“Apple pie without some cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze.” The words of my grandmother, Fanny, come back to me as I sit down to a thick slice of homemade pie. Her theory never appealed to my taste buds, but I remember the adage every time I eat my favorite dessert.
Growing up in a Mennonite home with two grandparents of Amish background, pie-baking was quite a serious affair. Pre-made pie crust was an affront to the dessert; totally homemade was the only respectable option. Raspberry cream, mincemeat, fresh peach, and, of course, apple, were just a few of the pies that would adorn holiday tables or create stunning wedding desserts.
I’ve written here about the influence my grandparents’ cooking has had on my life. But I’m in a new capacity here. Instead of occupying my usual role as grandson, the consumer of all the goodies my grandparents provide (including pie!), this time I am also the producer: the flour-covered counter and delicious apple-cinnamon aroma perfuming my kitchen are the testaments to my work.
I jotted down the recipe from a heavily-used copy of the infamous Mennonite Community Cookbook. The ingredients, like so many tremendous recipes in the book, were simple and easy to find.
The recipe I used was simple and easy to follow, a pattern readers of Mary Emma Showalter’s book would surely expect. The Mennonite Community Cookbook blog and Facebook page has already received many stories from past readers who recall the book as a treasured shower gift,a constant cooking companion, or an heirloom passed down from a relative.
I didn’t have a “normal” pie dish on hand, so I used a cast iron skillet. The original recipe also leaves the top crust as an optional addition – since I had plenty of dough available, I opted to include more of the flaky pastry. The more the merrier in this dessert!
Here’s the recipe for the dough and filling, as found in Mennonite Community Cookbook:
Apple Pie (contributed by Mrs. Edison Gerber, Walnut Creek, Ohio)
3 cups diced apples
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg
2 tablespoons rich milk
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
Pastry for two 9 inch crusts
Mix apples, sugar, flour and spice together until well blended.
Place mixture in unbaked crust.
Add rich milk and dots of butter over the top.
Place strips or top crust on pie as desired.
Fasten securely at edges.
Bake in hot oven, 400 degrees for 50 minutes.
Makes 1 (9 inch) pie.
Pastry (for a 9-inch double-crust pie)
2 1/4 cups flour
2/3 cup shortening
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold water
Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl.
Cut shortening into flour with a pastry blender or two knives.
Do not overmix; these are sufficiently blended when particles are the size of peas.
Add water gradually, sprinkling 1 tablespoon at a time over mixture.
Toss lightly with a fork until all particles of flour have been dampened.
Use only enough water to hold the pastry together when it is pressed between the fingers. It should not feel wet.
Roll dough into a round ball, handling as little as possible.
Roll out on a lightly floured board into a circle 1/8 inch thick and 1 inch larger than the diameter of the top of the pan.
Ben Mast is a writing intern for MennoMedia and Herald Press. He studies English and Writing Studies at Eastern Mennonite University. A version of this post originally appeared on Amish Wisdom.