Cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 1 Tsp. salt
- ⅔ cup shortening
- 5-7 Tbsp. cold water
- Sift flour and salt together, cut in shortening with pastry blender till pieces are the size of small peas.
A pastry blender I did not have and I didn’t think my mom had one either. I tried cutting the shortening in with a butter knife, but I wasn’t getting the pea-sized pieces, so I switched and used two forks. I stirred and cut, but to no avail. There was not a single pea.
I was looking forward to adding the cold water the recipe called for and even went so far as to float some ice in the water. This was going to be a great pie. We were going to make love all night long.
I sprinkled the chilled water over the dough and even to my novice eyes it seemed too dry. I poured at least nine maybe ten tablespoons of water in the center, added another tablespoon of shortening stirring fast and hard. That did it. I grabbed another measuring cup out of the drawer, took a scoop of flour and sprinkled the counter top. I used a floured water glass to roll it out. The dough though, wasn’t cooperating and didn’t roll very well. I’d be lucky to get eight inches to go on the bottom, let alone the dough needed for the twisted lattice. So, I separated a little bit of the ball and set it aside, and worked on the bottom. I finally had a piece shaped like the state of Texas. With two metal spatulas, I gingerly scraped, lifted and in one motion, threw it in the pie pan.
I rifled through the utensil drawer for my tape measure, I’d just noticed in small print at the top of the recipe, for one 8’,9’ or 10’ double crust or lattice top pie or two 8’,9’ or 10’ inch single crust pies. Nine inches across the top by the tape. I stared down at Texas sitting in the middle of the plate and contemplated making more dough. I’d been at it for two hours, every bowl I owned was involved, the counter-top was covered in flour, sugar and cherry juice. There had to be a way, so I started pressing the crust with my fingers working it across the plate and up the edges. Where it was thick, I pinched some of the dough off and pressed it where the crust was paper thin.
Finally I had the bottom covered and turned to the pot of cherries. I spooned the bunch back into the measuring cup and screamed seeing the cherries had dwindled down to 2 ¼ cups. I took more flour and tossed it in hoping to bulk up the fruit and it did.
For the lattice top, I decided against rolling a circle. Instead, roll a square and cut that into strips. The recipe calls for ½ to ¾ inch strips of pastry. I got the tape out again. I would never have dreamed a tape measure could be used in cooking. This would be a part of the lesson I would teach the kids in my class.
I had six strips measuring between ½ to 1 inch wide, an average of ¾ inches worth of strips and they didn’t look like the twisting kind. Carefully, I lifted the strips onto the pie, all six of them. Four of them barely reached the other side of the dish and two tore, so with wet fingers, I pinched them together. Gradually I wove and dampened and pieced the lattice to the top of the pie. The cherries had settled some, but still looked enticing. I glanced over and consulted my BH&G and yelled, “dot with 2 tablespoons butter!”
Luckily I had just two tablespoon of butter in the fridge. After wiping toast crumbs off, I cut the butter into small dots, and placed them between the lattice strips. Then I put the whole damn thing in the hot oven and called it quits for 50 to 55 minutes.
I was exhausted and regretted having called the guys over for pie. Not one of them declined the offer, actually each was surprised by the invite. Andrew wanted to know if the cherries came from a can and John offered to bring something to drink.
In the six months since our wedding, my most elaborate endeavor into the world of desserts, was a Holiday Log recipe printed on the back of a box of graham crackers. It was easy. By spreading instant chocolate pudding between each cracker a log was formed. I heaped cool-whip in big dollops along the top with a butter knife, and swirled the cream into little waves. Maraschino cherries dotted the top. Mine looked just like the one on the back of the box.
“Hey, it looks like a present.” Rick said.
“It’s a Yule Log.” I announced proudly. This was new, something I made, for the first time resembling the finished piece in my mind’s eye. The Festive Pine Cone I made out of cheddar cheese looked like a lumpy blowfish, even my angel food cake came out of the oven only an inch thick. My Holiday Log was my contribution to Rick’s family Christmas dinner.
