Recipe from Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Pie by Beth Howard; Harlequin, hardcover; 320 pages; $24.95. Available from Amazon. For more information, visit theworldneedsmorepie.com
This memoir chronicles journalist Beth Howard’s travels in the RV left behind by her 43-year-old husband after his unexpected death. At every stop along the way, Howard uses the pie she bakes as a way to heal her heart. Howard, a resident of Iowa, now runs the Pitchfork Pie Stand from her home — the American Gothic House immortalized in Grant Wood’s famous painting.
Although Beth Howard loves all pie, when forced to choose her favorite she goes with classic apple. “It is reliable, substantial, and nourishing,” she says. “I love the combination of a butter crust, apples, sugar and cinnamon.” This recipe comes from her pie-baking mentor, Mary Spellman, who owns Malibu Kitchen, where Howard once worked.
Mary Spellman’s Apple Pie
(Made by Beth Howard at Malibu Kitchen and at the Pitchfork Pie Stand)
Beth’s pie crust
(Makes a double crust)
2 1/2 cups flour (but have at least 3 1/2 cups on hand, as you’ll need extra flour to roll dough and to thicken filling)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
Dash of salt
Ice water (fill one cup, but use only enough to moisten dough)
- In a large bowl, work the butter and shortening into the flour with your hands until you see marble-size lumps form.
- Pour in ice water a little at a time, sort of “fluffing” the flour to mix in liquid.
- When the dough feels moist, do a “squeeze test” and if it holds together you’re done. Your dough should feel tacky, but not wet. (Do not overwork the dough! It takes very little time and you’ll be tempted to keep touching it, but don’t!)
- Divide the dough in two balls. Form each ball into a disk shape.
- Sprinkle flour under and on top of your dough to keep it from sticking to your rolling surface. Roll flat and thin to fit your pie dish. Trim excess dough around the edges with scissors so that it is about 1 inch wider than the dish edge.
7 large tart apples like Granny Smith, Braeburn and Royal Gala (approximate number depending on apple and pie-dish size; approximate rule of thumb is three pounds of fruit per pie)
3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon (or to your taste)
1 tablespoon butter
1 beaten egg (to brush top crust before putting in oven)
- Lay the prepared bottom crust into the pie dish. Slice half of the peeled apples directly into the pie, arranging and pressing them into the dish to remove extra space between slices.
- Cover with half of the sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt, then slice the remaining apples and cover with second half of the same ingredients.
- Add dollop of butter. Cover with top crust and crimp edges, and then brush with the beaten egg to give the pie a nice golden brown shine.
- Use a knife to poke vent holes in the top crust (get creative here with a unique pattern if you want). Bake at 425 degrees F. for 20 minutes. Turn oven down to 375 degrees F. and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes or so, until juice bubbles. Poke with a knife to make sure apples have softened. Do not over bake or apples will turn mushy.