Sunday, November 9, 2008

How To Make an Apple Pie in London

How do you make an apple pie in London? First you travel from Mexico, to Germany, to Switzerland and then take EasyJet to London to visit one of your dearest, most favorite, and definitely most FUN friends in the world. (Here she is, the gorgeous Alayne Reesberg, pictured below.) No sooner do you arrive you pack up the car and head out of the city to The Cotswolds, the quaint countryside near Oxford, about an hour and a half northwest of London.

You navigate the winding country roads, dodging wild pheasants, and end up in the town of Burford where can easily imagine you're going to run into William Shakespeare on the street. You resist stopping on Burford's High Street (pictured) for a spot of tea and a plate of scones in one of its many inviting tea shops and instead keep driving until you come to the cottage of Alayne's friends.

When you get to this cottage -- a dreamy little storybook thatched roof place -- you meet the equally charming couple that lives in it. Jeremy (who Alayne met during her childhood in South Africa) has an autographed picture of Prince Charles and Julia is wearing her diamond necklace with jeans and a flannel shirt. Julia offers you a bag of apples from the trees in her back yard. The apples, you know, will taste better than anything you could buy in a London grocery store as her yard is as magical as the cottage -- lush and green, surrounded by grazing sheep and a meandering creek, and there's an antique covered wagon from Ireland painted fire-engine red sitting in the middle of it all. (The word "eccentric" comes to mind.) You happily accept the apples, putting the bag in the car and driving back to London.

Your apples (pictured above) find their way back to the posh city apartment. A new day begins as daw breaks over the River Thames and Buckingham Palace. It's a good day to bake a pie.

But before you can get started you shop at Waitrose, an upscale grocery store. You choose from a variety of flours you've never seen before and settle on the "Strong White Bread Flour," attracted to the words "Strong" and "White" and not realizing the "Bread" part until you get home.
Bread, pie, it's all "jolly good" or "brilliant!" as the Brits like to say.

Next you gather up a few willing pie students -- in this case, your host Alayne and her friend Dee (both South Africans living in London), along with Dee's 2-and-1/2-year-old son, Rafe. You tie on aprons, pour a glass of wine (juice for Rafe), get out more wine bottles to use as rolling pins, and get to work.
(For the complete, step-by-step apple pie process, see "How to Make an Apple Pie in Mexico.")
Later, you watch as yet another perfect pie enters the world and another baker is born.
Dee (pictured above) exclaims, "Dahling, I cahhn't believe I made this. It looks fine, doesn't it. A bloody miracle, actually."
After indulging in several steaming, cinnamon-sprinkled pieces of their creations you feel happy, but not only because of the warm pie in your belly. It's the beaming smiles on your friends' faces that make the evening so satisfying, so -- I just have to say it -- fit for a queen.
Until I report from the next country, cheerio!