A Thanksgiving Day Prayer

As we prepare to give thanks for “all things good” and enjoy an autumn harvest feast in the company of family and friends, ATG shares the below prayer, taken from the November 26, 2014 issue of The Weekly Standard, that we think beautifully captures the spirit of Thanksgiving:

Thanksgiving prayer

We thank Thee for the glory of the universe, for the light of the sun and the mellowness of the moon and for the stars in their courses whose amazing dimensions and staggering distances challenge our imagination.

We thank Thee for the beauty and utility of Thy creations, for the flowers which are the stars of the earth even as the stars are the flowers of heaven; for the fertility of the soil and the abundance of its products; for the food that is borne within its bosom and the waters that flow from its deep and inner fountains; for the air that surrounds all creatures and that holds within its invisible self the secret and power of life.

We thank Thee for the dignity and majesty of man, for the spirit of wisdom with which Thou didst endow him, for the vision with which he is possessed, for the sensitivity of his heart and the profound­ness of his soul. We thank Thee for the dominion that is his over all creation, for his capacity to live with all his kind and for the urge that stimulates him to search, to seek and ultimately to approach even Thee. For all these blessings we thank thee.

Light and Dark: Maxfield Parrish and James Nachtwey

james nachtwey photography“There has always been war,” says James Nachtwey, a multi-award winning photojournalist. “War is raging throughout the world at the present moment. And there is little reason to believe that war will cease to exist in the future. As man has become increasingly civilized, his means of destroying his fellow man have become ever more efficient, cruel and devastating.”

He continues: “Is it possible to put an end to a form of human behavior which has existed throughout history by means of photography? The proportions of that notion seem ridiculously out of balance. Yet, that very idea has motivated me.” 

James Nachtwey, born in 1948, has spent a lifetime documenting historical events around the world through photography, as seen in the exhibit, “Witness to History: James Nachtwey—Afghanistan, Ground Zero, Iraq“, currently on display at the Currier Gallery of Art in New Hampshire.

An emotional, jaw-dropping experience, the exhibition “reveal[s] war’s tragic effect on combatants and civilians, and includes highly personal images of American troops and their families, as well as photographs of Iraqi and Afghani civilians and their families” (quote from gallery website).

From his iconic images of the collapse of the South Tower with the cross of the Church of St. Peter in the foreground, to the dramatic 30-foot-long black and white mural of prints of American soldiers in the chaotic aftermath of being wounded and receiving medical treatment and of the doctors who are treating them, James Nachtwey’s photographs leave one looking for the nearest bench to quietly reflect and ponder the unpredictable chaos of war.

Juxtaposing Nachtwey’s solemn, dark and tragic photographs is the work of Maxfield Parrish, an artist who captures the fantastical radiance and light of autumn, also on display at the Currier Gallery of Art in an exhibit entitled “Maxfield Parrish: The Power of Print.”

Maxfield Parrish: A retrospective
“Daybreak” (1922) as seen on cover of the book “Maxfield Parrish: A Retrospective.”

Parrish (1870-1966), considered one of America’s greatest illustrators of the 20th century, was known for the intense luminosity of his paintings that beguile, captivate and awaken something deep within. “You don’t look at a Maxfield Parrish; you look into it, feeling it beckon you to enter,” writes Bruce Watson in the Smithsonian Magazine.

Parrish was also known for the photorealism of his lush landscapes and for magical scenes of enchanted fantasy and for the “Parrish Blue” color – a surreal indigo that colored the skies and waters of his paintings.

One of his paintings of enchanted fantasy, titled “Daybreak” (1922), is considered one of his most famous and was estimated to have been hanging, in the 1920’s, in one out of every four homes in America. He considered himself a “strictly popular artist” and was hailed as a precursor to pop art, influencing Andy Warhol who was a collector of his art.

What made him particularly unique was that he ”effortlessly combined the creativity and virtuosity of a fine artist with the keen business sense of a commercial, or ‘popular’, artist to create images that had mass appeal,” a pamphlet from the exhibit explains.

“Whatever quality I may possess,” Parrish once said, “I truly think, is the result of being alone and working it out without another’s help. It makes for individuality and even imagination, and what you do is your own.”

His work appeals to viewers of all ages and ultimately speaks to the child in each of us. The magic and enchantment, the warm coziness, the soft serenity and, of course, the “Parrish Blue”, are the “stuff [that] dreams are made of” (quote from Mr. Watson).

Maxfield Parrish prints

The book, Maxfield Parrish: A Treasury of Art and Children’s Literature, compiled by Alma Gilbert features the poem “Rock Me to Sleep” by Elizabeth Akers Allen (1832-1911) that perfectly captures our childhood yearnings:

Backward, turn backward, O Time in your flight!
Make me a child again, just for to-night!…
Backward, flow backward, O tide of the years!
I am so weary of toils and of tears,
Toil without recompense, tears all in vain!
Take them, and give me my childhood again…

Read more about the James Nachtwey exhibit here and the Maxfield Parrish exhibit here.

Thanksgiving Favorites: Cornbread, Popcorn Balls & Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving dessert recipesIn the season of “all things cooking”, when the lights in the kitchen burn from early morning well into the late evening, we celebrate the harvest of Thanksgiving with some very basic and traditional recipes, including three variations of corn bread.

As found in The Blackberry Farm Cookbook, John Egerton writes in Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History, “A properly prepared dish of spoon bread can be taken as testimony to the perfectibility of humankind; a crisp corn bread, dodger, or hoecake, on the other hand, demonstrates another kind of perfection, an enduring strength that has not been improved upon in four centuries of service to hungry people.”

Skillet Corn Bread (taken from The Blackberry Farm Cookbook)

Ingredients:
2 tbsp. lard, bacon fat, or vegetable oil
3 cups stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 & 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 & 1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 &1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 large eggs, room temp. and lightly beaten
3 cups buttermillk

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the lard in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and put it into the oven to heat up. Pull it out just before it starts to smoke. It is very important to get the cat-iron skillet very hot before pouring in the batter.

In medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the eggs and buttermilk and whisk just until combined. Immediately remove the hot skillet from the one and gently swirl it to coat the bottom with the hot lard. Pour the cornmeal batter into the skillet; the hot lard will sizzle around the edges of the batter.

Bake the corn bread for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F and continue to bake the corn bread for another 15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Turn the corn bread out of the skillet, cut into wedges, and serve hot.

Corn Muffins
From a favorite Kindergarten teacher who was also a great cook. This is a very basic tried and true recipe that is easy to make and is always satisfying served warm with butter, honey or jam.

Ingredients:
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg, room temp.
1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 4 tablespoons) butter, melted
1 cup milk

Healthy corn muffin recipe

Instructions:
Melt butter and add egg and stir until thoroughly combined. Mix together all dry ingredients and add to egg/butter mixture. Add milk and stir until evenly combined. Pour in muffin tins or glass baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees F for 12-15 minutes.

Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread (taken from Barefoot Contessa cookbook, At Home)
This recipe for cornbread is a meal by itself and is good served warm with raspberry or strawberry jam or with butter and honey.

Ingredients:
3 cups flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 cups milk
3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (yellow or white cheddar is fine)
1/3 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts, plus extra for garnish
3 tsbp. seeded and minced fresh jalapeño peppers (2 to 3 peppers)

Instructions:
Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs, and butter. With a spoon, stir the wet ingredients into the dry until most of the lumps are dissolved. Don’t over mix. Mix in 2 cups of the grated cheddar, the scallions, and jalapeños, and allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Pour into greased 9x13x2-inch baking pan and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheddar and extra chopped scallions. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Popcorn Balls (taken from Martha Stewart’s Christmas, 1989)
We have made these buttery moist popcorn balls every year for Thanksgiving since 1989. They have to be kept out of sight until Thanksgiving otherwise they slowly disappear!

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 10-ounce bag marshmallows
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3 quarts popped popcorn

Popcorn balls recipe

Instructions:
In a large heavy pot, melt the butter over low heat. Add the marshmallows and brown sugar and stir until melted. Remove from heat.

Place the corn in a large bowl and pour on the marshmallow mixture; toss well. Butter your hands and shape the corn into balls of whatever size you desire. Set on wax paper to dry.

We always double the recipe and end up with approximately 15-20 medium-sized balls depending on how big or small you make them. It is important to mix the warm marshmallow mixture into the popcorn quickly before it begins to stick. We found it is best to butter the bowl before putting the popped corn in to help prevent the mixture from sticking to the sides of the bowl. Also: make sure to KEEP YOUR HANDS BUTTERED as you form the balls.

Pumpkin Maple Pie (adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine, 1989)
In addition to my mother’s pumpkin pie recipe, this recipe has been a family and guest favorite at the Thanksgiving table.

See here for recipes for pie crust.

Ingredients For the Filling:
2 cups canned solid pack pumpkin
1 & 1/4 cups whipping cream
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 large eggs, room temp.
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves

easy pumpkin pie recipe

Instructions:
Mix all ingredients in large bowl. Pour filling into prepared crust. Bake at 365-375 degrees F for approximately 50-60 minutes until center of pie no longer moves when pan is shaken.

Quotes On Teaching, Thinking & Learning

IMG_9265As a compliment to our piece in Rose’s Ridge about trigger warnings and microaggressions on college campuses, the below paragraphs from an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, written by Helaine L. Smith, a teacher of English at a school in New York City, provides a glimmer of hope:

“What I hope my students are learning is a lesson that is not political but is essential for politics: that one must support assertions with proofs, that one must consider counterarguments, that it’s necessary to listen to what others say and that doing so may allow you to strengthen, or force you to alter, what you think.

“In other words, in a modest way, we are disciples, generations removed, of John Milton’s ‘Areopagitica,’ of the belief that truth, or as much of it as we can grasp, is arrived at not through trigger warnings but through discussion and through debate that turns on details.

“We are running hard against the current, but my students don’t know that. My aim is to teach them to love great writing and to take pleasure in the habits of mind that close reading demands. These are also the habits essential for an informed citizenry. I’m reassured that I send forth young adults who, whatever political positions they adopt, will question before they conclude, and will respect others’ rights to question and to conclude otherwise.”

Additionally, the ancient philosophers, as evidenced by the Socratic method of teaching, offered an abundance of wisdom on teaching, thinking and learning that are forever prudent to keep in mind:

SOCRATES (469-399 BC)

  • “I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.”
  • “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”

PLATO (428-348 BC)

  • “The soul is like an eye: when it sees that on which truth and Being shine, the soul perceives and understands, and is radiant with intelligence.” – The Republic
  • “Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils, nor the human race, as I believe, and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day.”

ARISTOTLE (384-322 BC)

  • “All men by nature desire to know. An indication of this is the delight we take in our senses.” – Metaphysics
  • “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” 
  • “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” 

Warning: Some Of This Material May Lead to Feelings of Discomfort

microaggressions atlantic“Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense.”

So begins an article in the September issue of The Atlantic Magazine, written by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt entitled, “The Coddling of the American Mind”, in which they provide an in-depth look into the “trigger warnings”* and “microaggressions”* movement that is becoming institutionalized across U.S. college campuses, subsequently “affecting what can be said in the classroom, even as a basis for discussion.”

From the works of classic literature and paintings by renowned artists (such as the painting of Ulysses tied to the mast of his ship in which there were topless mermaids that Mr. Haidt used in one of his classes for a lesson on the weakness of the will, only to receive a formal complaint) to seemingly innocuous statements, such as “America is the land of opportunity,” Messrs. Lukianoff and Haidt describe an uncomfortable and disturbing environment where professors, threatened with formal punishments or the loss of their jobs, are left teaching in classrooms where their every word is policed by students who are dictating what academic resources are acceptable.

Messrs. Lukianoff and Haidt cite an article written by seven humanities professors who noted that the trigger warning movement was “already having a chilling effect on their teaching and pedagogy.”

Even popular comedians, such as Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher, are refusing to perform on campuses and have “publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.”

In a rather telling statement, Messrs. Lukianoff and Haidt cite an essay published in Vox by a professor entitled, “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me.”

“The dangers that these trends pose to scholarship and to the quality of American universities are significant,” they write, “and sometimes seem ‘surreal.’”

Surreal they certainly are. But, it becomes all too clear in reading their article that this trend – where students’ emotional well-being in essence trumps reality – is no joking matter.

The mentality perpetuating such a movement is one of “intellectual homogeneity,” where students rarely “encounter diverse viewpoints” and maintain the attitude that there is nothing to learn from “people they dislike or from those with whom they disagree.”

“The ultimate aim, it seems, is to turn campuses into ‘safe spaces’ where young adults are shielded from words and ideas that make some uncomfortable,” writes Messrs. Lukianoff and Haidt.

In the section, “How Did We Get Here,” they explain the importance of understanding the difference between the Socratic method of teaching, in which students are taught how to think, and the “emotional reasoning” that is being embraced by this movement, in which students are taught to “think in a very different way,” and which is perhaps leading to pathological thinking.

