Friday, September 23, 2011

Grace Paley Pie

by Sheila Connolly

This is one of my favorite recipes because it comes from a literary source, a poem by the late Grace Paley called The Poet's Occasional Alternative.  I'll attach it at the end, because I think it applies to all writers—and bakers of pies.

Yes, it's another apple pie—hey, it's harvest season! 

A note:  I am terrible at making pie crusts.  I recently sorted my recipe collection and discovered I have no fewer than eight widely varied pie crust recipes, and I fail at all of them.  Oil, lard, butter, vegetable shortening—makes no difference.  Mine just fall apart.  So for this recipe use whatever pie crust works for you, and that includes the ones that come in a package.


a double pie crust (top and bottom) of your choice, unbaked

2 cups apples, peeled and sliced (choose a variety of apple that cooks well, such as Braeburn, Cortland, or Granny Smith)
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tblsp. flour
2 Tblsp. butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Soak the apricots in boiling water to soften.  Drain well and pat dry.

Pare, core and thinly slice the apples.  Mix together the apple slices, apricots, cranberries, sugar and flour. (Check both the apples and the cranberries for sweetness and adjust the amount of sugar accordingly.)

Line a 9-inch pie plate with one crust and fill with the fruit mixture.  Dot with butter. Cover with the second crust (leaving vents for the steam to escape) and crimp the edges.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. 

Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for another 45 minutes.  If the crust appears to be browning too quickly, cover loosely with foil.

If you are feeling daring and/or can find a quince, peel it, slice it thinly, and substitute it for some of the sliced apples.  "Quince?" You say. Yes, quince, a fruit that was once a staple of colonial orchards but which has fallen out of favor and into near-oblivion.

There are reasons for this:  you can't eat it raw.  I was trying to think of a good metaphor, and the best I could do was that a slice of quince tastes kind of like a cottony popsicle stick.  It's tough and has little flavor.  But use it in a pie and it turns a lovely pale pink; more important, it gives a silky quality to your juices and provides thickening.

And here is the poem:

The Poet's Occasional Alternative

I was going to write a poem
I made a pie instead it took
about the same amount of time
of course the pie was a final
draft a poem would have had some
distance to go days and weeks and
much crumpled paper

the pie already had a talking
tumbling audience among small
trucks and a fire engine on
the kitchen floor

everybody will like this pie
it will have apples and cranberries
dried apricots in it many friends
will say why in the world did you
make only one

this does not happen with poems

because of unreportable
sadnesses I decided to
settle this morning for a re-
sponsive eatership I do not
want to wait a week a year a
generation for the right
consumer to come along 

Grace Paley - Begin Again: Collected Poems


  1. I'm pie-crust challenged too, Sheila! Love Grace Paley's poem...(wish I could write a poem in the same amount of time as it takes to make a pie!) Thanks for sharing the recipe and poem. :)

  2. Your posts are always so much fun, Sheila. Love the poem and I am sure to love the pie. I think the principle would also apply to pages written.

  3. Sheila, I love that poem!

    I have a pie crust recipe from my father that involves flour, salt, milk and vegetable oil. then you roll it out between sheets of waxed paper. so easy it's criminal....

  4. Sheila, I especially like the dried fruit in this pie. Except for raisins, it never occurs to me to add dried fruit to pies. And I love the poem!

    ~ Krista

  5. Sweet poem! So wise...and, of course...

    "Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness." -- Jane Austen

  6. Nice poem. Oh I wish I liked pies because they all look scrumptious.

  7. Love pies, love poem - want pie now. I cannot imagine not liking pies! (This to Dru:) This recipe looks especially tasty. My Grandma Hilda made the best pie crust. For apple pie she'd swipe the top crust with milk and sprinkle a bit of granulated sugar over it. With a wedge of cheddar cheese, out of this world.