“An Idiot Contemplates Apple Pie…”

“An Idiot Contemplates Apple Pie, a Practice in Stream of Consciousness”

I wrote this a few weeks ago and for reasons soon surely evident has been taken to being called “Why, Apples?” in “the biz.” I do like that title, I’m afraid, but since I’m one of those crazy guys, I felt the title had to inspire terror and act as a warning… while also delivering on its promise (the idiot).

This is a long voyage, and it in no way is a recipe, I’ll state that right now. I was hoping to discover patterns and all that after the fact (see: “weeks”) and see if I could tell how my “related” thoughts were related, but the best I could do was sync physics to fruit via Isaac Newton and the apple. Which may/may not be a true story, but it’s the same link everybody else would’ve come up with, too.

you_must_first_invent_the_universe_by_gabistar-d5eiv06

12-20-16, Professor Justin Grumblefuzz Lehman:
As Carl Sagan once said, with some stranger hovering ominously in the
background, “If you want to bake an apple pie from scratch, you must first
invent the universe.”

Since I don’t have any more of the context to go on, I’ll have to
surmise that Dr. Sagan meant that there’d have to be matter and energy
and atoms, gravity and structure, “law” (meaning an unbreakable
mathematic formula/equation that creates structure)…

And in our time, that “law” is starting to bend a little. The dark
matter, dark energy, black holes, even, are still all largely
speculation, despite the breakthroughs in theories. It’s somewhat
incredible at all that someone theorized a black hole, and then
decades later, there it was.

In the math and finally, perhaps, in space. Naturally, we haven’t
gotten so close as to really see one. Like a dinosaur, we can paint
rainbow scales on it, and it isn’t wrong, but we’ll never know for
sure until…

And I guess I have to admit that I don’t know that we haven’t seen a
black hole yet. I mean with an optical camera, so to speak, not one
that takes pictures of data (digital camera). That may be too far said
in that direction since every photograph is a picture of data, but…
Quick, change the subject!

Whatever happened to disco? Did people get burnt out on it because it
went hand-in-hand with burn-out drugs? It kinda lasted seven years,
limped along while its sister/child?), funk, gained a small following.

But, anyway, the black hole is so-called because it swallows light,
the fastest thing in the universe… something that may/may not be
affected by gravity. But why would that be? Because light is
weightless? That can’t be, since the faster you go, the heavier you
get… Or is that true until you reach light speed, at which point you
become as light as… light? I suppose that part would make sense since
you would have to be particulate to move that fast… Would you
disintegrate like so many theorize?

“There’s a certain, physical barrier that causes implicit vaporization…”
because only that is light enough to have the potential to move that
fast? It’s what they thought of the sound barrier.

But it does raise two points, getting to go that fast, then surviving
that vaporization. If you search through all of science to the
experiments they do with light’s speed, you’ll see that the best they
can achieve is “almost the speed of light.”

I think the reason they quantify this as “almost the speed of…”
instead of what it actually is, as then they’d see how far they still
have to go, which would be disheartening.

I mean, if it’s 9.37e16 per second, and we’re only up to e15 (the “e”
stands for “exponents,” I think), that’s still over billions of miles
per second to go. Please note that these are not actual numbers, just
used for the sake of argument.

But if you look at them side-by-side, 9.37e16 and 9.37e15 do look like
an “almost.” “Yeah! We’re almost there!” But that next +billions could
be the hardest, farthest place to get.

But why? Outside of the sheer speed of it all, there must be some
reason an object can’t travel at the speed of light. Or is that why,
it’s an object? Is that the black hole’s job, gulp up mass and turn it
into energy? If so, a single radioactive burst of energy probably
isn’t enough to fuel the expanding universe…

Yes, there’s billions of black holes, some of them so super-massive
gigantesque that they’re called “super-massive black holes.” By the
numbers, there’s one powering the gravity field that keeps our galaxy
(not solar system) in line and spinning as it hurtles towards other galaxies…

But, the laws of momentum say that if something is moving in space,
it’ll always go in that direction, so how can galaxies be moving in
any direction other than forward?