“The Socratic method is a way of teaching that fosters critical thinking, in part by encouraging students to question their own unexamined beliefs, as well as the received wisdom of those around them. Such questioning sometimes leads to discomfort, and even to anger, on the way to understanding.”

Socratic method of teaching
“School of Athens”, 1509 by Italian Renaissance painter, Raphael; Plato and Aristotle in center, Socrates seated on bottom left

“On the way to understanding” is a key phrase for its implication of a journey undertaken; learning, scholarship and the attainment of wisdom is almost always a rigorous journey that involves discomfort, pain and sometimes even anger.

A coddled environment of “vindictive protectiveness” that punishes anyone who makes people feel uncomfortable and where feelings guide one’s interpretation of reality – “emotional reasoning is now accepted as evidence,” writes Messrs. Lukianoff and Haidt – is a manufactured environment of suppression that fosters a distorted view of reality.

Such distortion, augmented by our hopes and fears, is something that the ancient philosophers understood well; Buddha once said, “Our life is the creation of our mind” and Marcus Aurelius, “Life itself is but what you deem it.”

But the life that an unfettered mind deems can often lead to an inaccurate reading of the world and reality, not to mention mental instability and illness. Messrs Lukianoff and Haidt remind us that “subjective feelings are not always trustworthy guides; unrestrained, they can cause people to lash out at others who have done nothing wrong.”

In fact, many mental health professionals are seeking to help patients by utilizing “Cognitive Behavior Therapy” – a “modern embodiment of this ancient wisdom,” with a goal, similar to that of the Socratic method of teaching, to “minimize distorted thinking and see the world more accurately.”

“[C]ognitive behavioral therapy teaches good critical-thinking skills, the sort that educators have striven for so long to impart,” Messrs. Lukianoff and Haidt write. “By almost any definition, critical thinking requires grounding one’s beliefs in evidence rather than in emotion or desire, and learning how to search for and evaluate evidence that might contradict one’s initial hypothesis.”

As we write, protests are – and have been – taking place on college campuses with students’ pleas for safer and more sensitive environments. So far, one university president (Timothy Wolf of the University of Missouri) has resigned and it will be no surprise to see others follow suit. Where it will all lead is anyone’s best guess.

But, this much is clear: Messrs. Lukianoff and Haidt have shed light – with evidence, accuracy and an undistorted view – on the reality of a movement that has been percolating for years and is just now beginning to unfold.

There is, however, a silver lining.


*Microaggressions are defined as “small actions or word choices that seem on their face to have no malicious intent but that are thought of as a kind of violence nonetheless”; trigger warnings are “alerts that professors are expected to issue if something in a course might cause a strong emotional response.”

*Greg Lukianofff is a constitutional lawyer and the president and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which defends free speech and academic freedom on campus. He is the author of Unlearning Liberty.

*Jonathan Haiadt is a social psychologist who studies the American culture wars and is a professor in the Business and Society Program at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He is the author of The Righteous Mind and The Happiness Hypothesis.

For a similar piece, see also: “Bonfire of the Academy“, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 2015

Plumping Up for Winter in Maine at Duck Fat

Duckfat Restaurant Portland MaineIf you are a lover of quality food and are curious about what the latest trends in the culinary world are, a visit to the small city of Portland, Maine provides an enticing glimpse.

Portland has a uniquely strong farm-to-table movement and is considered the epicenter for the concept on the East Coast.  It has been nationally recognized as a “hub of innovative cuisine,” and referred to as a “gastro-tourism paradise.”

For years, talented chefs such as Sam Hayward of Fore Street Grill (opened 1996 and designated as a Top 50 Restaurant in the U.S. by Gourmet Magazine in 2001 and 2006), have been making their way north from Boston and New York City to Portland where they find a wealth of resources from farmers, fishermen, and artisans that provide for year round seasonal cooking and a more welcoming (i.e. less cut-throat) and supportive environment.

Duckfat, which opened in 2005, a restaurant that “comes to mind in the autumn and winter evening” (Portland Press Herald, 2014) and is fun just because of its name, is a local favorite that is still going strong, as can be seen by a frequent line of people waiting to get in.

Duck fat French Fries Indeed, it is the popular Belgian cut frites that many are waiting for. Cooked in duck fat and served with a choice of eight different dipping sauces (garlic or horseradish mayo, truffle ketchup, etc.), the frites were the inspiration for the restaurant, owned and operated by husband and wife team Rob Evans and Nancy Pugh. They have been instrumental in Portland’s culinary transformation, elevating an ordinary sandwich shop to an otherworldly culinary experience.

