[127] Damsel’s Heirloom Sour Cream Apple Pie

I’m just saying, blame Toni.

So, how did the PIE turn out? And how did I make it?

It turned out delicious! I won’t deny, I was pretty dubious about an apple pie with sour cream in it, but when I poked Toni for advice on apple pies, she mentioned her go-to recipe has cream in it and that baked in dairy often gives an “a la mode” flavor without the melty ice cream.

Well. I wouldn’t NORMALLY be in favor of skipping ice cream, but I knew the judges weren’t going to go for me demanding they not try my pie without ice cream. So why not?

I made the pie by doubling and tweaking the crust for Alton Brown’s pecan pie, and then using it for this particular sour cream pie in The Pie Town Cookbook straight. Worked a charm.

Well. It worked a charm the first time. The test pie. The second time, for the contest pie, I was much more dubious. Still, it worked well enough that I was willing to use it, rather than try to make a third pie. Besides, by that point, I had nyama choma to make.

h1. Ingredients

For a double crust:
4 tbsp butter, cubed

4 tbsp lard

7 oz pecan halves or pieces

12 oz all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling

1 tsp kosher salt

4 tbsp water

4 tbsp vodka

For the filling:

2 lbs apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 c sour cream

heaping 1/4 tsp kosher salt (because it’s what I had)

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp flour

3/4 c granulated sugar

For egg wash:

1 egg
1 tsp water

h2. Instructions

Throw the butter chunks and lard lump in the freezer. You’re aiming for 15 min chilled, but a bit more is fine, especially on the lard. While you’re at it, throw the water and the vodka in there too. Keeping that stuf Toast the pecans. Realize after the fact that the recipe didn’t call for that. Shrug and keep going. Let them cool, then dump ’em in the food processor and grind into nut meal. Pretty fine, I say.

Once that’s done, dump in the flour and salt, then process all kinds of whirlly, until it is well combined. After that, add in the cold butter chunks and process by pulsing until you get kinda crumbly meal. Most recipes say “looks like pea sized”, but I can never judge that.

Once you’re happy with the butter mix in, add the lard. This will be oddly more difficult than the butter, because the lard will just be softer. Persevere. Eventually, you’ll get the texture you’re looking for. Aim for slightly bigger chunks than the butter left. Then, add the water and vodka and pulse until it all comes together and looks like dough. Split it in half, which is best done by a combination of pastry knife and scale, then flatten into two disks as best you can and refrigerate for 24+ h. (The original recipe says 30 min is fine, if you’re in a hurry).

Once you’re ready to make the pie, preheat the oven to 450F, then roll out one crust, put it in a pie plate. You can roll out the second crust right away or wait. I wait, but I have no idea if that’s the best plan.

Ok. That’s the complicated part. The filling is the easy part. Mix all the dry ingredients together thoroughly. Then, spread about 1/4 of the dry stuff on the bottom crust. Stir the sour cream into the remaining dry mixture, then fold in the apple slices. Put the filling into the bottom crust (feel free to not put in all the juice if you’re worried it’ll be too wet), then cover with the top shell.

Let the pie sit for 10 minutes before popping it in the oven. While it’s sitting, beat the egg and the water together thoroughly, then brush all over the top of the pie. You can also sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar if you want, but I didn’t do that so it’s not in the directions.

Bake at 450F for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350F and bake another 45 min. The recipe says “or until apples are done”, but it’s a pie, so how the hell are you going to know? I don’t know. If you know, tell me in the comments.

h2. Cooking and Consumption Notes

h3. Cooking

I have no idea what happened here. I made the crust the same way, as far as I can tell, both times and I got WILDLY different results. The test pie (which is where most of the in-kitchen photos come from) crust was not very wet, there were distinct flecks of lard (see below) and it was easy to handle. It rolled out decently, didn’t stick too badly and was a nice crust to bake up.

The contest pie crust dough, which I did not have time or clean hands to photograph the processes, was WET and much paler than the test dough. It was a complete pain to work with. It tore easily, didn’t roll out easily and more.

Oddly, though, the pie crust cookies from the second dough were much flakier and nicer than the first dough. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell if this translated to a better texture for the pie too. I had so little of it.

I really wish I had a clue why there was such a dramatic difference between the two crusts. My only guess, right now, is that I might have accidentally added less water than the recipe called for the first time around. That’s entirely based on the dough being so wet, though, and not any memory or anything that could help me suss it out.

h3. Consumption

I liked this pie a lot. Bill was a big fan as well. It didn’t seem terribly “a la mode without the ice cream,” but it had a very good flavor and texture. I worried the cinnamon would be overwhelming, and it was not. I’d make it for folks again, depending on if I needed an apple pie. And maybe I should, given I still have plenty of apples in the fridge.

