This past weekend Ray and I entered the annual Apple Pie Baking Contest at the Collingswood Farmers Market, marking our third apple pie contest and sixth pie contest overall (and they’ve all been at the market). Our entry was a hazelnut praline dutch apple pie with a hand-twirled top crust.
Based on the success of our praline pecan peach pie back in August (where we took second place for flavor in the peaches plus nuts category), I decided that another praline would set us apart. I used hazelnuts, since that’s what I had on hand, and I have to say, there’s definitely a tasty difference between the two pralines.
I chose to do Dutch Apple, using my favorite recipe from The New Best Recipe Book I have (Go buy it. Trust me. Just do it.) because I love the flavor and texture. But instead of doing the traditional crumb topping, I wanted to make a bang with a crust design, so we used Ray’s excellent crust recipe to create a bottom and top crust.
I made a full spiral twirled crust last year for our apple and cherry pie, which also won us second place in presentation, so I wanted to use the technique again. This time I divided the pie into quarters and twirled 4 main sections. The pie top reminds me of a quilt, which I like.
And as a final touch, I sprinkled on a cinnamon and vanilla sugar mixture before baking, because who doesn’t love cinnamon?
Our hazelnut praline dutch apple pie took second place for presentation–thanks to my hand-twirled top crust–and made it up onto the board in the flavor competition, but didn’t get enough votes to take home a ribbon … hopefully next time.
That said, once the judging was complete, we snagged 2 forks and tried it ourselves and LOVED it! Ray’s crust was perfectly buttery and flaky–as always … the man is a genius with pie dough–and the salty-sweet layer of praline was a perfect backbone for the tart and apple-packed filling.
Ray and I really enjoy the pie baking competitions that the Collingswood Farmers Market puts together, thanks to folks like Betsy and Dave and their merry band of pie-tasting judges. There’s a real sense of community. Bakers and spectators alike gather around the judging tent, chatting and pointing out pies. Bakers trade secret ingredient tips and everyone claps and cheers for the winners. Is it a competition? Sure. But these people are our neighbors … they’re what makes living in our little part of the Garden State so great.