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Two dozen apple pies, with teens & prepared crusts


Fernwood
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I have a week to plan a project making 25 apple pies with 60 teenagers, half of whom are visitors from China. The kids will go apple picking at a local New England orchard, then assemble pies to take home to host famlies to bake that evening. Now, my family thinks I make a mean apple pie: RLB's all-butter crust, apples from said orchard, a well-practiced routine in my own kitchen. Next week we will have 1 1/2 hours in a middle-school classroom to prep the apples and put the pies together. I do expect to have 8-10 American parents present to mentor the youths; I am familiar with the pie-making skills of one of those adults (besides me).

I have some thoughts about the gear that will be needed but the most urgent issue on my mind is the crust. Despite my daughter's suggestion that I could make all the crusts ahead (she knows what she likes), I'm not that kind of crazy. This project is really about the cooperative experience and the participation in making an iconic American dish and this is the time for store-bought crusts. Years ago I had some experience with the refrigerated Pillsbury crusts and I thought they tasted pretty good. I once used a pre-formed frozen crust that cracked like crazy. I'm wondering if Trader Joe's has a crust; I won't be able to go investigate that until at least Friday.

Suggestions, my "imaginary baking friends"? (That's what my DH calls you.)

Other advice about managing this? Baking teacher is not at all my usual occupation!

Thanks, Fern

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If it were me doing this project, I'd do the Pillsbury crusts since they are inexpensive and you will need many of them. Who is is footing the bill?

The majority of your time is going to be spent paring apples and slicing them. I've done this with my children and my husband's granddaughter and it is very time consuming since they tend to be fearful of the vegetable peelers, don't hold them properly, get tired of working, spend a lot of time giggling and talking, et cetera.

You're very time-limited, so I don't think I'd even fool around with a crust that wasn't pre-made. Rolling them out will probably be challenging enough.

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If you have 1 1/2 hours NOT including baking, I would buy the Pilssbury box mix, which would allow them to mix and roll it, fit it into the pans. Use foil pans. I would divide the group in two--one to mix and roll; one to peel, slice and season apples; then all can fit into pans, fill, and seal their own pie. I think you might run out of time if you don't divide and conquer. I don't know if you have access to any of those apple peeling gadgets. It doesn't sound like a venue for paring knives/teaching knife skills. Maybe vegetable peelers will be ok, but they are so inefficient.

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Trader Joes does, indeed have pie crusts in the freezer section. They work fine if defrosted overnight in the fridge, I don't notice any difference between them and the Pillsbury crusts in terms of perfomance, and I'm crust-impared.

The TJs crusts, to me, taste much superior to the Pillsbury crusts. All of Pillsbury products have some "taste" I find quite off-putting. I can discern it in all of their products, pizza doughs, biscuits, pie crusts. It must be some artificial flavor or preservative they use. The TJs product doesn't have that taste.

--Roberta--

"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley

Pierogi's eG Foodblog

My *outside* blog, "A Pound Of Yeast"

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Trader Joe's does a frozen pie crust, you get two in a package, so enough for one double crust pie. They are rolled really thick in the packages, you'd have to do some additional rolling, which might be a nice middle ground between making their own from scratch and just flopping a premade crust into a pan. Plus the trader joe's crusts taste quite a bit better than the pillsbury ones, at least to me. I agree with Janeer though, it's definitely going to work better if you divide and conquer, break down the tasks into groups and have everyone do one part. Good luck! I'm definitely a solitary baker, although I will let my kiddos help in the kitchen if they promise not to be under my feet!

If you ate pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry? ~Author Unknown

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Can you assign someone (someone not involved in making the pies) to take pictures of the class/process and post them here? I would enjoy seeing how the teens tackled this project and their end results. I hope they will be proud of the pies they make given that pie-making is a lost and dying craft these days.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Thanks for all the advice! Today I ran to TJ's and tonight I have a crust thawing so that tomorrow I can bake something with it and Friday I can call the store to order a pile of them for next week.

