When crafting the perfect apple pie, champion baker Joyce Purdin says, it’s all about the details.
The Atascadero woman was crowned the grand prize winner of the 31st annual Idler’s Home Mom & Apple Pie contest at the San Luis Obispo Home Show May 2 at the Alex Madonna Expo Center in San Luis Obispo.
“It was the little, tiny techniques that made all the difference in the world,” Purdin said, as well as a few handy tools.
The Mom & Apple Pie competition is open to all mothers in San Luis Obispo, northern Santa Barbara and southern Monterey counties — excluding recent grand-prize winners, professional bakers and Idler’s Home employees and their families.
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Entries are rated on a variety of factors ranging from the appearance, texture and flavor of the crust to the consistency of the filling and doneness of the apples.
Purdin’s tender, flaky double crust and toothsome, cinnamon-scented apple filling wowed a panel of six judges that included past contest winner Connie Mooney, former home education teacher Sue Amaral and John Linn, co-owner of Linn’s of Cambria.
Purdin beat out 10 other contestants, including second-place winner Susan Sheetz of Santa Maria and third-place winner Brigid Rickard of Templeton, to claim the top title and prize — a KitchenAid Pro-Series convection oven. (Purdin, who had purchased a convection oven about a month earlier, opted for a Whirlpool refrigerator and dishwasher instead.)
“I’ve always made really great pies,” said Purdin, a U.S. Navy veteran, medical assistant and mother of three who grew up in Minnesota. “My kids love them. My friends love them.”
But she longed to take her baking skills to the next level.
After entering the Idler’s Home contest in 1991, 1992 and 1996, and failing to move on to the final round, Purdin took a break from competing. She tried again in 2012, only to fall short once more.
This spring, her oldest son persuaded her to try one more time.
Starting with an apple pie recipe that her daughter tracked down online, Purdin consulted with her friend Anna Pense, an Atascadero resident who has won the Idler’s Home competition twice. The baker then incorporated Pense’s tips and tool recommendations in her pie-making process; in particular, she learned the importance of painstakingly finishing crust edges.
“I actually gave my husband and son a rating sheet for every pie I baked,” Purdin said with a laugh. “I’d take (the pies) to my friend and say, ‘Do you want a piece of pie? You’ve got to rate it.’ ”
All that practice paid off, and Purdin served up a slice of victory at the Mom & Apple Pie contest.
Moments after winning the competition, she enthused, “I’m so happy I could cry.”
Want to bake like a champ? Follow Joyce Purdin’s directions below for making the ultimate apple pie.
MOM’S APPLE PIEMakes one 9-inch, double-crusted pie, Serves 8.
This recipe is for a convection oven, and is recommended for experienced bakers only.
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (preferably Gold Medal)
- ¾ cup butter, cubed or sliced and chilled
- ½ cup butter-flavored shortening, cubed or sliced and chilled
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- ¼ cup ice water
- ¼ cup vodka, chilled
Put dry ingredients, butter and shortening in a food processor and pulse for about 9 seconds, until dough resembles small-curd cottage cheese.
Transfer to a large bowl, add combined liquids and mix dough with a fork until it forms a ball.
Cut ball in half with a knife and pat each half into rounds. Wrap with parchment paper, place in zip-close plastic bag and store in refrigerator for at least couple of hours or up to two days.
* Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts will work in a pinch.
- 7-8 Pink Lady apples
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ¾ cup white sugar
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon, preferably fine ground
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons Southern Comfort liqueur
- 2 cups apple juice, apple cider or sparkling apple cider
Peel, quarter, core and slice apples. (Use a food processor to achieve even thickness.)
Combine apple slices with butter, cornstarch, sugars, spices and liquids, and cook in a large skillet on low heat for 35 minutes.
Cover and store overnight on a countertop.
MAKING THE PIE
Preheat convection oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove dough from bag, place on floured parchment paper and roll out bottom crust to 1/6-inch thickness using a wooden rolling pin.
Transfer bottom crust to 9-inch glass pie plate and pat into place. Set on Lazy Susan revolving tray. Trim with a knife around the edge of pie plate.
Add filling and shape until it resembles a volcano (a gentle mound with a dip or divot in the center).
Roll out top crust and decorate if desired, using a pie crust shield to size crust and placement of vent holes. Transfer to pie plate.
Pull up edge of top crust, dip fingers in water and moisten rim of bottom crust. Replace crust and pat together edges. Turn up combined edge, roll or turn under and finish by pinching together with fingers to form traditional scallop pattern.
Use knife tip to make or widen 5 or 6 vent holes in top crust.
Set assembled pie on a baking sheet, preferably round with a hole in the middle. Brush top crust with egg wash (beat together one egg with 1 tablespoon heavy cream or milk) using pastry brush. Top with pie crust shield.
Place baking sheet at center of bottom rack of oven.
Bake pie for 15 minutes at 425 degrees on non-convection setting, then turn down heat to 350 degrees and bake for 50 minutes on convection setting.
Let cool, slice and serve.
- Courtesy Joyce Purdin