While I do not recall this being the case for the test pie, I did notice the contest pie had a vague purplish tint on the inside. It was a bit unappetizing, and I have no idea how it came to be. If anyone has any ideas, let me know!

In another twist I found interesting, I sliced the apples pretty thin. This is, to my mind, how one makes apple pie. However, my pie was the only one with slices (rather than small wedges), and at the pie contest, I overheard someone compare the pie to lasagne in looks, and say that this made them hesitant to try it. While I think that’s bizarre (is that bizarre?), I will say I’m pretty tempted to do wedges in the future, as that’s less cutting. AKA, faster to pie.

h1. What About the Pie Contest???

Well, I didn’t place. So I was unable to fulfill Jen’s request. A bummer, but it was frankly what I was expecting.

The winning pie was a green chile apple pie with cheddar crust. I think. The winner’s announcements were a little unclear, so it might have “only” taken second place. I don’t know what the other two placers were.

The (I assume) winning pie looked amazing. The moment I laid eyes on it, I wanted some. It was gorgeous. Bill and I are always up to try something green chile. And cheddar goes great with apples. Which is why I was surprised that we both found it lacking, when we finally got to try it. It remained gorgeous (look at the obvious layers in that crust!), but we both wanted to be able to taste more chile and more cheddar. Indeed, when I found a chunk of chile at one point, I was a bit surprised. By that point, I’d assumed some sort of powder or similar. However, obviously, the judges loved it, so we were missing something. I’m going to wager our innate New Mexican-ness prevented us from loving something advertised as having “Hatch chiles” and was so subtle. We like our chile like we like each other: upfront.

I’d never entered a pie contest before, so I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect. Bill and I arrived, dropped the pie off and had lunch. That part was fun. We chatted with a few folks, and that was fun too. But, overall, I learned why pie contests are well held at state and county fairs and not at bars.

Everyone was friendly, but in the end, if you weren’t watching the Bears game, there wasn’t a lot to do while you waited on judging. With about three hours between when the pie was supposed to arrive and when winners were going to be announced, that was a real issue. We ended up going for a walk to a local coffee shop, then heading back to the bar and I read a book while Bill cranked on some work he had online. I hope that if Virtue Cider and Sheffield’s host this again (and I hope they do, as who doesn’t like pie?) they’ll consider putting the “cider school” as an activity while waiting for the announcement, rather than after the contest. Or having bobbing for apples. Or some things to do that are more interactive and fun while folks wait.

The other thing that I hope they do is share the feedback the judges gave (or some feedback) to all the pie entrants. Personally, I know I liked my pie better than about half of the other entrants but it wasn’t one of my top three favorite pies. Since I liked my own pie more than I liked the winning pie, I was extra curious to know why the judges liked mine less. Was it just the odd purple color? I doubt it, but I have no way to know. Overall, though, I’d just love to get some feedback on what did and didn’t work about my pie. (Though now I know not to make it layered like lasagne from a fellow pie-eater.)

Overall, I’m glad the Matt from River North Beer let me know about this contest. It was fun to try a bunch of pies, and it was really fun to suddenly get the hang of pie crust. At least, I think I did. We’ll see when I’m making something that is not partially nut-based. I’d enter it again, depending on if there’s something to do while we wait on judging.19 April 2014 Note: River North Beer is now Lakeshore Beverage Company.

If you’re curious about more, I put some photos of the whole contest up over at Flickr. Check them out. There’s some really pretty pies over there.

6 thoughts on “[127] Damsel’s Heirloom Sour Cream Apple Pie

  1. My main problem with a lot of baking contests is that a perfectly-made and delicious traditional pie won’t win points when someone’s throwing chile and cheese and all kinds of weird shit in there. A judge (especially if it’s a judge who’s trying to look all worldly and Iron-Chef-y) will think that crazy-shit pie must beat regular boring pie, because it’s so AVANT-GARDE and DIFFERENT. Different is not always better.

    Look, if it’s an apple pie RECIPE contest, fine, go ahead and get creative and make things that are almost, but not entirely unlike apple pie. Yes, there’s plenty of room for experimentation in cooking and baking and recipes, but this is APPLE GODDAMN PIE. As in: “As American As.” Did your Grandmammy Myrtle put chiles and sharp cheddar into those pies she made with her old gnarled hands back when America was wholesome and men were men and kids were respectful and everyone loved their Jesus and their pie? NO.

    A true test of skill would be to hand out a list of permitted ingredients and see who can make the best pie out of those things. That’s the pie contest I want to see. And judge.

    • Why do I get the feeling you just want people to make you pies, Jen? 😀

      Ok, more seriously, I do wish there’d been a bit more guidance on this. But, really, even without pre-event guidance, what I wanted and needed was feedback. Maybe next time they run something like this.

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