So I baked a real honest to goodness apple pie - like my mother used to bake, back home, growing up in Germany. Everybody always raved about her apple pie and I had this overwhelming desire for the comforting taste of my childhood.
So what if I called her - in Germany - three times. The crust is made with yeast and everybody knows yeast is supposed to rise - well, it just sat there, flat as a pancake.
Hallo Mama, it's me!
Hold on, let me get in my comfortable chair. OK, so how are you?
Doing fine, doing fine, Mama. I'm in the middle of baking an apple pie. You know one of those Dr. Oetker mixes, it's supposed to make a crust like the ones you made from scratch. I picked one up at the German deli, but for some reason, the dough isn't rising and I've only got the one box and I've already peeled all the apples. I don't know what to do.
Did you cover up the dough?
Is it in a warm enough place?
It's Florida, Mama - it's hot. Today was the first day I could open the window in months, the weather is perfect, 80 degrees.
Well, I'm not sure why it's not rising for you, but it probably just isn't warm enough. Do you have it in a warm place? Maybe you need to give it a little extra time and put it some place warmer.
Ja, ja. - that's when it hit me that the stainless bowl from my Kitchen Aid mixer is sitting near the window and it is a little breezy and maybe it's not warm enough in the stainless bowl, but of course, I don't mention that to my mom.
OK then, Mama - I'll see what I can do.
Desperate to get this dough to rise, I decide to use the "warm" setting on my stove top and just leave it in the stainless bowl. Timer set to 30 minutes - which makes it an hour since I started this pie.
I'm really a much better cook then I am a baker. Baking is an exact science and I like to play and invent new versions of the same recipe.
I've never made a yeast dough from scratch in all of my 62 years. I've only watched others a million times and I'm a real good, "place the sliced apples in a nice row" helper. I love pound cake and do endless variations of it, rum and chocolate, fruit and coconut are staples in my kitchen. I perfected a recipe in my old, dog eared Fannie Farmer Cookbook, called a "Lightning Cake", very simple and easy to adapt to my fancy of the day, from turning it into a spice cake to a sunken fruit cake.
I like using the good stuff for baking, you could say that I believe in Paula Dean's philosophy - always use real butter, considering that margarine is just one molecule away from being plastic. Swap water for milk or buttermilk. Skip the oil and if you don't like substituting butter use applesauce instead, works just fine.
My saving grace has always been my knack for concocting delicious home made icing made from real whipping cream. Everything tastes and looks so much better with a little whipping cream, black cherries and rum/chocolate, n'est pas?:)
Anyway, so I check back 30 minutes later, sure enough, this time it doubled in size, I punch it down and set the timer for another twenty minutes per the instructions: which also say to add the apples and then let it rise - so I call my mom again.
Mama, the box says to set the apples on top and let it rise again. I don't remember you doing that. That sounds silly, I think I'll let it rise and then add the apples.
Did it rise?
See, I told you it wasn't warm enough. It needs to be warm enough to rise.
Ja, Mama. You know I'm never buying this shit again. Can you believe I paid $5.29 and if I didn't have you to call, I'd be making applesauce from the apples and throw out the dough. OK, well I'll set the timer and then add the apples.
You do that. They started a new series on TV tonight and I've been looking forward to watching it..... You'll see, it will turn out all right.
Sounds interesting, Mama, all right then.
I decided to make a streusel topping while the dough was hopefully rising a second time. Streusel are my favorite thing, in fact I'd be totally happy with just a streusel cake. No, I don't have a recipe, but I know what's in a streusel and I just keep taste testing until it's to my liking:) Told ya, I'm not a baker.
Finally, the twenty minutes are up and I get to punch the dough, with ever growing relish, for a second time. I don't own a rolling pin, but I've heard a bottle will do in a pinch - well, don't believe it, it's nowhere close to having a real wooden rolling pin. I forge ahead by patting the dough with my hands and pulling and shaping it to fit my deep cookie sheet.
Oh, I forgot to mention that a German apple pie is not always round, this is the old fashioned rectangular version.
So it's roughly two hours into this baking project and by this time I'm over it already. Normally I enjoy placing all the slices in a neat little row, anticipating the taste of the finished product and wanting to fit it all just so, so it will look pretty and dare I say it, professional or at least like I know what I'm doing.
Half way through I realize that I don't have enough apples sliced. Really, why can't they just say 6-7 medium size apples? No, they have to give it to you in kilograms of course. Like I know ... well, lucky for us I still have apples left and I end up slicing every last apple in the fruit bowl.
Thankfully I had enough apples. Munching on a leftover piece of apple I add the streusel and I'm ready to place it in the oven which I preheated to 325 degrees, it happens to be the default setting when you push the baking button.
Wouldn't you know it, the box is printed in German only, with none of those taped over English translations. I didn't even notice that until now, when I'm faced with deciding what 200 degrees Celsius might be expressed in Fahrenheit.
I own about twenty plus cookbooks, but after four tries of finding a conversion table, I went straight to the Internet. You'd think the New York Times Cookbook would have that little morsel of information. Thank goodness for google, my patience is exhausted.
Yay, in the oven it goes and yes, for whatever reason it takes a good 15 minutes longer then they said on the box. I decide to set the timer on five minute intervals - no way am I letting anything happen to this pie now.
It looks beautiful - a work of art - just like it's supposed to! We don't wait and the first three slices are consumed still warm from the oven with a little vanilla flavored, real home made whipping cream.
I call my mom a third time.
Mama, it came out beautiful!
See, I told you so, it just needed more warmth to rise.
It tastes great, Mama - wish you were here to taste it, you'd love it, I'm sure.
Hmm, well, I'm glad to hear it, but I'm in the middle of my movie and it's just getting interesting ... Her voice is becoming distracted, tinged with oncoming annoyance at the interruption.
I smile to myself. OK, Mama, thanks again, just wanted to tell you it came out perfect. I can tell that she's stopped listening, she's done her part, like she always does, she's there for me at every crisis - no matter how small.
... but now that the crisis is averted, she's anxious to go back to her own diversions. I know that feeling well, it's like that with me and my son.
Oct 28, 2011 © Rose Hill All Rights Reserved
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