“It’s all so new.” She told me as she sat at her desk. For months she’s been proudly proclaiming, to anyone who would listen, that she’s a Kindergartner. With every box of crayons, new backpack, school clothes and hair bows, she would get more and more excited for the first day. And then it came.
I was so surprised that suddenly the bounding and enthusiastic little girl who had been waiting for this day like Christmas morning suddenly was looking at me with a blank face and an overwhelmed fear in her eyes. I kissed her then had to walk away before she saw my tears.
My tears? Where did those come from? I too had been anticipating this day for well, years actually. In the dark moment of the days with a toddler flailing, a 4 year-old finding his voice and place in the world and a baby with a full diaper and tears to tell you about it, I told myself that someday they would go to school. Those were the moments when I had cursed all those older ladies who would tell me to enjoy every moment of those younger years. Really I just wished for those ladies to come over and give me a quiet moment. Now, that I would have enjoyed.
I loved those sausage thighs, the smell of baby, the nursing noises, the words that aren’t really words but make you laugh at the adorable effort but I’m not one to lament the passing of a season with longing and regret, rather I want to meet the next one with eagerness and excitement ready for where it plans to take us.
So I thought there wouldn’t be tears because I was ready. But then my baby looked up at me, seeking comfort in a scene that was overwhelmingly unfamiliar. After I wiped my eyes I went back to my little girl and held her face. “You are strong. You are brave. You are going to do great and I’m so proud of you.” And then I walked away and thought about her and prayed for her all day.
Throughout the day I started to walk down that ugly path of guilt. What could I have done differently to comfort her? How could I have prepared her more for all the newness? I should have talked to her more about what to expect. I should have reminded her that it’s okay if the she colors outside of the lion’s mane on her coloring sheet and that we’ve all written our b’s as d’s and d’s as b’s. But I stopped myself just before that guilt trip got too dark and the path disappeared into a dark woods with an exit nearly impossible to find.
She’s going to have that “it’s all so new” feeling many times in her life and that’s good. That feeling and then working through it to make the new not-so-new makes us stronger, braver, more confident and better people. I don’t want to swoop her to safety just when things are starting to get scary. I want to stand on the sidelines cheering her on reminding her that she can do this! That I’m close by but really she is the one that can make the new, normal. And then be brave enough to seek out more new.
Sometimes the best thing I can do for her is to tell her I love her, assure her of her confidence and bravery and let her work out the newness on her own. But you can be sure that the moment that little girl got home there was comfort. There was a warm pot of tea and something sweet because after a long day of battling the fear of the new we all need a bit of comfort and sometimes that comes in the form of pie piled high with apples and a deep heady toffee sauce that forces us to lick our plates clean.
Dutch Apple Pie with Muscovado Toffee Sauce
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon flake salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 stick, cold butter, cut in cubes
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3 1/2 tablespoons ice water
7 Gravenstein (or other favorite baking variety) apples peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds removed
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon flake salt
1 stick butter, softened
For the pie dough:
Combine 1 1/4 cups flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter then pulse until the butter is roughly the size of peas. Add cider vinegar and ice water while pulsing.
The dough will look crumbly but is ready when it holds together when you squeeze it.
Form the dough into a disc then wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.
While the dough chills prepare the apples.
Add the apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, dark brown sugar, and the seeds from a vanilla bean to a large bowl. Toss it all together well then set aside.
Add the flour, dark brown sugar, and flake salt to a bowl. Work in the butter until clumps form.
To assemble the pie:
Preheat your oven to 375°F
Roll out the pie dough and line a pie dish with the dough. Crimp the edge using your fingers.
Add the apples to the dish and pile them up high. They will shrink down quite a bit while baking.
Add the crumble topping, squeezing it together so you get some good size clumps. Some of it will be loose and more powdery, that’s fine too.
Bake with a pafchment lined sheet pan on the shelf before to catch any drips.
Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until deeply golden and the juices that are bubbling look thickened.
Let cool completely before serving.
Muscovado Toffee Sauce
1/2 cup muscovado
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 stick butter
1 cup cream
Add the muscovado, dark brown sugar, corn syrup, and butter to a sauce pan.
Bring to a boil and give a gentle stir to combine all the ingredients. Boil for a few minutes until the sugar is melted and the butter had melded with the sugar.
Carefully add the cream and boil 2 to 3 minutes longer.
Add a pinch of flake salt and let cool until ready to serve.
The toffee sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Rewarm before serving.
*Looking for a savory snack to balance out all this sweet? I’ve teamed up with Bravo and TopChef Home Edition to create a popcorn that will blow your mind. It’s covered in a savory tomato butter then topped with basil salt and finely grated Parmesan. Get the recipe here and for more TopChef Challenges check out this page.