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(Host) Much goes into making homemade pies for the holiday table. VPR’s Neal Charnoff traveled to the home of one of Vermont’s many experts to see just how it’s done.
(Charnoff) Audrey Wilson has been making pie crusts since she was 16. But she didn’t enter a pie into competition until this past summer, when her apple pie won first place in an Orleans County competition.
The “core” of Wilson’s recipe comes from a 40-year-old McCall’s cookbook. But she’s got a couple of secrets that she agreed to share with us. The first involves the crust:
(Wilson) “I add about a tablespoon of shortening more than what the recipe calls for, makes it a little flakier.”
(Charnoff) The pie crust recipe calls for flour, salt, shortening and ice water:
(Wilson) “But before I add the Crisco, I stir the flour and the sugar together. Make sure it’s well mixed, otherwise somebody might get more salt in their piece. You just mix that flour and sugar up really well, and then you add the shortening.”
(Charnoff) Wilson mixes the shortening and flour with a pastry blender. After adding the ice water, she’s ready to roll.
(Wilson) “I have over my rolling pin, I guess you’d call it a sleeve. It’s just from stretching material, you can buy it in a kitchen shop. But what it does is, the crust does not stick. If I didn’t have that it would stick to the rolling pin. Then you just roll it out, but as you roll it out you want to give it a quarter turn, keep giving it a quarter turn. You want to keep it round, just roll it, then give it another quarter turn. Then just keep doing that, and make sure you have enough flour on your rolling board here.”
(Charnoff) The piecrust is folded and put into the pie tin. The procedure is repeated for the top crust, and then Wilson is ready to add special effects. Using egg yolk along with green and red food coloring, Audrey can stencil designs on the top crust.
(Wilson) “And I put it, sort of center it in the pie shell, lay it down flat. And I’m going to take the green egg yolk and a paint brush, and I’m just going to pretend this is stencil paint, and I’m going to paint the stencil onto the pie. And you don’t want to have too much egg yolk on your brush, it’ll bleed through the stencil. So you start with less.”
(Charnoff) With the poise of a jeweler cutting fine diamonds, Wilson stencils green leaves and apples onto her crust. While her first coat of egg yolk paint is drying, Wilson sets about cutting her apples. And here she reveals her second secret: more than one kind of apple is used in her pie.
(Wilson) “Two Granny Smith, one Cortland, one Brayburn, and two Macintosh. I think that different textures of the different apples is what probably won first prize. Then maybe the stencil helped too, I don’t know.”
(Charnoff) Sugar, cinnamon and flour are mixed in a bowl.
(Wilson) “Now I’m going to slice the apples, I’m going to slice them fairly thin so they can fit well in the pie tin.”
(Charnoff) The apples fit snugly in their new home. Wilson spreads the apple mixture evenly, dices butter on top, and then applies the second coat of egg yolk paint to the pie crust designs.
(Wilson) “Now the trick is to get it on top of my apples without breaking it.”
(Charnoff) She loosens the crust from the board, and wets the edges of the bottom crust:
(Wilson) “Because I want the top crust to stick to the bottom crust around the edges, so the apples as they cook, it won’t leak the juice out into the oven. I make three slits in the top crust, and that’s to allow the steam.”
(Charnoff) A bit of sugar is sprinkled on top.
(Wilson) “And there, it’s done. Ready to go in the oven, at 425 for 45 minutes.”
(Charnoff) Guests at Wilson’s Bed and Breakfast, the Whetstone Brook B & B, often get to sample her pies. But today, family and friends savor her creation, which is served with Vermont cheddar cheese.
(Wilson) “Apple pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze!”
(Charnoff) For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Neal Charnoff in Craftsbury.