Blue Ribbon Apple Pie for Fall

Quite a few years ago when I lived in Columbus, Ohio, several other food professionals in town, along with me, were asked to judge an apple pie contest. We all took our judicial roles seriously, and tasted and re-tasted an array of pie entries. The scrumptious dessert that follows is based on my recollection of the one that won first place.

I remembered that the crust had been particularly flaky, and that the filling was perfectly balanced with sweet and tart flavors. However, it was the crunchy, streusel-like topping covering the apples that had made the pie so distinctive and had helped it garner the blue ribbon. The following recipe bears a close likeness to the original. The flaky crust is achieved by using shortening along with butter, and the filling works best with Golden Delicious apples scented with cinnamon and lemon. Both brown and white sugars blended with butter, flour, and pecans (my addition for this recipe) are the secret to the golden topping.

I like this quintessential American dessert served slightly warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or dollops of whipped cream, but it’s just as tempting unadorned. It’s best served the day it’s baked, but you can prepare the pie dough a day ahead, and have the ingredients for the topping measured and ready to assemble.  



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Blue Ribbon Apple Pie

1 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt such as fleur de sel
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small chunks
2 1/2 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening, well chilled and cut into small chunks (See cooking tip)
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water

2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt such as fleur de sel
3 to 4 large Golden Delicious apples (enough sliced to make 5 cups)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1.For crust place dry ingredients in a food processor, and add butter and shortening. Process, pulsing machine, until mixture resembles coarse meal. With machine running, slowly add water just until moist clumps form. Remove dough and gather into a ball; flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until dough is firm enough to roll out, about 30 minutes. (Dough can be made a day ahead; soften slightly at room temperature before using.)

2.Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to form a 12-inch round (about 1/4- inch thick), then transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. Fold overhanging dough in to form a high rising border and flute the edge. Refrigerate pie while you prepare the filling and topping.

3.Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 450 degrees F. For filling, mix together sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Peel, core, and cut apples into 1/4 inch thick slices to measure 5 cups. Toss the apples with the lemon juice. Then add them to the bowl of dry ingredients and toss well to coat. Fill the prepared pie shell with apple mixture, scrapping the bowl well.

4.For topping combine nuts, flour, sugars, and butter in a mixing bowl, and with your fingers mix together until the butter is blended with the other ingredients. Sprinkle mixture over the apple filling.

5.Bake pie for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees F. After 15 minutes check the pie, and cover loosely with foil if the topping or crust is starting to brown too quickly. Continue baking until apples are tender and topping is golden and crisp, about 20 to 25 minutes more. Cool 15 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 6 to 8.

Cooking tip: Shortening helps make the dough, when cooked, flaky. However, if you don’t have any or prefer not to use shortening, you can substitute 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (chilled and diced) .

Adapted from The Big Book of Backyard Cooking by Betty Rosbottom (Chronicle Books 2004)


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