This pie comes to us from James Overbaugh, Executive Chef – The Peninsula Beverly Hills:
For those of you who have seen the movie “Ratatouille” and recall this sequence you’ll quickly understand why I love this pie: Remember when Remy and Linguini prepare a special ratatouille for Anton Ego? Remember how he was instantaneously transported back to his childhood through the power of the culinary memory? That’s exactly what happened to me today when for the first time in years I made and tasted my grandmother’s apple pie.
I grew up in New England – and that means I ate a lot of pie. I recall Thanksgiving being the biggest family gathering of the year. It wasn’t the turkey but the fact that everyone brought a different pie that brought me to the table. Pie was a year round love affair in my family. On New Year’s we had green grasshopper pie with Crème de Menthe, then cherry pie in spring, banana cream for Dad’s birthday, blueberry pie in summer and always a special mince pie at Thanksgiving. When my mom wanted a quick dessert chocolate cream pie magically appeared.
When asked to contribute to this endeavor none of the above pies came to mind. When I think of a special pie I only think of one. Unfortunately this pie somehow departed the present when my grandmother passed away. Today it returned. I have a young boy at home and I’m thankful to be reacquainted with Grandma’s apple pie as I’m going to make it as big a part of his upbringing as it was in mine.
Despite the tradition of diverse pie making in my family my grandmother rarely made anything other than apple pie . . . and now that I think about it no one else made apple. It seemed as if her pie was her exclusive privilege. Her apple pie wasn’t just dessert – it was her trademark. It was her way to welcome a grandson coming to visit; it was one of her grandson’s reasons for visiting. There was something about the way it looked, the way it smelled that meshed with the rest of the world I had come to know her in. The scent of her apple pie belonged in her kitchen, in her 150-year-old house in the little town of Hampton, Connecticut. The smell of the two together was a piece of heaven.
I confess I didn’t have a copy of the recipe below and had to ask my sister for it who fortunately had an original in my grandmother’s words. In the interest of experiencing the same pie I grew up with do your best to follow the directions exactly – right down to a few I remember but she didn’t record such as always using a glass Pyrex pie plate, brushing the crust with milk using two fingers and finally making sure you pared the apples (cutting them towards you with a paring knife results in thicker slices than cutting them on the board). Perhaps if you try really hard, you’ll be able to smell her kitchen.
Lavinia Stocking’s Apple Pie
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
½ cup unsalted Butter
Pinch of salt
Sift flour + salt. Use pastry cutter or two knives to cut in the shortening. I use milk for liquid. Probably about ¼ c. but it depends on the flour mixture. Add a little at a time + I use a fork. Add until the mixture holds together.
6-8 tart apples
2/3 cup sugar
Cinnamon and nutmeg
Roll out the bottom crust. Fill with apples, sprinkle with sugar and sprinkle cinnamon + nutmeg. Roll out top crust. Wet the edge of bottom crust so when you put on the top crust you get a good seal. Make some vent holes in the top crust to let out steam. I dip my fingers in milk and lightly spread on the top of pie. It makes a flaky crust. Bake for 10 min at 400 degrees + then at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.