Bake Naked

A quick text to a few girlfriends, and in your head you should hear this shouted like a college girl would holler: “Road Trip!” But it was “Apple Pies!” And, of course, this call was met with enthusiastic response, the date was set, and I couldn’t wait to crank up my apple peeler corer. But first, a baking poem!bake-naked

No huckleberries this year, but Renee brought apples from our dentist, believe it or not, who has his office in an old house in my neighborhood. It was a bumper year, and the two apple trees on the lot were weighed down with the deep red fruit, almost purple. Giving the wide-mouthed patients something to focus on while having their molars drilled, instead of the silly posters on the ceiling, the ones with cheery animals espousing great wisdom. “Don’t forget the bicuspids,” quotes the frothy-mouthed alligator brushing his myriad of teeth.

I had oodles of other Flagstaff apples, more green than red, and a bit more tart. Perfect for pies, and promised to Richard when the basket arrived as a birthday gift. I can’t see a basket of apples without seeing a pie. Or two.

I had gluten free crusts prepared. I use Julie Child’s recipe and I promise it works perfectly with Cup 4 Cup baking flour blend. Bridget’s graduation party this summer was a pie affair, and nobody knew the difference between the gluten- free or -full crusts.

Renee arrived and pulled item after item out of her tote: the crusts she’d made at home the day before replete with large chunks of yellowy butter kneaded into them; gourmet cinnamon (I love that about her, special order top of the line spices — I’m sorry to say but I’ll pick mine up at Big Lots); brown sugar, lemon, and the home made fizzy water.

Yes! I had a bottle of our friend Ellen’s specialty tonic, 4-A Mixer, (give it a try!), and a bottle of tequila, another leftover from Bridget’s graduation reception, so, we started our pie making excursion with a kick!

I had already zipped my apples through my Pampered Gourmet peeler/corer. My absolute favorite kitchen tool. My roommate was duly amused watching me as I giggled and twirled the apples into their new  structure, naked spirals of fruit, shiny with juice. She is neither a cook or baker, nor one to own tools of any sort beyond a map, backpack, and toothbrush. A professional traveler who has stopped n Flagstaff for a while before her next trek, Ecuador or back to China. Last night she was looking at apartments in Guadalajara. (That could be election-motivated, but no matter.)


She finds herself quite lucky to have landed this gig with me, and my busy, fragrant kitchen. She grabbed her big mug of tea and walked back to her room grinning. “Can’t wait to smell the pies,” she said.

Twirling apples
wiggle like baby bottoms
running to the kitchen
for pie. More pie.
The apples head to the blade
the peel flies off in long strips
licorice whips of crunch
and sweet, then crash
the core hollowed out
a perfect spiral of filling
piled below the empty spokes.
More pie.
Do another. Watch it twirl
its way to the blade.
More pie.

Renee took her turn on the PC, and she peeled and cored while I rolled out my crust with my French rolling pin, thank you Julia Child. She says of non-French rolling pins, like the old one I leave on the top shelf of my back pantry: “Well, you might as well use a broom stick handle.” She is said to have made a big todo when throwing one out on her television show.

Renee and I sipped our teq & tonics, worked on our pies, and caught up on our lives: my two girls, her three boys, and six grandkids, the oldest, Maddie, 16 already. How did that happen? Her Chris, my Richard, our friend who has been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s and what, exactly, that means for her. We grew quiet for a bit, just rolling, and peeling, and feeling grateful for the sun lighting up the leftover autumn leaves in my backyard viewable out the kitchen window.

I love recipes from my mother’s Betty Crocker Cook Book. They are solid, foundational, with the requisite ingredients and the tried and tested ratios. I cherish this worn, stained collection of love. Love of food. Love of baking and cooking and learning to do the same. This tattered messy old collection is almost embarrassing, and I love it.


Renee used a “French Pie” recipe that called for lemon and brown sugar. I borrowed the approach for my second pie, too tempting not to try. Either way, we were headed to delicious.

Renee showed me her method to seal her crust, making it a thick zig-zagged shield encasing the pie. I had never acquired the knack for this, even in my years as a professional baker, but finally with her help, I did. Never too late to get better!

It’s all in an initial fold of the hungover dough (hee hee), the ledge around the pie plate, pushing it back under itself. Very thick and protective. I took it a step further and twisted it over itself again, sideways this time, as I pinched and sealed it, making it look, well, French, I guess. Needless to say, they were lovely going in, and Renee’s was guarded by the pie bird I had given her years before for Christmas or a birthday. I don’t even remember, but there it was, ready to whistle when her pie was done.


For all that sealing I had mastered, my pie still spilled that gorgeous buttery sweet sauce all over the bottom of the oven. Luckily Renee had suggested (and I would have forgotten) that we line the bottom of the oven with a cookie sheet. Well, we went through three as the juice puddled, and then burned, and each sheet was replaced. No harm, though, the pies were perfect. And beautiful.

We hadn’t worked in tandem like that, in the kitchen, or at all really, in a long time. A drink, a sunny October day, pies in the oven. Oh, gone are the days of our progressive dinner parties, work events, wreath making. Seems like we should have more time for this type of activity now that our kids are grown and gone. But Renee has many friends whom she stays busy with, and she is still an athlete, and now a grandma, she is a busy woman even in partial retirement.

I have embraced a quieter life. Not filling my evenings and weekends with non-stop social life as I used to do. But no matter how our lives have grown separate, they have done so concurrently. Solidly beside each other in friendship, and always able to dedicate a random autumn Saturday morning to making pies.



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