The Fall always gets me. I live in New England, and I love it, but anyone who is a born and bred New Yorker (of the Upstate variety) will tell you that Fall belongs to Upstate NY. Our apples taste better. Our trees are more beautiful. Our air is crisper. Our HS football games are more exiting. Even if it’s just that we are making up for the fact that our winters are longer, colder, snowier, and more depressing, Upstaters will argue for their Autumn. After all, you’ve never heard of an apple named after a town in MA, have you?
Our pies are better in NY, too. Apple pie was a central part of my youth, and every time I see it I think of home. I talk a big game about being Italian, but truth be told, my late grandmother (Grammie) was known for her pies, particularly apple and lemon merengue, above her sauce and meatballs. She even brought a freshly baked pie as a carry-on when flying to visit our sick cousin in Washington D.C. Try as I might to recreate her delicacies (Jackson requests them for his birthday dessert each year), they never taste as good as hers. Funny how food connects us to people alive and gone.
I have been praying to my grammie a great deal in the midst of everything with the transplant, and she’s been showing me sign after sign that she is listening. Pennies from Heaven, dimes, and feathers show up in the most random places, just like she told us they would before she passed. As crazy as it sounds, when I find (or more likely my kids find) a penny in a corner or a sudden feather on the floor, it feels like I’m home.
On my toughest day last week, I received an e-mail that my 1st grader’s teacher was looking for volunteers to help make…apple pies. I typically am unavailable for the time the apple pie making was slotted, but this week I am free. I feel like it’s another sign I will be fine. You can call me crazy, but Grammie and I both won’t care.
We aren’t using Gram’s recipe with the first graders. It’s actually something very different that might make her cry it isn’t real pie at all. But when I’m helping those 6 and 7-year-olds navigate the recipe directions, use the “simple machine” (apple/peeler/corer/slicer), measure the ingredients, and watch their faces light up as they smell cinnamon wafting through the room, I’ll be thinking of my Grammie. And that will feel like home.
- ½ package puff pastry (one sheet of Trader Joe's)
- 4 baking apples
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- 2 tsp flour
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp ginger
- Thaw pastry sheet as directed
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Peel, core, and chop apples into very small pieces
- Combine with sugar, flour, lemon juice, and spices
- Cut the pastry into 6 rectangles
- Place one rectangle inside each of 6 cupcake tins, filling the tin and letting any edges rest on edge of pan
- Place approximately ⅓ cup of the apple mixture in each of the tins
- Fold the overhanging corners into the middle of the tin, pinching points gently
- Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until pastry is golden
- Let sit in tins for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and remove to serving plate.