The restaurant has been a three time “Chopped Champion Restaurant” on the Food Network and Rob Evans was named Best Northeast Chef in 2009 by James Beard.

Duckfat, which is also known for its in-house sodas and milkshakes – the original Tahitian vanilla bean and crème anglaise milkshake are a rich, heavenly delight – beautifully combines the past and its traditions with the present and its new techniques, resulting in a culinary experience that feeds the body, heart and soul.

Two other great body, heart and soul restaurants:

Eventide Oyster Company: a seafood-centric restaurant that offers an amazing variety of oysters (over two dozen) from “Maine and Far Away.” The beautiful display of oysters is a visual feast that one sees upon entering the restaurant and is reminiscent of the great American Oyster bars of times past.  They say on their website: “Eventide marks the transition between day and night, a time that calls for refreshment and rejuvenation.”

Eventide Oyster Company Portland

Central Provisions: With a hugely popular following for their inventive food by Chef and proprietor Chris Gould, Central Provisions offers a cornucopia of small plate feasts of unusual and creative combinations chosen from the Menu headings: “Raw, Cold, Hot, Hearty, and Sweet” (Bluefin Tuna Crudo, Roasted Cauliflower, Duckham and Biscuits, Suckling Pig with Apple and Brown Butter, Fried Brown Point Oysters, Pork and Walnut ravioli).

The description below is just one example of the “unusual” that makes this restaurant an inspiring culinary experience (it was also listed on the 2014 James Beard ten best restaurants in America).

Consider this little gem on the menu: bread and butter[s]erved on a stone slab are slices of toasted baguette accompanied by a fluffy mound of local butter with the texture of whipped cream. Alongside this is something that looks like a giant egg yolk. In fact, it was until tempered into a shimmering mousse-like sabayon. This is achieved by heating the egg yolk with reduced white beer and gelatin over a double boiler until thickened. It’s then put through an aerosol can typically used to dispense whipped cream. The mixture is forced through it onto the dish in the shape of a giant egg yolk. You then smear the butter and sabayon together on the bread and the mingling of both – smooth as silk – is rapturously good. (taken from Portland Herald Press, 2014).

Autumn’s Last Light & “Hot” Read

November’s “Hot” Read: City On Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg

City on Fire Book ReviewCity On Fire – an “immersive, exuberant, boundary-vaulting novel” published in October of this year is the debut novel of Garth Risk Hallberg, an American novelist born in Louisiana who grew up in North Carolina and currently lives in New York with his wife and children. 

Here’s what people are saying:

“Locating the best of times within the worst of times is no mean trick, especially in a historical novel where the history is recent enough that many readers remember firsthand just how bad those times were. That’s the delicate and ultimately moving balancing act that Garth Risk Hallberg pulls off in ‘City on Fire,’ his ­Dickens-size descent into New York City circa 1976-77”….read more from the New York Times.

“‘The more we’re told we’re becoming readers of blogs, of texts, of tweets,’ Garth Risk Hallberg wrote in an online essay in 2010, ‘the more committing to a big book feels like an act of resistance.’ Among the standard bearers of a miniboom in maximization, he named perennial favorites David Foster Wallace, whose mega-novel ‘Infinite Jest’ sports a four-figure page count, and Jonathan Franzen, who had just published ‘Freedom’ and this year completed a hat-trick of big books with ‘Purity.’ Mr. Hallberg has now joined the movement by offering up a novel of more than 900 pages”…read more from the Wall Street Journal.

November poems

“Autumn’s Last Light”

Seize the season’s last light –
A bouquet of swirling
Golden fiery hues…

And baubles of berries,
Dangling bright – ruby red
Divine.

Infuse me with autumn’s warm flame –
A liquid harvest of
Honey’d wine

While slow
The roaring fire of time
Burn the dark moments
Of this closing year.

Autumn poems

Scrumptious Apple Pies From Scratch

Setting out to make a pie can be a “very scary thing,” writes Deb Perelman in her cookbook, The Smitten Kitchen. As an “obsessive home cook” who suffered FOP (fear of pie), she was determined to master the art of piecrust making. It took several “pie seasons” of experimental distractions until she successfully arrived on top with the perfect piecrust, which as it turns out, is pretty basic and simple!

