Looking for a way to wow dessert lovers this holiday season?
Try a homemade apple pie perfected by Atascadero baker Michelle Cole, winner of this year’s Idler’s Home Mom and Apple Pie Contest. (The competition, which is open to amateur bakers from San Luis Obispo, southern Monterey and northern Santa Barbara counties, celebrated its 33rd anniversary this spring.)
Cole’s award-winning pie features a sweet, cinnamon-scented fruit filling and tender, flaky crust baked to a beautiful golden-brown. You can use a traditional-style top crust or attempt her darling design — a wheel with twisted spokes, dotted with simple flowers.
Cole, a retired captain with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office, said she uses a mix of apples “depending on what looks the freshest in the store.” For the pie she served to judges at the competition finals in May, she sliced up Fuji, Granny Smith, honeycrisp and red delicious apples.
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Because sweetness differs so much between varieties, Cole recommends tasting your apples when raw and adjusting sugar levels accordingly.
Now dust off your apron, break out your rolling pin and get baking!
Serves 8 to 10
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar (varies depends on type and sweetness of apples used)
1/2 cup white sugar (varies depends on type and sweetness of apples used)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup water (gauge this depending on type of apples)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
8 apples, peeled, cored, sliced in quarter-inch slices
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoons salt
12 tablespoons butter, chilled, cut into quarter-inch pieces
8 tablespoons shortening, chilled, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup vodka, chilled
1/4 cup water
A few drops of water
In a food processor, combine flour, sugar and salt. Pulse for about five seconds. Add butter and shortening and process until incorporated and mixture begins to form clumps. Transfer mixture into a large bowl. Sprinkle vodka and ice mixture. Stir and press dough together using a spatula until dough sticks together. Divide dough into two portions. Wrap dough into sheet of plastic wrap and flatten each into disks. Refrigerate for one hour before using.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add water, white sugar and brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer. Add apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and cook until tender. Let cool.
On a floured cutting board, roll out one dough portion to 11-inch round (if using a 9-inch pie pan). Place on cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. Place the bottom crust in pan. Spoon apples into prepared crust. Roll out remaining dough into 12-inch circle and place over pie; crimp or flute edge. Cut five slits in top crust.
Beat egg with water to make egg wash. Brush top crust with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Cover edge of crust with two-inch strip of aluminum foil. Bake 25 to 35 minutes, then remove foil. Reduce temperature to 375 degrees, and continue baking for 10 to 20 minutes, until apples are soft and crust is a golden brown.
Let pie cool for 35 minutes; serve warm.
Alternate top-crust design:
Divide second portion of pie dough in half. On a floured cutting board, roll out each dough piece to 11-inch rounds. They should be thin, approximately an eighth of an inch thick. Place one of the rounds on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Egg wash the edge. Sprinkle round with sugar and cinnamon and place second round on top, pressing edges to adhere. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Cut dough to create 24 sections but do not cut all the way through to the center; leave approximately a 2- to 3-inch circle in the center. Lift each section and twist to create wheel design. Repeat with the remaining sections. Place crust on pie, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with a little more sugar.
Tips for a perfect apple pie
- Precook your filling to ensure an even consistency.
- Refrigerate your filling to guarantee a tender, flaky crust.
- Cover the edge of your top crust with foil to prevent overcooking.
- Rotate your pie while baking to ensure even browning.
- Spread a sheet of foil on your oven rack to protect the bottom of your oven from overflowing filling.