Winning Apple Pies

Some of the more than 30 entries waiting to be sampled by judges at the 7th Annual Great New England Apple Pie Contest at Wachusett Mountain's AppleFest October 15. (Russell Steven Powell photo)
Some of the more than 30 entries waiting to be sampled by judges at the 7th Annual Great New England Apple Pie Contest at Wachusett Mountain’s AppleFest October 15. (Russell Steven Powell)

CALL IT beginner’s luck. “It was the first attempt I ever made at writing my own recipe and baking an apple pie,” says Mandie DeGagne of Warren, Rhode Island, of her Bourbon Maple Apple Pie, co-winner of the 7th annual Great New England Apple Pie contest with her friend, Savanna Ferriera of West Boylston, Massachusetts, for Lattice Apple Pie.

Call it coincidence. “I’m still in shock that my pie won,” says Mandie, “and that it tied with my best friend’s entry! It was the first time we’ve ever entered a pie contest.”

But do not call it accidental. Mandie mixed science, art, and religion to craft her award-winning recipe. “I love apples and I love baking, so I studied many recipes to work out the science and proportions, imagined the flavor and texture I wanted it to have, and just went for it.

“I stood at my counter before mixing the dough and prayed to God that it would just be an edible pie, so as not to offend the judges,” she says. “Savanna’s pie-making is quite the story as well, as she made it the morning of the contest while caring for her five young children.”

The family of Gia Nicolazzo of Waltham, Massachusetts, came to cheer her on. She entered pies in both categories, and her "apple only" pie was awarded third place. (Bar Lois Weeks photo)
The family of Gia Nicolazzo of Waltham, Massachusetts, came to cheer her on. She entered pies in both categories, and her “apple only” pie was awarded third place. (Bar Lois Weeks)

A total of 34 pies were entered in the two categories. The six judges included Executive Director Bar Lois Weeks and Senior Writer Russell Steven Powell of the New England Apple Association. Judging took place during Wachusett Mountain’s 32nd AppleFest October 15.

Deborah Gazaille of Mashpee, Massachusetts, was the winner in the Apple and Other category, for her Sweet and Salty Apple Pie.

The winning apples included traditional New England favorites McIntosh and two of its offspring, Empire and Macoun. They tend to soften when baked compared to some varieties, but their flavor and aroma are irresistible.

This unusual pie resembling a galette, by Sonja and Diana Kent of West Boylston, Massachusetts, finished in sixth place in "apple only." (Bar Lois Weeks photo)
This unusual pie resembling a galette, by Sonja and Diana Kent of West Boylston, Massachusetts, finished in sixth place in “apple only.” (Bar Lois Weeks)

Previous winners have sometimes used a single variety in their pies, like Cortland or Golden Delicious. But all three winners in this year’s contest mixed apples in their pies.

Mandie DeGagne paired Empire with the firmer Jonagold in her pie, while Deborah Gazaille combined a sweet apple, Gala, with the tart Granny Smith. Savanna Ferriera opted for a pie with a softer texture and intense apple flavor by combining Macoun and McIntosh.

The bourbon and maple syrup gave complexity to Mandie’s pie without overpowering the apple flavor. Putting orange juice in both filling and crust was imaginative yet subtle, adding to the pie’s distinction.

Savannah’s pie was more traditional, but elegantly done, with outstanding flavor, flaky crust, and the attractive lattice top. Her only spice was a teaspoon of cinnamon, so the apple flavor dominated.

The economical directions in Gazaille’s recipe are in contrast to her lavish ingredients, which include a whopping 15 apples, plus salted caramel and a rich crumb topping. It is easily the sweetest pie of the three, yet due to the the salt in the caramel, the large number of apples, and the inclusion of a tart variety, the apple flavor came through fine.

A few New England growers have Granny Smith in their orchards, but the variety requires a longer growing season than is available in most of the region. Gazaille suggests Macoun as an alternative in her recipe for bakers who want to keep their apples local. The tart heirloom Rhode Island Greening is another good choice, though it is harder to find.

Bourbon-Maple Apple Pie

Mandi DeGagne

Whole wheat butter crust

2½ c white whole wheat flour

15 T cold, unsalted butter

1 t salt

4 T orange juice (if fresh squeezed, pour through a mesh sieve to remove pulp before use)

ice cold water

Sift flour and salt into a bowl and mix with a whisk to ensure ingredients are evenly distributed. Cut butter into 15 pieces. Work butter into the flour mixture with hands or in a food processor with the dough blade until the butter forms pea-sized pieces.

Sprinkle orange juice over the mixture and begin to form into a ball. Sprinkle ice-cold water onto the dough until all crumbles come together into the ball.

Split the ball in two and flatten into 1-inch disks on parchment or wax paper. Place the disks in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.


6 c apples, a mix of Jonagold and Empire

2-3 t orange juice (if fresh squeezed, remove pulp with sieve)

½ c brown sugar

¼ c butter

½ t salt

1 t cinnamon

⅛ t ground clove

¼ c maple syrup

3 T cornstarch

2 T bourbon

1 egg plus 1 T water

few pinches of sugar

Peel and slice the apples between ¼-inch to ½-inch thick. Place in bowl and coat with orange juice. Melt butter in a pan and add apples over medium heat. Add brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and clove. Whisk cornstarch into maple syrup to avoid clumps and pour into pan. Lower heat to medium-low. Add bourbon and stir a minute or two more. Remove from burner.

Roll out pie crusts and place one into pie pan. Fill shell with apple mixture. Cut desired design into top crust and place over apple mixture, sealing the edges. Beat egg with water and coat crust using a basting brush. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 375°F for 40-50 minutes.

Lattice Apple Pie

Savanna Ferriera

1 9-inch double pie crust

2⅔ c flour

1 t salt

1 c vegetable shortening

7-8 T cold water

Mix flour and salt in medium bowl and cut in shortening with 2 knives or pastry cutter until clumps are pea size.

Sprinkle water 1 T at a time into bowl, tossing with a fork until the dough forms a ball.

Divide dough in half, flour the dough and work surface lightly before rolling out.


½ c butter

3 T flour

¼ c water

½ c sugar

½ c brown sugar, packed

8-9 McIntosh and Macoun apples, unpeeled, cored, and sliced

1 t cinnamon

Preheat over to 425ºF.

Melt butter in a saucepan and stir in flour to form a paste. Add water and sugars. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer.

Put the bottom crust in the pie plate. Coat the apple slices with the cinnamon and fill the pie plate, with the apples slightly mounded.

Cover the apples with a lattice-work top crust, then gently pour the sugar mixture over the lattice crust, letting it fill in the pie plate.

Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF and bake for 35-45 minutes, until the apples are soft and the crust is golden brown.

Sweet and Salty Apple Pie

Deborah Gazaille

Deborah Gazaille's award-winning Sweet and Salty Apple Pie (Bar Lois Weeks photo)
Deborah Gazaille’s award-winning Sweet and Salty Apple Pie (Bar Lois Weeks)

Crust (for 9-inch pie plate)

2¼ c flour

1 c butter (2 sticks)


hot water


10 Gala apples, sliced

5 Granny Smith apples

1 c brown sugar

½ c sugar

1 T cinnamon

1 t nutmeg

3 T salted caramel

pinch of sea salt


1 c flour

1 c oats

½ c pecans

1½ c brown sugar

1 T cinnamon

½ c (1 stick) cold butter

Combine until crumbly.

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Prepare crust and place in pie plate. Flute edges.

Fill with apple mixture.

Top with crumble.

Baked uncovered for one hour. When cool, drizzle with salted caramel sauce.

Related apples (sweet to tart)