I happened across a copy of The Raven Boys at my local library a few weeks ago. I had seen a few posts about it on Tumblr that had always piqued my interest, and I had been in a bit of a reading slump, so I picked it up and added it to my pile. Things have been (very) hectic over the last few months – things have started getting intense at Uni, and I adopted a wonderful but slightly crazy dog – so it took me a while to actually sit down and read. When I did, I got sucked in within a few chapters at most, and before I was half way through I had gone online and put the next three books on hold. for me, The Raven Cycle is the perfect combination of perfectly-executed everyday and spell-binding, fantastical magic. I fell in love with each and every one of the characters and the wonderful world that Maggie Stiefvater created. Fairly early on in The Raven Boys, there is a scene which involves one of the characters’ love of making pies, and I instantly knew that I wanted to make a pie as the next instalment in this (very slow-moving) series. There is specific mention of a pecan pie in The Dream Thieves, but I am really not a fan of pecans, so in the end I chose to make an Apple Pie.
Pie making was a lengthy and loving process, and Persephone did not like to be interrupted during it.
When it came time to pick a recipe to follow, my mind instantly went to two places – Donna Hay, and The Australian Women’s Weekly. Donna Hay is a goddess, and is probably the person who has had the greatest single influence on my love of baking, while my first ever cookbook was an Australian Women’s Weekly collection that still sits on my shelf, it’s spine falling off and it’s pages covered in various substances. The first few recipes I found were fairly complex, involving custard powder and various other ingredients, and I really wasn’t in the mood for that sort of baking. I wanted baking that felt simple and homely and comforting; something that required love and attention but not a huge amount of brain powder. In the end I settled on a Donna Hay recipe, which had just the right combination of sugar, cinnamon, and simplicity for my liking.
Persephone pointed a finger straight in the air and then said, “I forgot about my pie crust.”
- 2 cups (300g) plain flour
- 3 tablespoons caster sugar
- 150g cold butter, chopped
- 2-3 tablespoons iced water
- 2 tablespoons almond meal
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Sugar, extra, for sprinkling
- 8 green apples, peeled and chopped
- 1/3 cup (75g) caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Chopping board
- Food processor
- Large bowl
- Deep frying pan (with lid)
- Rolling pin
- 24cm pie dish
- Pastry brush
- Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F).
- To make the pastry, process the flour, sugar and butter in a food processor until they look like rough breadcrumbs. Keep the food processor running, and gradually add iced water until the mixture forms a smooth dough. Lightly knead the dough, then refrigerate it for 30 minutes.
- While the dough is refrigerating, place the apples and water in the deep frying pan over medium heat, then cover. Simmer, shaking occassionally, for approximately five minutes, until the apple is just tender. Drain and allow the mixture to cool.
- While the apple is cooling, and once the 30 minutes are up, get the dough out of the fridge. Roll 2/3 of the pastry on a floured surface until it has reached a thickness of 3mm, and place it in the pie dish. Sprinkle over the almond meal.
- By this point, the apples should be cool. Stir in the sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice, and then pack the apples tightly into the pastry shell.
- Roll out the remainder of the pastry until it is large enough to fit over the top of the pie. I kept aside a small ball of dough; which I used to create the distinctive shape that features throughout the books. Gently place the pastry on top of the apples, and press the edges together. I didn’t spend too much time trying to make the pie look perfectly neat; I felt that the slightly misshapen, home-made look was much better suited to Persephone and 300 Fox Way. I then rolled the extra dough I had kept aside into 3 (I’m not sure what the right word is to describe this shape; all that is coming to mind is “little wormy-things”, so I guess that’s what I’ll go with). Lay the little wormy-things on top of the pie, forming the shape of a long, beaked triangle.A familiar shape stood out from the rest of the doodles. Three intersecting lines: a long, beaked triangle. It was the same shape Neeve had drawn in the churchyard dust. The same shape her mother had drawn on the steamed shower door.
- Cut a few small slits into the top of the pie to allow steam to escape, then brush the lightly beaten egg over the top and sprinkle with sugar (I sprinkle very liberally with sugar, because I have a massive sweet tooth, but you sprinkle as much or as little as you think you would like).
- Place the pie in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes. The pastry should be golden-brown and crisp. The pie is best served hot; I like it best with good-quality vanilla ice-cream, the kind you can see the vanilla specks in, but it also tastes good with a big dollop of double cream.
“My mother drew that shape,” she said. “The ley lines. So did Neeve – one of the other women here. They didn’t know what it was, thought, only that it would be significant.”
This is a much simpler recipe than my previous one, but I feel like that suits Persephone, and the book series. While the mythology and story that Maggie Stiefvater created are fantastically intricate and complex, they are rooted in nature in a way which, at least to me, has a wonderful simplicity, and a beauty which is unpretentious and unrefined. The series has earned itself a place on my metaphorical shelf of favourites, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the physical books make their way onto my literal shelves fairly soon – the hardbound copies from the library were so beautiful that I didn’t want to give them back, and I don’t think it will be long before I cave in and by myself copies of all four books. If you haven’t read the books already, I highly recommend it; if you try out this recipe once you have read them, I would love to know what you think, as well as what you think of the books!