Apple pie contest at the Cookbook Store
The first day of October was also the first weekend it really felt like fall — crisp, cool and sunny all at once to make us savour the autumn air long enough to seek the comfort of a cozy room. The nip outside made it all the more appropriate to come into the Cookbook Store on this first day of October, where it smelled like someone was trying to sell their house. Stay for apple pie, anyone?
Holding their first ever apple pie contest, the Cookbook Store received pies from all around the GTA, along with fifteen varieties of heritage apples from Siloam Orchards. If you closed your eyes and entered through the storefront decorated with colourful leaves and wispy branches, you’d think you had wandered through the forest and safely found the cottage where Little Red Riding Hood brought her basket full of goodies to her grandma. While there were no wolves in sight, the aroma of apples and cinnamon that filled the store would be enough to lure a hungry one inside.
The categories for best apple pies were simple: traditional two crust, and everything else! The judging panel includes author and acclaimed food editor Elizabeth Baird, assistant store manager Jennifer Grange, and long-time customer Dina Fayerman. When the clock struck two for judging, forks were poised over the heavenly slices and notebooks jotted upon in silent chewing concentration. Dina remarks that the judges came to a consensus without even consulting each other. Congratulations to Carolyn, winner of the traditional two-crust pie category with a brown crown on the perimeter of the crust. The winner of the non-traditional pie is Connie, who used Granny Smith apples and ground almond in a recipe baked into a springform pan. Since contestants were asked to bring a copy of the recipe if taken from a cookbook, recipes will be posted on the Cookbook Store’s website. Much talk continued about the finer details of pie making after the winners were declared. Do you peel the apples before you baking? Which apples make the most flavourful pie? What makes an excellent crust? Do you use an egg wash?
Asking Jennifer what her favourite apple pie recipe wasn’t a deliberating matter. Walking straight over to a corner of the store, she pulled the orange spine of Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook off the shelf and revealed her two favourite recipes — one with a crust and one with a crumble. “For those who don’t roll out the dough,” she says of the latter. When baking pies, she opts for a recipe that calls for a variety of apples.
For someone like myself who likes the no-fuss deliciousness of a crumble and totally tactile experience of crumbling the topping, here I will share the crumble recipe from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. Note the almonds in the crust! That’s my favourite part of this recipe. To me, apples in the fall are a lot like plaid — compatible and versatile with so many good earthy things like hard cheddar, cinnamon, nuts, and cold cut butter.
Martha Stewart’s Apple Crumb Pie
- 2 ½ pounds assorted apples (such as Macoun, Cortland, Jonagold, Empire, or Rome), peeled, cored, and cut into ¼ -inch-thick slices
- almond crumb crust (recipe follows)
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Evenly and firmly press a little more than half of the crumbs (about 2½ cups) into the bottom, up the sides, and onto the rim of a 9-inch glass pie plate. Press firmly into the edges. Freeze pie shell until firm, about 15 minutes. In a large bowl, toss together apples, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Pour the mixture into the chilled pie shell, mounding apples slightly in the center. Dot with butter. Sprinkle the remaining crumbs in clumps over the apples to cover completely.
- Bake, rotating halfway through, until the crust turns golden and the juices begin to bubble, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. The pie can be kept temperature, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for up to 2 days.
Almond Crumb Crust
Makes enough for one 9-inches pie
- 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons blanched almonds, finely ground
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, almonds, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger clumps remaining. Using your fingers, squeeze the mixture together to create pea-size to ¾-inch pieces. If not using right away, cover and chill until ready to proceed.