Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mr. Brown, I respectfully disagree.

This week on Good Eats (my new favorite Food Network show) Alton Brown discusses the perfect, quintessentially American Apple Pie. (You can see the 7 minute condensed version HERE.) Good Eats is a fun show, and I think Alton Brown is a great teacher and has lots of wisdom to share about all kinds of cooking-related tidbits. BUT... about his apple pie....

He makes several claims as to what might constitute a perfect apple pie and I found myself, for the first time, completely disagreeing with him. He's from Atlanta - he should know how an apple pie is made. But this recipe was the most fiddly, full of random ingredients, complicated, and strangest compilation I've ever seen.

OK, I must first admit - he's got the *perfect* pie crust recipe. Though I disagree that Applejack should be the moistening ingredient, his crust looks fantabulous. I only dream of making pie crusts that good! ::sigh::

So here, in no particular order, are my beefs (if you can have a beef with an apple pie?)

1) He thinks it's necessary to have four or five different kinds of apples. I think two are quite sufficient - a tart version and a sturdy crisp and sweet version. And using a golden or red delicious apple just adds an apple's worth of mush at the end. They're really too mealy for a pie.

2) He drains the apples. Why waste all that lovely juice (only to add liquid to the apples later in the form of lime juice and ::gag:: apple jelly!) His concern is that it will make the crust mushy. But if you proportion the sugar and cornstarch properly, the juice will jell perfectly before it leaks all over the place!

3) He eschews cinnamon, saying it overpowers the apples. Well any spice, if you use too much, will overpower a dish. I use a teaspoon of cinnamon, and I've never masked the flavor of the apples. Instead he favors something called "Grains of Paradise". What the heck? I've never even heard of such a thing! If you're going to make a quintessential American pie, then be considerate and use common spices found in everyone's kitchen!

4) He recommends tapioca flour instead of cornstarch or all purpose flour as the thickening agent. Again - pick ingredients that everyone has! I've never even seen tapioca flour for sale here in north Alabama.

5) He strongly recommends using a pie bird. Huh? What the HECK is a pie bird, you ask? Yeah - it's THAT. I have all sorts of issues with this. He thinks a lattice or slits in the crust might allow the juices to spill over. Well, I think sticking a silly piece of ceramic into my pie is tacky and makes the pie harder to cut. So there. And I've slitted my crusts for years - no burned bits on the oven floor yet! Alton Brown purports to be a big "kitchen gadget multitasker" (all kitchen gadgets should serve more than one function) but he recommends this esoteric doo-hickey? Give me a break. Take a knife, cut a series of slits in a lovely star shape at the top of the pie, and you're set!

6) Finally, he recommends using a tart pan with a removable bottom instead of the traditional pie plate. Says it makes the pie easier to cut and remove because you take the pie out of the pan. Hmph. So how do you store the pie after you've pulled it out? Might not the crust sag over a day or two and fall apart without the plate to keep it's shape? And if you lightly grease the plate, the crust won't stick anyway.

So that's my apple pie rant. I still recommend Good Eats, and I still deeply respect Alton Brown for all the joy he obviously puts into his show - you can tell he loves to cook and he knows a tremendous amount about it, and he's also amazingly good at sharing that knowledge with us amateurs. So despite my disagreement with his apple pie, I have dozens of other recipes, facts, tips, and tricks that I tucked into my cookbook after watching his show. Bon appetit, Mr. Brown - keep cooking!


Mikefarlane said...

He did say you could use aluminum foil in place of the piebird

Olive Tree Guitar Ensemble said...

Hi, it's a great blog.
I could tell how much efforts you've taken on it.
Keep doing!