In an email to the teacher who coordinates the visit of the Chinese group I mentioned store-bought crusts, provoking the reply "No rolling pins???" I think we should have some rolling pins available but my goal is complete pies for all within the time allotted. Using the apples that the kids just picked is the heart (I was going to say core!) of the project and I think the less fuss with the crusts, the better.

I do have a Norpro Apple Master and I hope to recruit a couple more. In my hands a vegetable peeler is more efficient for just a few apples but the cranked gadget is less fatiguing when you have pounds and pounds to go through and I'm sure the kids will enjoy it. I only ever peel with mine; maybe I should test the slice/core function this weekend. The room has a sink, thank goodness! I think our counters will be ordinary folding "banquet" tables; I'm wondering if I should try to cover them with anything (what?). I will recruit cutting boards, bowls, knives and other utensils from the parents who will be assisting.

I did assume that foil tins are the way to go. Then I thought about how bend-y they can be under the weight of a two-crust pie and considered asking host families to bring in pie plates. Then I thought about how distracted everyone will be by all the other issues around having the Chinese guests and went back to Plan A. [Maybe they don't all have pie plates anyway. I have about eight, but I suspect I am not average that way.] I could look for some shallow boxes to put under them for transport; even just sturdy flat pieces cut from cartons might do. Better ideas?

We will need recipe/instruction sheets and to make sure baking info goes home with the pies. I use some milk and cinnamon/sugar on my top crust but I think we will give instructions for that step at home. What else do I need to think about?

Toliver, I am sure we will take pictures and I hope I will be able to post some. Stay tuned.

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I did assume that foil tins are the way to go. Then I thought about how bend-y they can be under the weight of a two-crust pie and considered asking host families to bring in pie plates.

I would use double foil pans, and squares cut from cartons to support the bottom. Of additional concern would be covering; plastic wrap or foil.

We will need recipe/instruction sheets and to make sure baking info goes home with the pies. I use some milk and cinnamon/sugar on my top crust but I think we will give instructions for that step at home. What else do I need to think about?

Instructions should state that oven is preheated. Also, acknowledge that oven temperatures will vary, and give a variety of indicators of doneness (color, aroma, other appearance, etc.) Recommendation to support the foil pans with a baking sheet or other pan (even a skillet!) during baking.

Have you considered using just a bottom crust with a strusel topping? Or deepdish style pie with only a top crust?

Karen Dar Woon

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I did assume that foil tins are the way to go. Then I thought about how bend-y they can be under the weight of a two-crust pie and considered asking host families to bring in pie plates.

I would use double foil pans, and squares cut from cartons to support the bottom. Of additional concern would be covering; plastic wrap or foil.

When you do your test bake, try it with a double foil pan...and maybe a cookie sheet underneath.

We will need recipe/instruction sheets and to make sure baking info goes home with the pies. I use some milk and cinnamon/sugar on my top crust but I think we will give instructions for that step at home. What else do I need to think about?

Instructions should state that oven is preheated. Also, acknowledge that oven temperatures will vary, and give a variety of indicators of doneness (color, aroma, other appearance, etc.) Recommendation to support the foil pans with a baking sheet or other pan (even a skillet!) during baking.

Have you considered using just a bottom crust with a strusel topping? Or deepdish style pie with only a top crust?

For this, the prototypical American apple pie, I would not do a deep dish, top crust only pie. I think even the streusel topping option might be pushing it a bit.

You might want to mention that if the top is browning but the filing isn't bubbling in the middle yet, cover it with some foil. And include instructions that the pie needs to cool and rest before you try to cut it.

One of the cheap Chinese places around here has started folding canned apple filling into wonton wrappers, tossing them in the deep fryer, and sprinkling the product with powdered sugar!

MelissaH

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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My MIL just gave me a ball of pie crust that can go in the freezer. A recipe makes 18 of them, and all I know is it uses a bag of flour and a jar of Crisco, and a few other things. Tried one the other day and it was so easy to roll out and very flaky. Guess you could google it if the other crusts don't work out. Good luck!

Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality. Clifton Fadiman

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