I couldn’t believe the work involved in making a pie. No wonder all the seriousness and boasting regarding crusts among the women of the tight-knitted clan I’d married into. They were potluck people. Rick spent his holidays at a rented church hall built out behind a charming cut granite Methodist Church. One hundred year old Sycamores lined the drive and shaded the two stained glass windows and the lawn below. Long tables pushed against the walls in the hall were covered with an assortment of tablecloths and each family’s contribution to the meal. Recipes took wings and flew in serious conversations between cooks.
“Pippen or Granny Smith?” was about the only thing I could have added if I had tried. The pie table was outstanding.
My pie cooking filled the kitchen with a mouth watering aroma so pure I actually smelled the flour being roasted as an almost nutty fragrance filled the air. When the cherries started to cook, the essence of the orchard’s tree branches bowed with the weight of its ripe fruit wafted from the oven and curled around my senses. The hedonist living somewhere between my heart and stomach stirred to life. I stretched out on the couch letting my legs rest along its spine and lost myself in, Jaws, the book I was reading.
The smell of cherries burning got me up and running into the still messy kitchen. With a glance into the oven I could see thick juice was burning on the bottom element. Easily remedied with a cookie sheet, and a fast scrape with a spatula. I opened all the windows and turned on the fan to get the smell out of the house. I swore I would rather die than make another pie.
I put the pie on top of the refrigerator to cool. Even though it was only an inch thick, it still looked delicious. It took me an hour to clean the kitchen and put everything away. The spatula had to be tossed because its tip had melted against the heating element and the cookie sheet I put on the back porch to deal with later. I made grilled cheese sandwiches, sliced some cantaloupe and waited for Rick to come home for dinner.
Rick was amazed when he saw the pie. He was looking for the camera when the guys showed up. Andrew arrived first followed by John carrying a couple of bottles of Coors, and Ralph with a six pack of Millers Highlife. They sat in the living room and made an effort to talk, but there was no doubt, they were here for dessert. I paraded the pie around the room bowing down to show each one, and then cut five big healthy wedges. Rick snuck in a kiss as I placed them on the plates, grabbed napkins and served our guests.
Unbelievably perfectly cherrishly sweet, the juices had unexpectedly soaked into the crust leaving the outer edges candied. Those precious tablespoons of flour I had tossed into the fruit hoping to add volume instead thickened pulling the whole thing together. The difference between this and picking up canned fruit at the market was evident in the color of the sauce and the cherries. The room became quiet. I looked over at John whose eyes were closed and the slightest smile appeared on his face; the first I ever saw, VietNam having destroyed and sapped life from him.
“Man, that’s good.” He said, turning his head side to side.
We all agreed, without a doubt, this was the best cherry pie any of us had ever had. I leaned back savoring the fruit when I bit on something sharp. My first thought, a missed pit in one of the cherries. Without drawing attention to myself, I pulled out of my mouth, not a pit but a small nail. At the same moment Rick yelped and he too pulled a small nail out of his mouth.
I recognized the nail the minute I saw it, well not actually a nail, but an upholstery tack from my project in the back bedroom. The overstuffed chaise lounge I had inherited from one of my good friends, Mark. I would’ve invited Mark over, but he had enlisted in the Air Force; the chair was a parting gift. Rick’s mother suggested I change the fabric from old brocade to modern corduroy. She re-upholstered all their furniture. So far in the project, I’d recovered everything but the arms, and those just the day before, decided to leave off, because for the life of me I couldn’t figure how to put them back.
Upholstery tacks, eighteen in all, littered the whole pie, and how do I know? We counted them. That the guys weren’t willing to give up their pieces, I think says a lot, but carefully with their forks, they picked through each bite before gingerly putting it in their mouths. Rick was alarmed and looked at it, in his piece alone were nine of the tacks. I was too tired to re-step through my day, though they all wanted me to. John couldn’t imagine how I didn’t notice when I poured a cup of nails into the pie and looked at me rather suspiciously. I thought better of not mentioning a cherry picking field trip for the class. Andrew though, risking his life from the way Rick was acting, licked his plate clean and headed into the kitchen hoping to do the same to the pan.
To this day our kids ask Rick to tell the story of when I tried to kill him. And dependably as knowing the moon will come up and the sun will rise, he always replies, “Which time?”