There's only one thing more wonderful at this time of year than warm apple pie: Baking it with your kids!
Before you brush this idea off, read on... Clio, Olive and Milo (MightyNest kids ages 9-13) recently had a great time learning to make delicious pie. They did the majority of the work themselves while taking pointers and suggestions from the sidelines. Here's how we made the pies and some equally wonderful memories last Sunday afternoon.
We decided to go with 'what you know' and used this Basic Pie Crust (an all-butter version) from the fabulous cookbook "A Year of Pies," (by the talented and creative baker, Ashley English).
Simple ingredients you'll need for a double crust pie (but we made several smaller pies with this amount):
2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted, chilled and cubed butter
3/4 cup of ice water
1. The apple pie baking session began with the obvious: Washing hands. Putting on aprons. Tying back hair. And then came washing a few colanders full of an assortment of apples (we used organic honeycrisp, gala, braeburn and fugi) and then arranging into an array. Yeah, we know this isn't a necessary step but it made it more exciting for the kids to see their apples lined up so beautifully.
2. A good rule of thumb for evenly baked apple pie is to have evenly sliced apples. Clio used an apple corer first and then sliced up each section again (so they're about 1/2 inch thick). Meanwhile, the kids took turns sniffing the spices that would be added to enhance the flavor of the apples. After peeling the skins, the apples were placed in a large glass mixing bowl and tossed with the following:
2 tsps of cinnamon
1/2 tsp of cloves
1 tsp of nutmeg
4 TBLS of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 TBLS lemon juice
1/2 tsp of sea salt
2 TBLS of diced, unsalted butter
3. Another tip we learned: For a good flaky crust, keep the butter chilled until cutting into squares (or cubes) before adding to the flour mixture. Use either a pastry cutter or two knives to "cut in" the butter.
4. Flouring the surface and drawing the perimeter lines for personal work space...
5. Forming the dough: throwing personal work space to the wind and opting to work collaboratively, delicately folding the dough without being too rough (not clay or bread dough but the ever finicky pie dough).
6. Split the dough in half and shape into balls, then wrap in parchment paper, flatten into disks and chill for an hour. This is when the kids took a break from baking and practiced their archery skills in the backyard. And then played a made-up game with balloons that had hand-drawn images of mustaches and the pi symbol. We didn't ask.
7. Rolling out the chilled dough: If you are familiar with using a rolling pin, then you'll understand what it means to describe how to roll smoothly, evenly, not-too-much-muscle, not in fits and starts, just continuous back and forth motions. We used beautifully made wooden rolling pins made from sugar maple (new at Mightynest!). These pins, both traditional American and French styles don't have the ball bearing mechanism that standard rolling pins employ. So, each of the kids 'mastered' their own technique, learning to roll with their hands outstretched rather than gripped around a handle.
8. Lining the inside of the pie pans (with dough): this step was a little shaky at first. Just like any new material, it takes some getting used to and understanding of what the limitations might be. Without over-working the pie dough too much (that's not a good thing) our bakers were able to finesse the dough into mini glass pie pans and really got the hang of it after a few tries.
9. Filling the pies, Rolling out + designing the top crust: here's where the improvising comes in and kids can make up all sorts of ways to decorate the tops of their pies. One important thing to keep in mind is to allow somewhere for the air to escape - using slits or holes of some kind. Or, if you have one of those sweet little porcelain pie birds, use this to vent the steam. Cookie cutters come in handy here for designing the top with cut-out shapes. A mini glass beaker from a chemistry set was used to make circles here.
And classic lattice woven tops.... of course, this is a real art form in itself but there's plenty to be desired by the rustic handmade look. This can be a satisfying experiment for kids - just figuring out the best method to weave their strips.
10. Baking the Pies: We brushed a light egg wash on the tops (mid-way through baking) for a nice crispy and shiny finish. You'll know the pies are done when you can see the insides bubbling and the tops golden brown. And the house smelled like a dream.
"THIS PIE IS SO GOOD!!" Topped with vanilla ice cream, we had some very happy and proud pie-bakers...
WHEN DID YOU LEARN HOW TO BAKE A PIE? WHAT KIND OF PIE DID YOU MAKE?