Below are three recipes, one from Deb Perelman’s described as a “buttery flakey crust” and two recipes that include the crust and filling. Two of the crust recipes use butter and the other from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook uses Crisco shortening, making it a more old-fashioned, but tried and true crust recipe nonetheless.

Easy Apple Pie Recipe

Pie Crust (taken from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients:
2 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. table salt
16 tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, VERY cold
1/2 cup ice-cold water

Instructions:
In a large, widish bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut the butter into medium-sized pieces and scatter the pieces over the flour. Using your finger tips (or pastry blender) work the butter into the flour mixture until the largest pieces of butter are the size of tiny peas.

If the butter has warmed up a bit, place the bowl in the freezer for 5 minutes to quickly cool it down again. Drizzle the water over the flour-butter mixture and use a flexible spatula to gently stir it together until a craggy, uneven mass forms. Knead the dough and any loose bits together, working quickly so as to warm it as little as possible. For a traditional 2-crust pie, divide the dough and wrap it in two separate pieces. Chill it in the fridge at least 1 hour for a halved dough and 2 hours for a full one before rolling it out.

When ready to roll out the dough, place large size wax paper on counter and dust generously with flour and begin to roll out (perfecting the art of rolling out pie dough does take some patience and practice).  The key is to roll out before it becomes too warm and begins to stick and break up into tiny pieces.  Place back in freezer if this begins to happen and try again. When dough has successfully been rolled out gently fold into quarters and transfer to pie pan and gently unfold positioning it perfectly in the pie plate, letting it drape over the edges which you will trim.

Double-Crusted Apple Pie (taken from The Apple Lover’s Cookbook)

Ingredients for the crust:
2 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
18 tbsp. (2 & 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
6-8 tbsp. ice water
Milk for brushing over crust

Ingredients for the filling:
3 large firm-tart apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges*
3 large firm-sweet apples cut the same as above*
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 & 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Instructions:
In large bowl, toss the apples with the sugar, brown sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and set aside.  Roll out dough as described in Smitten Kitchen recipe above.  Place pie filling in pie pan and place rolled out top crust on top of filling and bake at 400-425 degree oven for 10 minutes and then lower temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 40-50 minutes.

homemade pie crust recipe

Basic Pie Crust for 9-inch Two-crust Pie (taken from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook)

Ingredients for crust:
2 & 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup shortening (Crisco)
6-7 tbsp. ice cold water

Instructions for crust:

Combine the flour and salt. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender or by hand using a fork to scrape bits of butter into the flour/salt mixture. Combine lightly only until the mixture resembles coarse meal or very tiny peas: its texture will not be uniform but will contain crumbs and small bit and pieces. Sprinkle ice-cold water over the flour mixture, a tablespoon at a time, and mix lightly with a fork, using only enough water so that the pastry will hold together when pressed gently into a ball.

Divide the dough into two balls. Roll the bottom crust out 2 inches larger than the pie pan. Ease it into the pan, fitting it loosely but firmly. Roll out the top crust. Fill the pie generously, then put on the top crust and prick in several place with a fork or cut vents in it. Crimp or flute the edges. Bake as incited in the filling recipe.

Ingredients for the filling:
3/4-1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 & 1/2 tbsp. flour
6 large, firm mix of tart and sweet apples*
2 tbsp. butter

Instructions for filling:
Mix the sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and flour in a large bowl.  Peel, core, and slice apples and toss them in the sugar mixture, coating them well. Pile them into the crust- lined pie pan and dot with the butter.  Roll out the top crust and drape it over the pie.  Crimp edges and cut several vents in the top.  Bake for 10 minutes at 400-425 degree oven and then lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake 30-40 minutes more or until crust is nicely browned.

*There are many combinations of apples that are perfect for a pie and everyone has their favorites. My personal favorite for over 30 years of baking are Baldwin, Northern Spy, Golden Delicious, Cortland, Macintosh and Gala (I always use a combination of at least two or three different apple varieties).

Below are some of the more common and easy to find apples:

The best apples for Firm-Tart are:

  • best apples for apple pieNorthern Spy
  • Granny Smith
  • Idared
  • Newtown Pippin
  • Rome Beauty

The best apples for Firm-Sweet are:

  • Baldwin
  • Winter Banana
  • Pink Lady
  • Jonagold
  • Jazz
  • Golden Delicious
  • Honeycrisp