Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving...and Maida's Big Apple Pie (Modern Baker)

I am grateful for so many things . . . my children, my family, my friends, good food, a warm house. But I was struck by a new gratitude this year: stress-free holiday cooking! I give credit to all of the baking and cooking challenges over the past year, which have made me so much more confident in my abilities in the kitchen. We host Thanksgiving every year, and usually I plan and calculate and take notes and plan some more . . . and despite my best, most detailed planning, something goes awry and throws all of my timing off.

Today, I tried to plan, but just couldn't get into it. I did everything by instinct. And we ended up with a great turkey, delicious mashed potatoes, yummy rolls (PR's ABED soft rolls), and the most successful gravy we've ever had (ATK recipe). (My dad brought the stuffing and my mom made the cranberries and sweet potatoes ~ both of which definitely made the cooking job easier for me!) Everything made it to the table on time and hot! Although hubby did realize half-way through dinner that we'd forgotten corn . . . his favorite and his one Thanksgiving cooking responsibility.

Dessert was a pumpkin pie made by my little guy and his grandpa. My dad usually brings a frozen apple pie, too, but this year, after all of my cooking, I said I just couldn't stand the thought of a non-homemade addition to our meal, so I would make an apple pie.

I browsed through Nick Malgieri's Modern Baker and found his recipe for Maida's big apple pie. A few days ago, I made the filling (I used golden delicious, granny smith, and braeburn apples). It was easy: cook the apples in a dutch oven with brown sugar, white sugar, and cinnamon until about a third of the apples have disintegrated.

Then I decided to whip up the pie dough, too. It was also easy (although a little odd for pie crust, in my limited experience): flour, salt, baking powder, cold butter, and eggs in the food processor. It was very crumbly. You're supposed to pat it into a circle, but mine was just crumbly crumbly crumbly. I used plastic wrap to get it into a circle and hoped that it would solidify a bit after a couple of days in the fridge.

When I went to bake the pie, I pulled the crust dough out of the fridge and . . . it was green. Not moldy green, but a weird muddy greenish unnatural color. I tried to roll it out anyway and it crumbled into a million pieces.

Exhausted and frustrated, I looked online for any errata (remembering my chocolate genoise cake disaster from this summer). Couldn't find anything, so I sighed and got to work making the dough again. At hubby's urging, I checked again and found this recipe for NM's Maida pie through the Washington Post. Upon further review, it was very different from the one in the book: more butter, fewer egg yolks, a big of sugar, and ice cold water (I'd thought it was odd that the book recipe didn't have any water). I was halfway through the recipe in the book, but decided to switch to this one. So I added a bit of sugar and a bit more butter, scooped out two egg yolks from the prep bowl, and kept going. This one looked much better, although still ended up crumbly. I decided to trust my instincts and added a bit more water until it seemed like the right consistency. Then into the fridge for a rest. (We both needed it!)

After an hour, the dough rolled out fine (although I did go with my usual method and rolled it between two sheets of plastic wrap). I didn't have a pizza pan, so I used a jelly roll of about the same size. Forming the pie was easy and I brushed it with the egg wash, sprinkled it with turbinado sugar, and put it in the oven for about 45 minutes until the crust was golden, the filling was bubbling, and the house smelled wonderful.

NM says to cool the pie on a cooling rack, but is unclear about whether you are to leave it on the pan or try to take it off. The pan had standing butter on it and I figured the crust would get soggy, so I tried to take it off . . . big mistake! It immediately started to break apart. So I left it on the pan to cool overnight, and moved it to a platter this morning.

The pie was absolutely enormous . . . and delicious. Was it better than any other apple pie I've ever had? Probably not. And it was such a challenge to make, I doubt I'll do it again.

A house filled with laughter and love and bellies filled with delicious food . . . couldn't ask for more. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who celebrates it! And Happy Today to all of you!

***UPDATE*** Hubby just declared that it actually was the best apple pie ever. So perhaps it will be in our future after all.


  1. Looks great! I can't wait until we get to this in the Modern Baker Challenge! Yours looks like it came out really nice.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Happy Thanksgiving. I'm sure this will be a big hit in our house!

  3. Happy Thanksgiving!!! The pie looks like it was great!

  4. This is so beautiful. I am looking forward to making this one...yours is perfect. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours as counts until the end of the weekend, right?

  5. Happy Thanksgiving to you! Just glad to see apple pie again after so long. What could be a better welcome treat than a delicious pie. Love your blog! It's full of wonderful favorites. Thanks for sharing!!

  6. Abby, it certainly looks like it might be the best pie ever! :) Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving!