Thanksgiving is a week off, menus are firming up, bringing thoughts of pies past and present to mind. Of all the year’s holidays, Thanksgiving is the moment of glory for pie-bakers, with guests clamoring for pies of several kinds.
This one, photographed on my parents’ dining table at a long-ago Thanksgiving, marked the moment when, as a pie-baker, I came into my own. I had seen and followed a recipe in the New York Times, which produced a delicious tasting apple pie, that was not soggy, and that was crowned with a delicate yet workable crust.
The recipe remains my starting point for making a pie crust, though I’ve improved it using tips I picked up by reading the pie-pastry recipes in the 1975 edition of The Joy of Cooking. Now, when I make pie, I almost always add a tablespoon or less of sugar to the crust, which balances the too-strong flavor of the salt and flour.
I also enhance the shortening (with which American-style crusts are made) by adding a tablespoon or two of butter (à la the Joy). This, in turn, may require slightly upping the flour, which can be done at any point along the way, even in the final phase when rolling out the dough.
A side benefit of the tweaking is that it creates more surplus pastry for decorating the top. The pie that I made at my parents’ house years ago was of a design that I have seldom equaled. In the end, each homemade pie contains a mysterious element, which makes each pie different, and in this case resulted in an unusually pleasing and artistic expression, of the waning of autumn and Thanksgiving’s bounty.