First, for purposes of full disclosure: this is NOT a picture of my pie. Let's call it the goal. But first, from the beginning....
It's our fall ritual. Far be it for us to build a ritual around JUST leaf collecting, pumpkin hunting or something festive without also including a little taste of the season. After three years (and one intended, but failed after a sudden and tragic brush with food poisoning) of making the trip to Holstein Park for the Bucktown Apple Pie Contest, we know how to handle the festivities. We camp out, we line up and strategize ('one lap around the tables, then we split up, you get the lattice work, I'll look for the crumb'), and in a methodical and swift maneuver, we emerge from the gymnasium with no less than four slices of traditional, all-American apple pie. The next few minutes are filled with satisfied groans, a few offhand comparisons and our own winner among the group.
At this annual neighborhood fundraiser, as many as 200 pies are featured and judged by a panel of celebrity chefs, local bakers and volunteers gathered on an early fall Sunday morning. The top five are celebrated with blue ribbons and of course, one is crowned winner. Prizes are awarded, but wouldn't a nod from local pastry queen Gale Gand be enough?! The crowds come later, purchase tickets and sample the leftovers (while they last!), as bluegrass music pumps into the gym.
Last year, as we arrived a bit TOO early to claim our samples, I looked around at the registrants, turned to my resident taste tester and fiance, and shrugged. I inherited my mother's knack for over-producing legions of Christmas cookies, I insist on not one but two kinds of coffee cake for hosting my brunches and consider baking my forte. I could do this.
And so, gulp, I did. Yesterday, I registered to join the group of 120 amateur and accomplished bakers all putting forth their best pie pans and offering up traditional apple pie. The only catch is, I have never, ever made a pie. I haven't even produced a turnover.
Call it trial by fire- and for my readers, perhaps a bit of what the Germans call schadenfreude. I'll be posting updates along the way toward my apple pie eduction. I welcome suggestions and favorite recipes. And come October 18th, we'll see how the pie crust crumbles.