The Aftermath...

I wish I could return to you with news of blue-ribbon glory, but participating in the Bucktown Apple Pie Contest (not to mention my own challenge of taking on an unknown pastry in less than a month's time) did come up as a winning experience in my books.

After dropping off contestant pie #7 early Sunday morning, I was awed at just how big this 5-year-old event had gotten- 120 beautiful pies and a waiting list of bakers in the wings! I met contestants that quoted an heirloom depression-era recipe, some that shared a few secrets-apple butter and orange juice, and a few very strange renditions for show-hickory smoked apple pie is not on my list to reproduce any time soon!

I found myself wandering not one but two 'pie rooms', trying to guess which crusts were shortening and which were butter simply by appearance, finally comparing my pie to others gathered by my ticket holding friends. And naturally, that resident taste tester had nothing but superlative words for my 'rustic' little number. I call it rustic because at 1 a.m. in the morning, crimping pie crusts by hand is not high on the priority list.

And so I discovered I'm a flavor person, not a precision baker. I'm proud that I was able to produce edible pies that sold tickets, but like anyone that's worked as a busboy or waitress, sometimes it's just better to be on the receiving end of a good meal.

Perhaps by Thanksgiving I'll be able to present my family with an apple pie remember! Or I might just take this year off...



The Calm Before the Storm...

I've included the last of my 'practice pies' above, opting for a straightforward route- Granny Smith Apples, a few left over Empires (a tad mushy when baked but the potential for outrageous applesauce is great!) and my one-time nemesis, the butter crust.

I'm getting a little better with the timing but I venture to say, it's important to nail the crust execution before starting the apple filler. Even peeling the apples too soon and certainly mixing the filling too soon likely influences the texture of the filler. Also, it's important to toss the apples thoroughly so there aren't too many pockets of cinnamon and sugar.

I'm getting a tad better at crimping my crust, but I'm still trying to figure out the best technique for that...thoughts anyone? I did managed to have some leftover dough to experiment with a leaf or two...to add a little festive smile.

The competition at Holstein Park is this Sunday! I can't believe it...it's come way too soon. Wish me luck and perhaps I'll see some of you there for a taste. I'd love the support and can't wait to take part in this great tradition (5 years running!).


Apples, Straight from the Source

I decided to play around with the apples a bit in this attempt, making the most of a weeknight burst of energy and a few leftover Pink Ladies in the fridge.

This pie wasn't really created with the intention of achieving perfection, but it provided some solid butter crust practice (less messy this time, better dough to work with), and I switched up my sugars, substituting brown for my lack of white sugar. Problem: I forgot the flour this time around, which resulted in a bit more of a juice, but the flavor received a significant brightness from some experimental orange peel. A very fragrant, fresh filling came through in the end.

As I mentioned, this was more or less a 'practice pie' so I didn't bother with the egg/ milk wash this time around. You can see the difference here. You can also see where I taste-tested the crust a little- hehe.

I do not yet have a photo of my shortening attempt, but I felt the crust was a little too 'pop tart' tasting for my liking. Could use a tweak or two next attempt. Thumbs up for the Pink Ladies in this one. The more the merrier!

And this past weekend, after an expanding waistline required a baking break, (c'mon, it's not like the butter crust is going to eat itself!) my resident taste tester and I took our research on the road to celebrate a perfect fall day at Kuiper's Family Farm apple orchard in Maple Grove. Fantastic day, and some delish Empires were ripe for the pickin'.

So, after receiving tips on the best heirloom, tart, firm, traditional apples (I made my mother solicit advice from our family Thanksgiving pie suppliers, who only use Granny Smiths- 'to better control the level of sweetness' they said).

I welcome recommendations on a reliable filler fruit for the impending contest...what would you pick?