Saturday, October 24, 2015

Award-Winning Apple Pie

I do not make pie often. When Paul and I were first married, I made pie quite a bit. However, as of late, pie-making has definitely not been high on my list of priorities. I think the reason I have not baked many pies over the last few years is because my children are so weird about eating them. They will eat a bushel of apples in one sitting, but heaven forbid if they are cooked! Suddenly, they lose their appeal due to the "slimey" texture the cooking imparts. However, this fall, the children have suddenly changed their tune and have begun to embrace the deliciousness that is pie.

Capitalizing on this sudden turn of events, I decided to enter the apple pie contest in the largest apple festival in our region. I have always wanted to enter a food-related contest of some sort and figured a pie-baking contest was the best way to start. Paul and the kids were immediately supportive and, as a family, we decided to bake a couple trial pies in preparation for the contest. The winner the previous year had baked an apple-blueberry-peach pie, but I decided to go the traditional route and add only apples, sugar, salt, and butter to my pie. I utilized my favorite dough recipe from Cook's Illustrated that incorporates vodka for maximum flakiness (and is the easiest pie dough to roll out!) and chose a combination of local Ginger-Gold, Granny Smith, and Cortland apples for the filling. A light caramel sauce was poured over the raw apples piled high in the pie plate and then the top crust was added, brushed with egg, and then baked until golden brown. We sampled our first pie, made a few notes and tweaks, but all agreed that it was pretty delicious as is! I loved the combination of different apple varieties in the filling - the contrast between the various levels of tart and sweet made for a memorable bite!

We baked two more pies the night before the contest. It was a fun night for everyone! We put Hook on to watch while we worked on peeling and slicing apples, rolling out pie dough, and simmering the caramel filling. When the perfectly golden pies were removed from the oven, the movie was pretty much over and the children were chanting to try a slice of the newly baked pie. They were a little disappointed when we told them they had to wait until the morning to give the pies time to completely set, but seemed to perk up when we promised them a slice of pie for breakfast!

The next morning, we had the previously promised pie for breakfast and then packed up and headed to the pie festival with our pie in hand. It was pouring the entire drive to the festival and Paul joked that perhaps we would be the only entry in the contest! When we arrived to drop off the pie, that was definitely not the case! There were lines of beautiful pies all along the tables and they all looked so perfect. After I dropped my pie off, Paul asked excitedly, "How did the competition look?" I told him not to get his hopes up - there were a lot of professional looking pies there. Mine honestly looked the most homely.

The kids were very excited to hear the results from the contest. Unfortunately, they were not to be announced until the end of the day so we had to entertain ourselves for several hours. Despite the rain, we had a lot of fun at the festival and enjoyed ourselves! The kids actually had such a blast in the rain - we had brought their umbrellas and rain boots and they were actually allowed to splash in the puddles! Emma was a little overzealous and got her pants pretty wet, but it did not damper her spirits for she never once complained even though Paul and I kept griping about the cold temperatures.

In the end, we did not win the pie contest. However, we did receive 3rd place and the kids were so happy! My biggest disappointment was that there were not taster's comments that we could use for improving our pie-baking in the future. However, given at how many entries there were, I was quite surprised and pleased with the results! However, I was even more happy with how much fun, support, and effort the whole family put into the project. It was a true family affair.

So, here it is...the pie recipe that converted my children into apple-pie lovers and won us a 3rd place ribbon at the Apple Festival.

All-American Apple Pie

For the Crust:
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

For the Filling:
8 medium apples (approximately), peeled, cored and sliced thin - use firmer apple varieties
1 tsp. cinnamon + 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg + 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour, mixed together in a small bowl
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 egg, beaten
Coarse sugar, for sprinkling

First, make the crust and take your time while doing so. Keep everything cold, cold, cold. Chill the bowl too!

Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, about 4-6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. I personally think a 2-hour chill is ideal.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Roll out one piece of dough and fit into pie pan. In a large bowl, toss the apple slices with the spice/flour mixture and then pile high into the crust situated in the pie plate. Set in the fridge.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the 3 tablespoons of flour until no lumps remain and the flour is cooked. Add the white sugar, brown sugar and water and whisk until combined. Bring the mixture to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, let it continued to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes over medium heat.

Meanwhile, roll out the top crust. Beat the egg in a small bowl.

After five minutes, carefully pour the mixture over the apples in the pie plate. Gently fit the top pie crust and trim. Flute the edges, cut a couple vent holes, and brush the entire top gently with the egg wash. Sprinkle with the coarse sugar and place on a cookie sheet. Slide in the oven and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 35-45 minutes or until crust is golden brown and set on the bottom. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack and don't touch it for at least 8 hours so it has time to set completely!


  1. Looks lovely. My favorite dessert is apple_____. I love a good buttery flakey crust. Cannot wait to try this one.

    1. This crust is pretty foolproof! You should give it a try Ali! Or we can make one together when I come visit in a few weeks!

  2. This looks amazing! I don't make pies often (like once every few years, often) but maybe I'll try this for Thanksgiving?? Congrats on your 3rd place win!

  3. P.S. Great pictures! I was just complaining to Matt about how hard I find food staging for blog pictures. You did a great job!

    1. Thanks Diana! I hate food staging. Hate it. Luckily, I keep a couple placemats within reach, so I just throw something together, take a quick picture, and then call everyone to the table to eat. I know some bloggers make a big production out of it, but I just can't do that with hungry children hovering!