I guess it could be my view of the “Big Bang,” in as much as I see a
tiny dot exploding in one direction, it could be true that it exploded
in all directions, and dimensions (at least 3), but that stuff is
traveling so fast and far in directions away from us that we could
never see them. Unless, the universe is an expanding sphere and
eventually that stuff all returns.

If so, that would make the sphere the strongest structure in nature,
which would make sense since there’d be no corners for weaknesses to
collect…

Pears go well with cinnamon, some of them may even be in season right
now, not that I could count on Kroger’s to have any of those. Mom is
talking to my father about selling the house he lives in (I don’t know
anything about their divorce settlement.), but she’s been doing that
for eight years or more. Because of that, maybe there’s no incoming
holiday fruit basket containing a box of ‘golden pears.’ They are
pretty sweet when they’ve ripened fully.

And fully ripened fruit will be hard to come by, not just because it’s
Winter, but at the grocery in general, since all the fruit is picked
before it’s ripe, forced to ripen with chemicals, while shipped to
warehouses to sit.

Hardly fresh, either. The rats get to them and, well, you know… Wash
your food, especially produce!

Blueberries go well with spicy, don’t know much about cinnamon. I
don’t think this is a “+berry” pie, but that does sound nice, too. I’ll
probably have the oven on… and they sell pie crusts in packs of two…

I suppose I could learn to make my own crust, but from what I understand
it’s more fat than flour, which should be really cold so it steams the
crust while it bakes. It creates a flaky crust, and I suppose butter
is the tastiest fat…

When you go to friend’s homes, Poppinjay, certain friends, some who cook
a lot, they have a special “house seasoning.” Have you ever heard of
that? It’s like “house rules” for certain card games, Monopoly, or
Twister, but for spice blends, they vary per house and they‘re used
every time in certain (or all) recipes.

I forego the tired old savory house blend (salt+black pepper+garlic powder), which I guess could also apply to coffee. (A coffee pie?, what would that be?
Cream-/custard-based, maybe.) Instead, my house blend, and I may have
said this before, is a mix of cinnamon, brown sugar, and cayenne.
There might be a little salt in there.

 

pearc

But for coffee, but either way, some distant relatives of my wild thoughts still exist!

 

I don’t know what the ratio is, which is too bad; it’s mostly brown
sugar, but there’s enough cinnamon to turn everything into a dark
mahogany. This is the stuff that I use in my cinnamon rolls, which is
where the mix came from (excess), and it may end up in the pie.

I really want to use honey as the sole-sweetener (maybe a little
molasses; but it has a very strong, very definitive taste, and I don’t
know that I want to be reminded of gingerbread at every bite), but I
know that sugar has another role in cooking, one often overlooked –
it’s a solid object.

No, I know, often in baking you mix sugar in with the wet ingredients,
sometimes because the jagged crystals help tear into whatever you’re
mixing. But, in the pie’s case, or its filling, really, the
solid-state sugar helps the filling become solid, too, as it cools,
which means (with a proper ratio and cooling) the filling will stay
put after the pie is done.

Heat will take care of some of that. And since I have to cook the
filling anyway, I could reduce honey completely (which would make it
sweeter!) so that it would lack most of its water, meaning it would
seize up pretty good when cool. It’s how (most) granola bars stay
together.

Reducing honey makes me think of orange, since that’s usually an add I
have (it also adds moisture that has to be reduced, too, but as they
cook together, they form a cohesive taste… almost retaining floral
notes from the honey, the orange‘s bitterness adds a nice complement.
I bet that cooking honey removes its nutrients, too. =/ ) Risky, since
it might burn, and once it burns, there’s no going back, so if I’ve
already mixed all my fruit in, it’ll be “charred honey pie,” no matter
what else it has.

