I’m waaay too uncool to be a hipster, but I imagine being one must be a lot of work.
I mean, think about the time it takes to do all the trend-spotting, the look-innovating, the show-hopping (so you can be the first to be bored by any given up-and-coming band), the long nights of cheap-beer drinking and naturally, the “I’m so done with all the mainstream bullshit” attitude maintenance. Exhausting, right?
But maybe the pressure to be constantly cool is finally hitting a point of fatigue.
That must account for the packed house last night at Enid’s in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for their 2nd Annual Apple Pie Contest. Enid’s is our favorite local. The home of cheap beer, satisfying Southern-style brunches, old-school arcade games, a photo booth (naturally!), and people-watching aplenty.
At brunch with the roomie, I saw that they’d put out a flyer advertising their pie contest.
So… I brought a pie. I was thinking the competition would be easy pickin’s. I mean, please… Food is my life, and I couldn’t imagine the “waking up at 3 PM for brunch” Enid’s population in my neighborhood producing much more than frozen pies and limp little tarts on a random Tuesday night.
Boy, was I ever wrong.
Through that double-door poured pies. All kinds of pies. Guys with bushy beards and tight cardigan sweaters carrying pies. Girls with dresses over jeans carrying pies. Cute little gay boys with their boyfriends carrying pies. At least twenty solid pie contenders and a half-dozen judges.
They brought everything from a cream-topped apple-peanut butter pie to a high-domed dessert with a Halloween-pumpkin style face (that one took top honors… damn good!). There were flat pies with crumble tops, one in a casserole dish, and an apple-pizza pie with olives and sausage (surprisingly nice).
The judges tasted. They poked. They tested. They rated. They swooned. They convened, argued, re-tasted and reconvened. I was proud to see that my own humble pie was among the group of re-tastings. The roomie squealed in delight as they picked at the crust and sampled an apple chunk.
We had time, so I analyzed the judges alongside a fellow pie-maker, Mason (co-father of the PB-Apple pie), who observed, “It seems like hipsters are really into domesticity lately. Everyone I know is knitting or crocheting and baking. I mean, look around.”
Indeed. The place was chock-full of the hip. They circled the pie table like sharks with plastic forks, waiting impatiently to dive in for the kill.
My pie (Granny Smith and Macintosh apples, standard crust, lots of pastry vines, leaves and berries with an egg-wash and sprinkled raw sugar on top) garnered the “prettiest pie” prize… a title that came with great honor as well as a T-shirt and two drink tickets. It was satisfying.
To my delight, the grand-prize winner, one of those bushy-bearded lanky guys in Mason’s posse, looked absolutely dizzy with excitement. No posturing here.
He gripped his recycled bowling-alley trophy and his free brunch tickets. He grinned like a child.
And lucky for me, he happily spilled his pie-making secrets with all the passion of a hipster who’s found the coolest new thing.
All I can say is: Watch out Williamsburg. I’m ready for next year.
My Award-Winning Apple Pie Makes One 9" pie (about 8 servings)
For the Crust: 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 3/4 tsp salt 1/3 cup lard or vegetable shortening 8 tsp cold, unsalted butter, diced in half-inch pieces 7 to 10 tablespoons ice water
For the Decorations 1 egg 1 tsp cold water Raw sugar for decoration
For the Filling 5 large apples, (about 8 cups) peeled and cut into 1" slices (I used Granny Smith and Macintosh) 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice 1 tsp lemon zest 1/2 cup brown sugar 2 Tbsp dry tapioca (powdered) or cornstarch 1/2 to 3/4 tsp garam masala blend (or substitute 1/4 tsp ground allspice, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg and 1/4 tsp ground dry ginger or cinnamon) 1/4 tsp salt
To make the crust:
Blend the flour and salt in a mixing bowl.
Use a fork to work the shortening into the flour mix until it’s crumbly. Mix in the butter. You want to see flakes of butter to ensure a flaky crust.
Sprinkle in a little water, one or two tablespoons at a time. Mixing gently into the dough. When the dough is moist enough to hold together when squeezed, transfer it to parchment paper.
Fold the dough over once or twice to bring it together, then divide it into two pieces, forming disks about 1" thick. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes or so.
To make the filling:
Combine the sliced apples and lemon juice and zest in a large mixing bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, powdered tapioca/cornstarch, spices and salt. Sprinkle the mixture over the apples and stir well to coat.
To assemble the pie:
Roll one pastry disk in a 12-inch circle. Move it to a lightly oiled 9" pan, and trim the pastry around the edge of the pan. If you’re going for “prettiest pie,” you’ll want to save the trimmings to make decorative berries, leaves and vines.
Spoon the apple filling into the pan.
Roll out the remaining pastry to an 11" circle. Carefully drape the pastry over the apples. Seal the edges together with a fork or your fingers, and trim off any excess. Be sure to open up several holes to allow steam to escape. Arrange your leaves, vines and berries across the top pastry. Brush it with a simple egg wash. (just whisk the egg in a small bowl with a teaspoon of water, and use it like a pastry glaze and a glue for the decorations). Sprinkle raw sugar across the decorations after you’re done arranging them.
Bake the pie on a cookie sheet for about 45 minutes (when the filling bubbles, it should be ready), but check the pie after 20 minutes to make sure the edges aren’t overbrowning. If the edges do start browning too fast, cover them with strips of aluminum foil.
Cool your finished pie on a rack for at least 1 hour before presenting it to the judging panel.