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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Apple crumb pie

-- or--
Christmas Pie #3 we never ate

My kids are little. At ages 5, 7, and 10, I realize they are still pretty small in the grand scheme of things. I realize they will get a lot bigger (and a lot more complicated). At this point, though, I am happy to have kids who are not so big yet.

When they were even littler, I thought it was so difficult to have kids. What with the diaper changing, and baby-proofing, and spoon-feeding. I was constantly watching for choking hazards, chasing toddlers, and buckling car seats and buckling Baby Bjorns and buckling strollers. If I wasn't rocking someone to sleep, I was picking someone else back up out of a crib, or listening to someone else "cry it out." At times, I thought I might go insane. So, I joined a mom's group. There were about 70 women who met twice a month. We had a potluck breakfast, sometimes invited a guest speaker, sometimes did a craft together, sometimes just chatted. We tucked all those little babies of ours safely away in a nursery with some wonderful babysitters, and we relaxed together. We enjoyed the break from baby tending, we commiserated and advised and hugged and cried and laughed.

My good friend was in charge of coming up with the craft ideas and implementing them within the group. It is no small feat to design a craft that 70 women (with a wide range of crafting ability and interests) can do in the general-purpose building of a church, on a very limited budget and even more limited time frame.  In the past there had been such crafts as candle holders, picture frames, and laminated babysitter instructions. There had been such dust-collectors as chalkboards and spoon rests.

This friend of mine wanted to make sure that we had more useful, universally appealing crafts. To this end, she had the brilliant idea one day of helping us all learn to make an apple pie. It seemed like the perfect thing! It could be done quickly and easily while seated at folding tables. And who doesn't want to take home an apple pie?

Well, unfortunately that day there was a guest speaker as well, who had gone well beyond her appointed time to speak. Being as she was kindly volunteering her time for us, no one wanted to cut her off, and we were running very late. Ordinarily we might have held the craft until our next meeting, but we didn't want the ingredients for 70 pies to go bad, and so we went ahead and made pie in the 10 minutes we had left.

It was chaos for those 10 minutes, with apple peelers and measuring cups flying around. People were tutoring each other in how to use a pastry blender, and people were borrowing a cup of sugar left and right. The recipe came to be known as "Panic Pie" for those 70 of us, but no one could deny that it worked, and it worked well. Seventy families had a delicious dinner that night. Not a single one of those women looked around at bedtime, and amid the piles of laundry and teething toys and dirty dishes,  had to wonder what the heck she had accomplished that day.

All of this is to say that 70 women (some of whom had never ever made a pie before in their lives) can make 70 apple pies, without even a kitchen, in only 10 minutes. This pie is easy and quick (once you have the apples peeled and chopped, there isn't much to it). It never fails. It is delicious. And even if you have never ever made pie before, you will be able to do this quickly, and it will taste delicious. I promise.

I try to use at least three varieties of apples when I make a pie, but you don't have to. I heard a pastry chef recommend this on a radio show once, and I took it to heart. She said that it works out the best to have the combination of different flavors and crispnesses together. I used Granny Smith (the stand-by baking apple) as well as pippins and fujis. Almost any tart apple will work well.

Apple Crumb Pie
(otherwise known as Panic Pie)

crust for a 9" pie (make your own or buy one), unbaked

4-6 large apples, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 c. sugar, divided
1 tsp. Cinnamon, ground
¾ c. flour
1/3 c. butter, cut in pieces

Preheat oven to 400.

In a large bowl, toss the apples with 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Arrange in the pie shell.

Mix flour and remaining ½ cup sugar. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut buter in until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (This can be done in a food processor, if you prefer.)

Sprinkle over apples.

 Bake 40 minutes or until apples are tender. Cool on a wire rack.