Orange offers another solution, too, since it has pectin, which is
used in the stabilizing of jams, jellies, and so on. Recently, too, in
the (somewhat) substitution of pig skin-/hoof-/collagen-based
stabilizers.

You can buy pectin by itself, I don’t know what it tastes like,
probably super-bitter, since it comes from the bitter parts of the
plants, but it makes more sense to get it naturally. There’s some in
every fruit, I think, too, ah, maybe… Probably not. Peel-fruits,
certainly, since it’s the pith that it comes from, I think.

No matter, orange and orange-related things will play that role. The
smaller, the sweeter, in theory, so thin slices of tangerines or
something would be ideal. That could cook and thicken (a little) the
reducing honey (I’d have to be very sure what pan I was using when I
started!), but as much as they’re sweet, that’s about all they are… so
if I want orange and its ilk to be represented, I’ll have to include
other bits that don’t cook in the honey/fruit, but go into the
filling raw.

Ah, you know what can be substituted for fat? Applesauce and egg!
Applesauce would even fit the theme of the pie. Orange and cinnamon is
a little tentative…, there needs to be just the hint of orange,
otherwise it’ll taste off, as if I had added soap for some reason.

With applesauce and egg, there’d have to be enough protein and
moisture to bind flour together so that it would hold… If I’m cooking
the topping first (necessary?), it doesn’t really have to bake very
long, I could bake the crust by itself, really, then put the filling
in and let it cool.

It would make the crust soggy, which will happen anyway after a
certain amount of time, and it would miss that top layer of dough. Not
really necessary in my book, but a golden brown lid would probably
look a little better than a brown mash of pears, apples, and tangerine
slices.

I could put raisins in it. Not too keen on them, but they are healthy,
right? I don’t have anything to soak them in, last time it was
buttermilk, and if I don’t soak them in something, they’ll soak up all
the liquid… which may help the pie hold, since the stickiness from the
honey won’t be able to get through the raisins.

Raisins have been paired with cinnamon, too, for a long time.

“So has white fish! Are you going to add that, too?” I don’t know if
you say that to show you have some “+cinnamon as a spice” knowledge or
if you’re trying to insult me. Or both, since you’re so talented.

If I cared for maple syrup (outside of what’s in brown sugar), it
could help the honey out. Not as sweet, either, but I don’t like it. I
do sometimes, but majority, no. It’s thick, holds flavors well, and
could easily be paired with any of the fruits, as they already come
from trees, too.

That said, I don’t think mangoes, avocadoes, would work well, but you
know what might!? Coconut! Toasting coconut and pressing it into the
top might be a solution to its toplessness and if I toast it
well/right, it’ll be golden brown already.

And if I shopped well/right in the past, I’ll already have some in the freezer,
unsweetened and pre-shredded! Otherwise, I meant to. I like to cook it
with rice occasionally. It’s a good balance of flavor and texture, as
the tongue can tell the difference between the shred and the grain.

Bananas would help make it sweet. A cooked banana doesn’t have much
flavor, and it’s mostly water, which I’m trying to do away with
already… A really ripe one would add a lot of sweetness, though.

Yes, as complicated as it all seems, I make it sound so easy. As much
as I’d want to spice the honey while it’s reducing, I cannot! I have
to get that through my head now, it goes for all things like this.
Why? 1) As stuff reduces, it becomes more intense in flavor, which
means spice is spicier, sweet is sweeter, etc. until it burns where it
tastes of char (which has its own place in some recipes) 2) If the
color changes too much, I won’t be able to tell how far along its
cooked, or if its burning, until its too late.

Or, if I add the cinnamon and cayenne so it really has time to bind,
the honey would become brick red, which already looks dark in a pan
(in a house with no light). Tough to tell if a shade darker is burnt
or just beginning to cook, and so on. You get it, I’m sure, even if
you’ve never had to face this sort of thing before.

