I'm entering an apple pie in a pie baking contest this weekend at a fair down the road from my house. I would describe my cooking as average at best, but I feel pretty good about the pies I bake.
That said, I wonder about a few things related to what makes for a winning pie:
1. Should I go with a full lid, or some kind of criss-cross design, (or even a crumbly dutch apple in lieu of a top crust)?
2. Should I bake it the night before, and serve it up sort of set, or should I bake it that morning and serve it warm, at the risk of the innards still being a little runny?
3. Choice of apple(s)?
I'm going to prepare a couple of pies tomorrow night and have my co-workers do some gastronomic analysis for me on Friday.
As regards apples, I normally use two different species - typically one tart and one sweet, and also one that is firmer and one that is softer, so that there's some variation in the texture - Granny Smith and Golden Delicious seem to work out great for that.
Recently I read a press release that the University of Minnesota (who brought us the oh-so-tasty Honeycrisp apple), has released Spawn of the Honeycrisp (a.k.a. SweeTango). What initially caught my eye is that this apple would be initially introduced around Labor Day weekend in three select cities - one of those being Rochester, New York. Woot! The second thing is that this new apple is a more tart version of its mother apple, with the same crisp texture and juiciness that made the Honeycrisp such a divine snacking apple. I've never dared make a pie with that apple - they're pretty expensive for starters, and secondly they're so delicious that there's no reason to do anything but eat them right off the tree.
Anyway - the news about the SweeTango got me thinking that it might be a good apple pie contest candidate...a tart apple makes for a pretty good pie, and given their newness, chances are pretty good that very few entries would feature that apple and my pie might stand out as something new and different.
I think I'm on to something with this latter point...yesterday I couldn't find any information about where exactly to get these apples locally, and after making a few calls it began to appear that trying to track down the handful of local orchards licensed to grow the SweeTango would be a needle in the haystack effort at best. Today, however, the lead news item on the website of the Batavia Daily News was all about this new apple, and it gave the names of the 5 local orchards who are growing the SweeTango. Calls to the first 4 orchards made my idea seem silly - the apples generally won't be available for sale until next week. Orchard #5
however hooked me right up! It was worth the drive - those apples are every bit as tasty as the Honeycrisp, and definitely tart enough to make me think this pie is going to be pretty special.
Given the difficulty in procuring the apple, it's probable that my pie will be the only one to feature this new apple. I'm psyched. :-)
Stay tuned - contest is Saturday at High Noon.