My mother was prettiest in the fall: her milky white skin, blue-gray eyes, auburn hair, easy smile and perfect profile more beautiful in the diminishing autumn light competing (unbeknownst to her) with the glory of the burgundy, yellow and copper leaves, both awe-inspiring and short-lived. Like the leaves, the best part of her shown brightest before the dreary winter settled in. She understood this cycle of her life, allowed it, succumbed to it.
And so, as a child, I breathed her in, filled my lungs with her happiness and carried it with me through the long, intense winters, wet springs and steamy summers.
I love fall, she said with her hands wrapped loosely around the steering wheel of our blue Ford Taurus station wagon, her long fingers and perfectly manicured nails dancing to a song on the radio. The car window cracked a few inches allowing the crisp air to rush in and mix with her perfume. (Mama’s best smell.)
Me too, Mama! Her three ducklings cheered almost in unison, eagerly anticipating caramel apples covered in peanuts, bulbous pumpkins and warm cider.
She smiled, briefly checking herself in the rear-view mirror.
What are you looking at Mama? You haven’t disappeared…not yet.
The mother I clung to like a barnacle adhered to the hull of a ship, returned year after year, fall after fall, until she didn’t. It wasn’t sad. She made a choice. Maybe we had outgrown her or she us. The weight of a divorce, three children growing away from her too fast, a life she wasn’t sure how to repair. And if I were to ponder why, why, why, the answer would still baffle me. It is easy to choose happiness when you are not unhappy.
Occasionally, I see glimpses of the mama I remember in the mother I have now: an easy smile when we celebrate my older son’s October birthday as he delights in her perfect birthday gift (Air War Battle Drones! Cool, Mimi!); decorating paper bag Halloween lanterns for our front porch with our girl, happily accepting a sticky kiss from our chubby pumpkin costumed toddler. I store these memories of her, hold on to the glimpses of happiness I see today, if only to retrieve them when winter comes again.
Apple Pear Pie with Oat Streusel
Apple and pears, lightly sweetened and baked to perfection topped with a buttery, crunchy oat streusel
recipe adapted from Epicurious
Pie Crust recipe adapted from Nothing In The House
Ingredients for filling:
3 pounds Cortland apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/4 inch thick pieces
2 lbs pears (I used Bartlett)
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
good pinch of kosher salt
Ingredients for pie crust:
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 + 1/2 sticks very cold, unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 large egg, cold, lightly beaten
1/4 cup ice-water
1/2 tablespoon cold apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
7 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
1/2 cup old fashion oats
Directions for crust:
*Pre-heat your oven to 400F*
Grab a large mixing bowl and whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Add the butter chunks and mix with your fingertips making sure pea-size chunks of butter remain. Using a small bowl, whisk together the cold egg, water and vinegar. Add the liquid to the flour/butter mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together. It should be a bit shaggy. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour before rolling out. The longer you let it chill, the better.
When ready to bake, lightly flour a piece of parchment and place dough on paper. Cover with another piece of parchment paper and roll to a 12 inch round. Remove parchment paper and press crust gently into pie dish. Turn dough overhang under and crimp the edges. Chill in the fridge until ready to use.
Directions for the filling:
Toss all of the filling ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside and prepare the topping.
For the topping:
Blend the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, allspice in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until a dough forms that resembles wet sand. Add oats and pulse briefly.
Stir the filling and add it to the prepared pie crust. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the pie. Place pie on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (to catch spills.) Bake until top is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350F and bake for another 50-60 minutes. *If the top is browning too quickly, cover pie loosely with foil.* Cool pie on a wire rack for at least an hour before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature as is or with scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!
*Pie will last loosely covered in foil at room temperature for a few days.*
5 Unique Fall Pie Links
Apples and fall go hand in hand, but why not switch things up and focus on pears for a bit? Head to Joy the Baker for her bourbon pear crumble pie. I can’t wait to try this!
Looking for a twist on pumpkin pie? Head to Love and Olive Oil for a s’mores pumpkin pie recipe that sure to make everyone smile. Also, check out my pumpkin pie bars. Pie in bar form = easy serving to guests. Insert fist pump here.