Today, I wanted to come here to offer you two things: My favorite apple pie recipe for your Thanksgiving table tomorrow, and a story that brings me so much hope and joy I can hardly stand it.
I was sitting on my couch, minding my own business one day in October when there was a knock at my door.
Before I answered it, I took a second to collect myself. I always need to give myself a pep talk before I answer an unexpected knock. You can do this opening the door thing. Don’t make it weird, is my usual mantra.
Standing in my doorway there was a mother and son. The mom was about my age, and the son looked like a freshman in high school. They told me that the son had been chosen, along with a couple other kids, by his teacher to travel to somewhere (Washington, DC? New York?) to do something having to do with school. I probably should have gotten the details straight before telling you this story, but whatever, it’s happening.
The problem was they had to raise the funds to get him there, and so they presented me with a sheet and asked if I’d like to by some cookies. It became clear I needed money and I started to panic a little.
Did I have money? Where do I keep the cash?
This is why I need the pep talk.
I excused myself for a minute, so I could be alone and think about where some money might be.
I came back with a twenty dollar bill and checked the boxes on the order form for chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin.
A few days later there was another unexpected knock on the door, and I was like, again?!
But it was the mom. She explained to me that her son was at football practice or he would have delivered the cookies himself. And then she informed me that he had made and baked the cookies himself, at which point she handed me two paper plates, with all the cookies on it, wrapped up in cellophane, all beautiful-like.
And I was confused.
See, I thought it was like a Boy Scout type of thing, where you filled out an order form for popcorn, or for something like, when schools were selling those butter braids and stuff? I guess I just thought I was going to get cookie dough or something from corporate. But instead I come to learn that it’s this mom and her son in their kitchen baking to raise this money themselves.
She handed me a card that had their phone numbers on it, and a list of baked offerings in case I wanted to re-order, and told me that they were planning on baking holiday pies when the time came. “So don’t spend all your time making the pies this year, just have him do it!” she told me.
I took my cookies, and the paper, then bid her adieu and shut the door. And for some reason, I could have just wept. I can’t explain this. Maybe it’s because I’m a baker— I used to own a cake company, and I knew how many hours they had to be spending in their kitchen to make all of these things. That coupled with knowing they were charging $10/per dozen cookies and I knew it would be a long time before they made any amount large enough to send him on a trip.
I knew I wanted to help them, and so I decided to text the numbers on the re-order sheet and ask how much they were trying to raise. Then, I’d make sure to tell all my friends about them so they could attract more business. Was that okay? I asked them.
They said it would be awesome, and that they needed $1400. Any extra money they made was going to go toward helping the other classmates that were picked to travel with him.
So this kid is in his kitchen…baking…to earn his way on a trip…and then donating any extra to help ensure his friends get to go, too? Good Lord, I could just die at the work-ethic / kindness of this.
I wanted to do more than just tell my friends about him. They had mentioned holiday pies, and I already knew I wouldn’t be ordering. I actually like baking and was looking forward to my recipes. You see, I had just won a local pie baking contest for my Caramel-Apple-Pecan Pie with Bourbon Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream.
And before you say it, I’ll address it: apple pie was always on our Thanksgiving table right along side the pumpkin. So don’t try and tell me I shouldn’t be serving apple pie on Thanksgiving. It’s rude to tell someone their pie isn’t appropriate, anyway, so I really don’t know what you were thinking.
Any who, I thought, why don’t I just help them right where they are? In the kitchen. Why don’t I get on Facebook and offer my “award winning pie” (I’m going to milk that term often) for a set price of $25 and deliver to people on Thanksgiving Eve and into Thanksgiving Day?
So that’s what I did. I made a video and told my friends the story I just told you, and then I asked if anyone would like to buy a pie for a good cause. I also threw in that if someone happened to be out of town and could not use a pie, I wasn’t asking for it, but I also wouldn’t refuse a straight donation. Wink, wink.
I was so nervous everyone would ignore it and not buy pies and think I was all Pollyanna for tying help. I was nervous people would say, “why is Krysta trying to help a kid she doesn’t even know go on a class trip but not help Hurricane Harvey victims?” or some such nonsense like that. As if one help had anything to do with the other help. We need all the help, for everything, always.
The first responders were my writing friends. Not surprising since they all have an interest in helping wherever they can. Two of them asked for my Paypal information and sent a straight donation to me that I would get to this family.
Then, not much.
I waited and battled the, “see, you shouldn’t have done this. You ask for people’s money too much. And at some point they’ll stop giving. This is probably that time,” voices in my head.
See, lately, when I see a need, I’ve been inviting my community to meet it. They don’t have to. No one expects it but I figure if I want to help, others might too. I think this is better than always meeting the need yourself. That’s great and all, but there is something so moving about a whole community of people getting the chance to say yes and champion others. It’s one of the most beautiful acts of love to witness, and so I just keep sharing the needs.
Amanda showed up. Cristine in California came next. Then the ever fabulous Kirsten said she’d order a pie. Bonnie placed an order. Keri said she wanted one and that she’d pay $50, (double) for it. Then Ashley wrote to say she’d contact this family directly to make a donation to the cause since she happened to live in their town. Megan placed an order with plans to fly it in her carry-on. Then Wendy chimed in to ask whether she could place an order? She lived in Breckenridge, about a two-hour drive away in snowy conditions. She’d order two pies and pay $100 EACH. Within minutes, Bonnie who happened to have plans to travel that way, offered to pick the pie up from me on Thanksgiving Eve, then drive them down to Wendy. Wendy and Bonnie became Facebook friends to coordinate all of this, and I just watched in gratitude that I even know people like this—who would say yes. Who donate to people they don’t know. Who would offer to pay more and drive pies places and fly them on planes. Then, Melinda showed up and said she would MATCH any money raised.
At the end of the day, we raised $475 to go towards their goal!
Glory. Can you even stand it??
Bonnie came to pick up both her’s and Wendy’s pies earlier today:
There was some talk about whether Megan would be able to get through security with a homemade pie, but she texted me earlier: “We made it!” along with this picture with the pie box on the airport concourse shuttle:
And so did we. We made it.
“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our Thanksgiving.”
Okay, final order of business: the pie. It really is fantastic. Don’t let the fancy name stop you up. It just tastes like really good, humble apple pie.
Caramel-Apple-Pecan Pie with Bourbon Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream
Use Ina Garten’s “Perfect Pie Crust.” You may need more ice water for the dough to come together than the recipe calls for. I usually have to use 10-12 tablespoons for it to be a workable dough (able to roll it out without flaking apart) even though Ina only calls for 6.
5 Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter
Peel and slice apples and place in a large bowl. Add all the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT butter and toss to combine. Melt butter in a large skillet. Add apple mixture and cook approximately 8-10 minutes over medium high heat to thicken caramel and soften apples. Turn filling into a pie shell and top with crumble.
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
Combine everything in a large bowl and mix together. Place dollops all over the top of the pie. This mixture will melt down into more of a crust than a traditional crumble.
Bake pie at 375 degrees for 1 hour. Cool and top with vanilla bean and bourbon whipped cream if desired.
Bourbon Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
2-3 tablespoons bourbon
1/2 cup (or more) powdered sugar (taste, then add more if desired)
Whip cream first until soft peaks, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix to combine.