I remember this little tidbit from …maybe the time I was making
caramel for something. I forget what it was, but I was testing
something (adding baking soda to caramel makes it bubble, becoming
smooth) and so I almost had a reason to try, but I added something…

No! Maybe it was from when I was reducing honey for these no fat,
no refined sugar cookies I was trying to figure out to make with honey
and molasses as the sweeteners. I was reducing the honey (so cookies
would retain their shape, honey would be sweeter) and when I added
molasses, I couldn’t tell how far it along it was anymore.

Was that it? Or was it vinegar in something else? Either way, I’ve
learned this lesson through experience, but it’s an easy one to
overlook. It goes against the instinct of getting flavorings in the
dish as soon as possible so they bloom and marry.

Yes, these are industry terms, floristry and cooking, respectively.

“Wow, aside from the problems with math, obstinacy, and general lack
of knowledge, you’re a real Renaissance Man!”

Why, thank you, that’s a high compliment… after I remove the first few
parts of it.

I don’t know if it’s a Southern (and what part of, if so) thing to put
cheese on top of apple pie or not.

It sounds shocking to the uneducated, but fruit ‘n’ cheese have been
served together since cheese was probably invented. It has a nice
pungency (no longer found in today’s American cheeses, rarely in
imported cheese [you may have to do the importing yourself {it may
mean “illegal”}]) which gives a pleasant counter to the sweetness.

Notable to note that the “ancient” palate of the 1700s Dutch settlers
that invented apple pie would find today’s pie too sweet by a much
greater margin and that molasses would probably have been the
sweetener used, a little honey for back up.

How would they stabilize the filling? I don’t know. I’ve never seen an
old-fashioned recipe actually calling for the “real” things that used
to be the norm. The flour is different, surely, not a problem I’ll
have since it’ll be whole wheat for me, all the way.

Enough flour will hold applesauce and… what was the other thing? Oh,
the egg, together. I can put the crust in the fridge before it bakes
to maximize steam. Or would freezer be better? Poke holes in the
crust! I’ll probably remember to do that.

Maybe cook the filling so it’s sweet, fill, crust bakes with filling,
which comes together more with the cooking? Lacking a top will mean it
won’t have the “oven” effect, which is to say heat trapped inside the
pie as it cooks, so it’ll actually take longer to bake?

Foil would take care of that, though there’s something about acid,
heat, and foil… I don’t know if it’s avoid using the shiny side or use
the shiny side… I suppose I could find a lid that would fit over
the whole thing and do the same job.

If I can unearth the food processor, that could crush some walnuts, as
well as be the perfect thing to mix the crust dough together in.
Chopping the flour finer will only help it moisturize better.

Ugh, I’m sure that also compromises cooking time. I should look at a
basic apple pie recipe and see how far off I am, outside of the
healthy/flavor substitutions, in terms of baking the thing.

It would be easier to bake the crust by itself, cook the filling,
combine, cool, top with the toasted coconut.

Fuji, Gala apples are sweet, hold up while cooking! Sour apples do,
too; they’re far more traditional (sweet apples are more modern) so
maybe a mix of both. I know that the “lunchbox” section of Kroger’s has smaller
versions of these things, which may/may not be cheaper to get.

Would it help to pulverize all the stuff in the food processor? Even
the fruit for the filling? Since there isn’t a sharp knife in the
house (other than my chef’s knife, which sits atop the armoire, in a
cover, buried under books), it would help during slicing of the pie.
Or, a dull blade won’t drag the fine fruit bits, and thus pull filling out, as
it tries to tear through the pie.

It won’t look appetizing, but it would probably be the best.
Everything will happen that much faster, too. This is gonna take every
bowl and pan in the house.

And I’m haunted.

pie

I guess I should have mentioned that last part first.

But no, it’s in the echoes.

-j.

PS: My father’s gift arrived later that same day, though, sadly, did not contain pears.

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10 responses to ““An Idiot Contemplates Apple Pie…”

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