ANY TIME is a good time for apple pie, but the bountiful fresh harvest presents plentiful opportunities for experimenting or perfecting a favorite pie recipe.
Enterprising bakers should consider entering their wares in the 10th Annual Great New England Apple Pie Contest Saturday, October 13, during Wachusett Mountain’s AppleFest (click here for an application).
There are two categories — Apple Only, and Apple and Other, for pies that add ingredients like nuts or other fruits. Pies are judged on flavor, crust, and texture, with lesser scores for appearance (the pie itself) and presentation.
I have been a judge for all nine years of the contest, Executive Director Bar Lois Weeks for eight, and we will both be back this year, with three others judges. To taste so many good pies in one sitting is challenging, but a high point of the fall.
I like a pie that is big on apples — in both volume and flavor. Apples have complex flavors and are naturally sweet; apple pies should be lightly spiced, and without too much added sugar. A good crust is flaky, not dry or soggy, and the apples must be thoroughly cooked.
Here is the winning apple pie from last year, by Joy Phoenix of Gardner, Massachusetts. It was delicious! I would substitute Cortland or McIntosh for Granny Smith for tartness, though, since Granny Smith are not yet ripe and are only grown by a handful of New England orchards due to their long growing season.
Cortlands and Macs both excel in pies; a pie of all Cortlands won best Apple Only pie in 2011, while later that fall a pie of just McIntosh apples won a taste contest in Connecticut. They are great mixed together, too, combining McIntosh’s great flavor and aroma with Cortland’s firmness.
Cortland is as beautiful as it is delicious. To learn more about it, watch this one-minute video:
As always, leave the peels on your apples for added color and nutrition.
We look forward to sampling your pie!
Joy’s Apple Pie
1¼ c flour
¼ t sea salt
10 T unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
2-4 T ice water, as needed
In food processor, pulse together flour and salt. Add butter and pulse until the mixture forms lima bean-size pieces. Slowly add ice water, 1 T at a time, and pulse until the dough just comes together. It should be moist, but not wet.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gather into a ball. Flatten into a disk with the heel of your hand. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Double above recipe, or make a crispy cheddar crust by pulsing together 1¼ c flour with ¾ t salt. Add ¾ c grated sharp cheddar, and pulse until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add 8 T chilled, cubed butter, 3-6 T ice water, and proceed according to the directions above.
4 T unsalted butter
2½ lbs Honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored, and cut into wedges
2½ lbs Granny Smith or other tart New England apples, peeled, cored, and cut into wedges
½ t allspice
1 t cinnamon
¼ t lemon zest
½ t kosher salt
1½ c sugar
4 T flour
4 t cornstarch
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 eggs, beaten lightly
Melt 2 T butter in a large pan over medium-high heat and add half of each type of apple. Stir to coat fruit with butter and cook, stirring occasionally.
Whisk together half of the spices, salt, and sugar, and sprinkle over the apples, stirring to combine. Lower heat and cook until apples have started to soften, approximately 5-7 minutes.
Sprinkle half of the flour and cornstarch over the apples and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for another 3-5 minutes.
Remove pan from heat, add half of the apple cider vinegar and lemon zest, stir and scrape fruit mixture into a bowl and allow it to completely cool. Mash into smaller pieces.
Repeat above instructions for remaining apples and ingredients, but do not mash.
Place a large baking sheet in the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 425°F.
Remove one disc of dough from the refrigerator and, using a rolling pin, roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it is roughly 12 inches in diameter. Fit this crust into a 9-inch pie plate, trimming it to leave a ½-inch overhang. Place this plate, with the dough, in the freezer.
Roll out the remaining dough on a lightly floured surface until it is roughly 10-11 inches in diameter.
Remove pie crust from freezer and spoon the cooled pie filling into it. Cover it with remaining dough.
Press the edges together, trim the excess, and then crimp the edges with the tines of a fork. Using a sharp knife, cut 3-4 steam vents in the top of the crust. Lightly brush the top of the pie with the egg wash.
Place pie in oven and bake on hot baking sheet for 30 minutes, then reduce temperature to 375°F.
Continue to bake until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown, about 30-40 more minutes. Remove and allow pie to cool for about 2 hours.
Each month features a different apple variety and New England orchard photography by Bar Lois Weeks and Russell Steven Powell.
Calendars are $10, including shipping. To order, email firstname.lastname@example.org, use PayPal, or send a check to New England Apple Association, POB 41, Hatfield, MA 01038. Discounts available on orders of six or more.
COME VISIT us at the Big E! The New England Apples booth in the Massachusetts Building at the Eastern States Exposition features fresh-picked apples from a number of orchards, plus apple pies, crisp, hand pies, cider, cider donuts, smoothies, calendars, and more.
Sample our wares and talk apples! Open daily 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Sunday, September 30.