Adam Erace Adam Erace battles adult on-set diabetes and cankles as the restaurant critic for the Philadelphia City Paper. He also writes about food and travel for publications like Details, Fodor's and Southern Living. He lives in South Philly with his wife, Charlotte, and two rescue mutts, Lupo and Marco.
With her neat apron, twinkly eyes and silver-threaded brown hair knotted behind a handkerchief, Holly Ricciardi looks like she should be smiling at you from a box of cake mix.
Not that the graphic-designer-turned-pie-
“This looks nothing like the stuff you get at the store,” declared the student to my left. It didn’t. While pre-made crusts are uniform in color and texture, Ricciardi’s looked like a mosaic fresco, flecks of cold butter speckled throughout.
“That’s what you want,” Ricciardi replied. “All that butter is going to make the crust super flaky.” A bit of Crisco, with its higher smoking point, assists.
After draping our bottom crusts into pie tins, we piled in the Honeycrisp, Gala and Granny Smith apples we’d peeled, sliced and tossed in cinnamon, sugar, lemon and Clear Jel, a powdered thickener with industry cache. A second crust went down, and Ricciardi and her assistant, Cynthia Jordan, moved down the line teaching their fold-and-crimp technique. After an egg wash and dusting of raw sugar, they moved our pies to the kitchen..
Over the next 45 minutes, the aroma of spices, baking crust and apples filled Magpie’s cozy interior. The staff served us coffee and pie — I had the silky lemon on a gingersnap crust charged with black pepper — and Ricciardi talked about her favorite flavors (sour cherry), the ghost that inhabits the shop’s vintage Chesterfield loveseat, her forthcoming book and the generations of female bakers in her family. It was her mother’s advice that stuck with me most the next morning when I slid a knife into my golden, double-crusted, triple-apple beauty: Pie is great for breakfast.
Magpie is offering pie classes ($65) once a month and can also be rented for private pie-education parties. December is already sold out. Call the shop at 267-519-2904 to sign up.
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