Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pie Making 101

For school the last week or so we've been doing a unit study loosely based on a Five in a Row study on the children's book, How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman. In this story, an enterprising girl goes around the world to gather ingredients for her apple pie after she finds the local market closed.

The idea behind the Five in a Row homeschool curriculum by Jane Claire Lambert, is to read a single classic children's storybook five days in a row. Each day the teacher will use an aspect of the book for a different part of early elementary learning. The subject areas are Social Studies, Language, Art, Applied Math, and Science. After a week's worth of lessons, we continue to a different book.

I used this curriculum quite a bit when my oldest were younger. Out of necessity, with so many ages to teach, I gradually got further and further from anything "fun" for school. School had somehow turned into drudgery for all of us. This year with the three oldest learning from others, I'm trying to make school a little more enjoyable.

I am loosely basing our current lessons on the Five in a Row lesson How to Make an Apple Pie... I printed up a bunch of "just for fun" apple themed worksheets: word search, math problems, dot-to-dot, coloring sheets, identifying letters,...several at each level for two kids at each of three levels, since the littler ones want to "do school" too.

We did mapwork, first of all identifying and marking all the locations at which the heroine of our story found her products. Then, since there were three countries in Western Europe mentioned, we did a more detailed lesson to mark all the European countries; and we worked on memorizing the several Europe songs on our Geography Songs CD.

We went to Maple Hills Orchard, outside of Detroit Lakes on Friday. Boy, is it hard to find an apple orchard this far north! We went to the orchard expecting nothing more than a trip to see an orchard and buy apples. I figured that even if Maple Hill had a u-pick option, we would be too late in the season to pick, since we'd had several hard frosts already. Upon arrival, the kids immediately ran to the green house to see the pumpkins housed within. Before I even had the littlest ones unloaded, I was met by Friendly Gary (who later fallaciously claimed to be Crabby Gary). Gary offered us a hay ride after he had finished unloading the pumpkins he had just brought in. The kids had fun helping him unload.

Then we went on a ride around the orchard. Maple Hills is a young orchard; most of the trees are quite small yet. But that did not detract at all from the views of rolling hills with their lovely fall scenery. Among and within the rows of trees we saw the corn and pumpkin patches and the apiary.

After the ride, we went inside. Within the store building, we were treated to samples of apples drizzled with caramel, comb honey, and hot apple cider. They had a school desk with a selection of children's books to look at. There was a "guess the weight of the pumpkin" contest. A table with a jigsaw puzzle to work on. And an empty bee hive with the beekeeper's garb that Gary showed the kids. He let them squeeze the smoker and try on the hat and gloves.

Outside there were tables and chairs scattered about the spacious yard; and a little decorated side yard with more activities for the kids. My kids helped Gary wash the previously unloaded pumpkins up by the greenhouse. (Perhaps more help than he needed?) They had a chicken tractor with a stool the kids were able to climb upon, while Gary opened the roof for them to peek inside at a freshly laid egg. There were several wheel barrows for use in hauling the pumpkins during the "pick your own" season. Since that time was past, Gary encouraged the older kids to give the younger ones rides around the green. The several flower gardens were past their prime, but still held a faded glimpse of the glory they had held a few weeks earlier.

We had a lovely day and a big 'Thank You!" to Gary and Jonna for your warm welcome.

Today was pie making day. We actually made pie. I wanted to take advantage of Joe being gone to make a real live wheat crust pie. Sometimes I like to teach my kids how "normal" people bake. Unfortunately we were out of wheat flour, so we ended up doing the gluten free crust after all. Am I ever glad we were limited to that option. Flour everywhere! We made an apple and a pumpkin pie. One of the pumpkins we used was a white pumpkin Clara had bought by herself at the orchard for the expressed purpose of learning how to make a pumpkin pie. The other was also a white one, from our friend, Laura. Clara had baked them and scooped out the meat on Monday. She made the crusts today, so Elsie was in charge of the fillings. Sophie, Clara, and Elsie all helped with the peeling and cutting of the apples.

We had enough apples to freeze filling for another pie, and filled two four-cup containers of pumpkin to freeze. I was hoping to make a batch of green tomato mincemeat from the apples also, but gradually, since Friday, the bag of apples has dwindled. Funny how that works, isn't it?

We all helped with rolling out the crusts. This is always a learning process, since I haven't yet found a gluten free pie crust I like. Each combination of flours and oils and eggs has slightly different properties. Sometimes they fall apart, sometimes they stick, sometimes we give up on rolling entirely and end up pressing the crust into the dish with our fingertips.

I think this will be a good recipe. I forgot to cover the edges half way through, so they got a little darker than I'd prefer. I think next time I'll cut the amount of fat by at least a third. It was very sticky and I didn't even add any of the water the original recipe called for. I noticed some of the recipes call for cold fats. Perhaps that would make it less sticky.

I used a recipe from Gluten Intolerance Group. I adapted it a bit. You can check out the link to see the original recipe. I tripled the recipe and had enough for three crusts and three for the freezer. There was even extra to cut off the edges to bake as pie crust cookies. Follows is what we did.
1 cup white sorghum flour
3/4 cup potato starch
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 cup fat (I used a combo of lard and coconut oil)
4 ounce cream cheese
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla (oops, I just noticed we missed this.)
  1. Combine dry ingredients. Cut in shortening and cream cheese with pastry cutter until the size of peas.
  2. Add eggs, vanilla, and water. Stir into flour mixture until smooth.
  3. Form 2 or 3 balls. We rolled them out on heavily floured foil. We tried at first without the flour and they stuck like nuts. The parts that didn't stick just broke apart. But with the heavy flouring, they rolled out nicely, and dropped nicely onto the pie plates. They still were a bit crumbly at the edges, but with a little coaxing, we got the pies to look pretty nice.
  4. Makes two 9-inch deep dish pie crusts or three 8-inch pie crusts. Bake as you would for the fillings you choose.
In order to tie up our How to Make an Apple Pie... study, we still plan to make salt and sugar crystals, and incorporate some kind of art. All in all a "fruitful" unit.

1 comment:

madhenmom said...

What a lovely time you all must have had at the orchard. I'm glad you were able to get your pie making in. That reminds me, I have a few pie pumpkins I need to cook up.

wv: burnittl