Yesterday I had the challenge of making eleven apple pies in about six hours.
My daughter, Laura, is going on a six-week trip to El Salvador this spring as a volunteer with Help International. She'll get to practice her Spanish while fighting urban poverty in the capital city of San Salvador. In order to finance her service she's doing quite a bit of fundraising. I decided to help her out by contacting some of my former farmers market customers to see if they would like to participate in a weekly bake sale. I would send out an email each week with details of what I was baking, how much the donation would be, and where they could meet me for delivery. They could then reply with their order and pick up their order at the designated time and place with a check made out directly to HELP International.
The response was overwhelming. Yesterday was my first bake sale and I had orders for eleven apple pies, ten loaves of 100% whole wheat buttermilk bread, and eighteen chocolate chip monster cookies. It's a good thing I have four ovens! This was a great test for my new (almost finished) laundry room/bakery/food storage and food preservation room.
With some thoughtful organization, I mapped out a plan to get everything baked in time for delivery between 1:30 and 2:30 pm on Thursday. Here's how it worked:
I made the cookie dough on Wednesday morning. Using my spring-loaded ice cream scoop, I portioned out the dough and then rolled and formed each mound into a disk about four inches in diameter and 1/2-inch thick. I layered them between waxed paper on a cookie sheet, covered them tightly, and refrigerated them overnight. (I have two refrigerators.)
Also on Wednesday morning, I mixed the bread dough and refrigerated that overnight too.
Wednesday evening I prepared the crusts. I don't like to make pie dough in a food processor because I think it is difficult to get the water incorporated without over-processing the butter, making for a tough crust. However, I do like to use the food processor to cut the butter into the flour and salt mixture if I am making several pies, then I stir in ice water with a fork to form the dough. In my 25-year old Cuisinart I can make a double recipe, enough for two double-crust pies. I weigh the flour and salt into the workbowl with the steel blade and process a few seconds to blend. Then I add the cold butter in chunks and pulse 40 or 50 times until the butter is in fairly uniform small pieces—not crumbs—I like to see some streaks of butter when I am rolling it out. I made six batches of “crust mix” and refrigerated it in plastic bags overnight. This mix can also be frozen for use several weeks out.
I knew I was going to need help with the apples, so I asked my mom if she would like to come over Thursday morning and visit while we worked together. (I made eight pies single-handedly the night before
Christine's wedding, but they were all berry pies and berries don't need to be peeled and sliced.) My dad must have felt sorry for me because he showed up along with my mom before 8:00 am ready for kitchen duty. I put them both to work on the apples while I baked the cookies, four to a parchment-lined sheet, three sheets at a time in one of my convection ovens.
After I finished with the cookies I started on the pies. I weighed the sliced apples into several bowls, then I weighed out batches of sugar, flour, cinnamon, lemon juice, lemon zest, freshly grated nutmeg, a pinch of salt, and a splash of vanilla and stirred it all into the apples. I like to let the fruit and sugar mix sit for at least fifteen minutes to get the juices flowing before I put it in the crust, so while the apple mix “juiced” I weighed out crust mix, added ice water and rolled out crusts.
After I got the first two pies in the oven, it was time to divide and shape the bread dough. I had taken it out of the frig when I first got up so it could come to room temperature. Things were getting a bit crazy by this time with three of us working, cookies cooling all over the place, bowls of apples everywhere in various stages of preparation, and only an occasional swig of chocolate milk to keep us going, but we were having a good time. My dad did most of the interior work on this extra kitchen and I think he enjoyed seeing it put to good use. I let him go home after all the apples were sliced, but Mom stayed around to help keep track of all the timers and to offer moral support.
I shaped the bread dough and the loaves sat proofing in their pans on the counter while I continued rolling out pie crusts, mixing bowls of apple filling, and making pies.
The bread rose nicely and I started baking it about 11:00 am in the two “inside” ovens—the ones in my regular kitchen--while I kept the “bakery” ovens busy with pies. Mom was stationed inside to alert me when the timers went off.
I got the last two pies in the oven a bit before 1:00 pm; they wouldn't be done in time to take them to my first delivery stop at 1:30. I loaded up the car with everything else, leaving Mom at home to watch the pies. I dashed off to my first stop for a quick hand-off, then rushed back home in time to take them out of the oven and make it downtown by 2:15—only fifteen minutes behind schedule and I did call to warn everyone I would be a tad late.
I got back home just in time to see my mom washing the last dirty bowl, greet my son coming home from school and take him to his piano lesson at 3:00. Whew!
All in all, things went according to plan. One thing's for sure though—I won't be offering pies next week!
P.S. I had enough sliced apples and crust mix leftover to make one more pie, so I baked a twelfth pie before dinner and took it over to my dad.