Artist in Residence – Quarantine Diaries, Episode 3b: Pursuit of Pie, Part 2: Why does it never look anything like the picture in the recipe?

 Continuing from the Holmes pastiche –
Okay so I tripped over a recipe – this one – – and I got sufficiently intrigued to print it out and make a decision to make it. You know, sometime.
Well no better time than the present – we’re all stuck inside our houses waiting for the coronapocalypse to tick over, so why not, you know, make a pie?
So ok. Here’s a listicle for you.

  1. Crust dough. Followed the recipe as best I could but how does one measure cold lard in cups? I had to make an approximation. I piled all the ingredients together, and divided them into two patties as they said, and wrapped them in Saran wrap, and stuck them in the fridge overnight. So far so good. But I did make a mental note that there didn’t seem to be A LOT of the dough there. More about that later.
  2. The next day. They suggest nine apples – nine medium apples – and I cut up eight. There seemed to be a lot of apples there for the amount of dough I had. But eh. I stuck the apples into a bowl, poured in sugar and cinnamon as per instructions, and left them to juice for an hour. My husband was sceptical about how much juice I would get (you might need to add some apple juice just to top up, he said) but as it happened there was a respectable amount of juice there at the conclusion of the elapsed hour. I decanted it into a saucepan, as per instructions, and added rum instead of bourbon (hey, NOT a whiskey gal, OK?) and stuck it on the stove. It did its thing. I set it aside to cool. And got out the pastry to roll it out. And cast about for the rolling pin…
  3. …which was absent. I looked in every place where we might have kept a rolling pin and I”m pretty damn sure we owned one at some point, but need I say I could not find it at all? So here I stand, in the middle of a semi ransacked kitchen, with a patty of dough to roll out and nothing to roll it out with. Being a resourceful sort I took up an empty glass jar standing about and used that instead – but it was, eh, less than ideal, shall we say.
  4. I rolled out the dough as best I could but I could see there was no way that it was going to stretch to cover even the bottom, let alone the sides as described in the recipe, of the cast iron skillet I was planning to use to bake it. So I took a smaller baking dish, and it still didn’t quite stretch to where it needed to go, but it looked better than it would have done in the skillet.
  5. I could clearly see that I had WAY TOO MANY APPLES. I piled in as many as I could fit in, I poured the rum and cinnamon/sugar/applejuice mix on top, I dotted with butter as instructed, and then I struggled with my rolling pin jar to roll out the second patty of dough. I could barely make it stretch to cover the top of the apples, never mind perform the kind of nip-and-tuck trick as they described in the recipe. With misgivings, I placed the ‘pie’ with its apples swimming in syrup and uncontained by pie dough, into the oven.
  6. It SMELLS good. But I have the worst feeling I have just made apple soup between to crisp layers of too-thin pie dough. it is cooling now. The taste test is to come. But it was… an adventure. I had a recipe and I more or less used it as a suggestion, just doing what seemed to be necessary or called for. GOD knows what came out the other end but like i said… it SMELLS good. And if it’s apple soup, it’s apple soup. And I have something to show for a day of quarantine and isolation. All the same…
  7. I would DEARLY like to know what became of my rolling pin.
The pie, ladies and gentlemen:

why does it never look like the recipe?
UPDATE: I did another run at it – looks MUCH better – still smells divine – I think I’m getting better. I ALSO made bread. I feel quite homemaker-y… oh, and PS… my mother gave me HER rolling pin. She no longer does bake-like stuff and does not need it any more. Need I tell you I found MY freaking rolling pin the day after I brought Mom’s home?…
What have YOU done this Quarantine Day…?


About Alma Alexander

Alma Alexander's life so far has prepared her very well for her chosen career. She was born in a country which no longer exists on the maps, has lived and worked in seven countries on four continents (and in cyberspace!), has climbed mountains, dived in coral reefs, flown small planes, swum with dolphins, touched two-thousand-year-old tiles in a gate out of Babylon. She is a novelist, anthologist and short story writer who currently shares her life between the Pacific Northwest of the USA (where she lives with her husband and two cats) and the wonderful fantasy worlds of her own imagination. You can find out more about Alma on her website (, her Facebook page (, on Twitter ( or at her Patreon page (


Artist in Residence – Quarantine Diaries, Episode 3b: Pursuit of Pie, Part 2: Why does it never look anything like the picture in the recipe? — 4 Comments

  1. It is useful to measure stuff like lard and Crisco by displacement–fill a quart measuring cup to exactly two cups of water and add shortening till it hits the proper measure. If you roll out the crust between two layers of wax paper, you can get it a lot thinner and have a hope that it will be a correct size. Then peel off one layer, put the crust in place and peel the other layer of paper. I find that tapioca flour makes a much less goopy innard than using flour or whatever, and it is easy to find if you have an oriental market anywhere near you. And too many apples is usually the best thing, since they seem to cook down more than you ever expect. But remember–the most important thing is that the taste always is more important than the look–and your result looks darn good to me.

  2. The baker’s rule of thumb (unless you’re on a TV baking competition): if it tastes good, you have succeeded.

    I’m curious if the amount of crust yielded in your second try was closer to what you needed. And while I’m intrigued by the recipe, it sounds very sweet, even with tart apples. I’d want a squeeze of lemon in there somewhere. But my taste is not the taste of all others.

  3. If that is supposed to be a pie crust recipe that is a way too high ratio of fat to flour.