I love apple pie.
And cherry, and blueberry, and strawberry ...
My passion for pie goes way back to my childhood. I have fond memories of my apron-clad mother standing at the kitchen sink peeling countless tiny green apples that had just been plucked from the sturdy old apple tree whose branches arched out over our back porch roof.
Every summer, that tree produced a seemingly endless bounty of pucker-inducing fruit. None went to waste, either. My dad made sure of it, regularly canvassing the soft earth beneath the canopy, on the lookout for the ones that had dropped from the tree’s fruit-laden boughs, in direct competition with the birds that apparently also had a taste for the tangy. No matter that they were bruised: Mom would cut away the bad spots and use them for applesauce or pies.
And, oh, what delicious pies those apples made!
Try as I might, I’ve never been able to duplicate her pie. After innumerable attempts with various apple varieties and combinations, I’ve concluded that those little green apples are the key to pie perfection, the precise combination of sweet and sour, mounded inside the flakiest of crusts.
I’m drooling at the thought.
Resigning myself to the reality that her pie’s flavor profile will never be duplicated, I’ve found myself experimenting with unusual flavor combinations, like the one that took first place in the apple category of the amateur division at the American Pie Council’s National Pie Championships held earlier this spring in Orlando, Fla.
David Harper’s “Apricot Apple Winkie Pie” may not contain the sour green apples from my childhood, but the cream cheese, apricot preserves and Twinkies – yes, Twinkies! – more than make up for them!
I’m drooling again.
Apricot Apple Winkie Pie
Lone Rock, Wis.
First place, Apple Division
½ cup of Crisco
1 cup of flour
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons ice cold water
Cream Cheese Layer
12 ounces cream cheese
1½ cups whipped topping, such as Cool Whip
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Dash of almond flavoring
Apple Pie Filling
2½ pounds cooking apples (peeled, cored, and sliced)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons butter
1 heaping tablespoon flour
3 tablespoons white sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ to ½ cup apple cider
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
1 cup apricot preserves, warmed
1 box Golden Twinkie Cakes
Whipped cream of your choice
Crust: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk the flour and the salt together in a large bowl. Add the Crisco and mix with your fingers until combined. Add the ice water and use a fork to combine. Turn pie dough out onto a floured surface and gather into a circular disk. Roll out the dough big enough to fit into a pie plate. Flute edges for decoration. Place into the refrigerator for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, use a fork to poke holes in the bottom and sides of the pie crust. Place crust in oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned and dry. While crust is baking mix up the filling. After 10-15 minutes of baking, remove the crust from oven and let cool on rack.
Apple Filling: In a heavy pan over medium heat, combine the butter, flour, sugars, and spices. Add the apples, apple cider, and lemon juice and sauté until almost tender – about 4-6 minutes. Cool for about 15 minutes.
Cream Cheese Filling: Beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar together in a mixing bowl until smooth. Add the vanilla and almond flavoring and whip until incorporated. Add the whipped topping and mix until combined. Spread ½ of the mixture in the bottom of the cooled pie crust and set aside until later. Refrigerate remaining mixture until later.
Assemble the pie: Place cut up Twinkies on the cream cheese mixture. Brush top of Twinkies with warm apricot preserves. Cover with half of the apple mixture. Place remaining cream cheese mixture on this. Cover with remaining apple mixture. Brush remaining apricot preserves on top. Top with whipped cream of choice and crushed pecans.