This week I found myself in a situation where I wanted to make a pie, but I had very little time to put it together. I almost gave up on the idea altogether, but an hour before dinner, something in me decided to go for it.
I threw together the crust, cutting corners almost every step of the way and all but ignoring my go-to apple filling recipe in lieu of the fastest combination of apple and spices within an easy reach from my spot in the kitchen.
When the pie came out of the oven bubbling and golden, smelling like the essence of fall, I felt so relieved I had abandoned perfection in exchange for making it happen and the happy faces around the table that followed.
“Making it happen” is a phrase I quickly learned in restaurant kitchens, and I think it could be a useful tonic for cooking at home. Professional cooks inevitably come face to face with the imbalance of time versus tasks.
In those moments where you are staring at a mountain of work or a seemingly impossible challenge, you have a simple choice in front of you — you can succumb to the weeds (another common kitchen phrase) and give up, or you can decide to make it happen despite all obstacles and odds stacked against you.
There is no reasonable or logical explanation for the phenomenon that occurs when the switch gets flipped and a cook makes this choice. The impossible not only becomes possible, it becomes reality. And not only that — the results are often unexpected and beautiful. I have seen it too many times to count in restaurants, but I have also seen it with friends cooking at home.
Sometimes it’s instigated by running out of an ingredient, and in making an instinctual choice (without giving it too much thought), a new, even better dish emerges. And sometimes all it takes to conjure a bit of kitchen magic at home is to simply make whatever it is you want to make, pushing aside the voice inside that constantly spits out a never-ending stream of practical considerations like time and laundry.
Another delightful detail I was reminded of during this turbo-speed pie session is the less you fiddle with pie dough, the more tender, flaky and delicious it turns out. Could this be the best apple pie I have ever made because I didn’t try so hard? Could my lack of time and choosing to make it happen result in my new favorite (and simpler) recipe? I’m surprised to say it, but I think the answer is yes.
Simple Honeycrisp Pie
Total time: 1½ hours; makes: 8 servings
For the dough:
2⅔ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1¾ sticks (14 tablespoons) of cold unsalted butter
¾ cup ice water (plus more if needed)
For the filling:
5 good-sized Honeycrisp apples, thinly sliced (around 6 cups)
¾ cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons pumpkin spice blend
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons butter, melted
For the topping:
2 teaspoons sugar in the raw
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice blend
For the egg wash:
Preparation: Make the dough: In a large dry bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Using a box grater, grate the cold butter directly into the bowl. Toss gently with your hands to evenly distribute the butter. Add ½ cup of ice water at first and combine gently with your hands until the dough comes together, adding more water if needed. Wrap with plastic or a clean kitchen towel and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Make the filling: In a large bowl, combine the sliced apples, brown sugar, pumpkin spice, cornstarch and melted butter.
Make the topping: In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and pumpkin pie spice. In another small bowl, mix the egg with a fork.
Bake the pie: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a generously floured, clean and dry work surface, roll out half the dough into a circle 2 inches larger than your pie dish. Lay the circle in the middle of the dish and gently press into the shape of the pan, trimming any dough hanging over the side with a knife. Pour the apple filling onto the dough. Now roll out the remaining dough and either repeat by placing on top a whole circle of dough, or slice dough into strips, laying them down into a weaved pattern. If you go with the whole circle of dough be sure to slice a few slits in the top to let steam escape. You can use a fork to crimp the edges of the dough, but it’s not required. Just make sure to gently press down on the dough around the perimeter of the pie dish. Brush the top dough with egg wash, sprinkle the sugar and spice topping and bake for 1 hour.