Blue ribbon apple pie

  • Staff photo/Mary Byrne—

  • Homemade apple pie. Staff photo/Mary Byrne

  • Homemade apple pie. Staff photo/Mary Byrne

  • Staff photo/Mary Byrne—

Staff Writer
Published: 11/25/2020 5:00:26 AM

Around this time last year, a friend and I hosted Thanksgiving dinner for a group of 20 or so students in our graduate program.

For those who came, I had one request — bring a dessert to share. While I was comfortable roasting the turkey and making the other side dishes, baking pies and other “fancy” desserts was out of my realm of experience.

As far as sweets go, I generally stick to cookies and brownies, and leave pie baking to the experts. 

So, when the opportunity to learn from an expert was presented to me, I wasn’t sure how it would go. This past week, Sunderland Public Library hosted a virtual apple pie baking demonstration with Daniela Cazacu. Cazacu, originally from Moldova in Eastern Europe, is an Amherst resident with an award-winning apple pie recipe. 

While most, if not all, of the other attendees watched and took notes for baking at a later date, I did my best to keep up with Cazacu as she explained her way through the recipe.

I prepped as best I could, peeling the apples in advance and getting the necessary ingredients ready for use. Still, I eventually fell behind Cazacu and had to rely on the recipe she had provided as well as the words of advice she had offered along the way.

For the purpose of this endeavor, I followed her recipe almost to a T.

Before the demonstration, however, I picked up a bag of MacIntosh apples, only to learn later that she prefers Golden Delicious for this particular pie.

And since I didn’t have cornstarch on hand, I used flour — Cazacu prefers cornstarch — when making the apple filling. 

Making the crust — both top and bottom — and mixing together the ingredients for the filling went smoother than I anticipated (though the state of my kitchen afterward might have suggested otherwise), all thanks to Cazacu’s detailed recipe and the tips she shared during her demonstration. 

Once both the filling and crust were ready to go, Cazacu also demonstrated how she creates her elaborate toppers. I managed to cut out the leaf shapes in the top crust, as she had demonstrated, and place them back on the pie in between the windows I’d just cut out. But rather than attempt, and possibly fail, to turn a piece of leftover pie crust into a rose, I placed a small piece of round dough in the center of the pie and called it a sunflower, instead. 

The pie went into the oven and came out about an hour later — just the right shade of golden brown. After letting it cool, I sliced into it. The result was a sturdy but slightly flakey crust and a filling that wasn’t too sweet. 

Thanksgiving will certainly be different this year. I may not be going home for a meal with my family, but at least I now know that I can bake a pie worthy of sharing with a crowd when the day finally comes.

Daniela’s Blue Ribbon Apple Pie

The complete recipe, with Cazacu’s recommendations and all, can be found in the recipe section of the Amherst Town Committee for International Students website, at Scroll to the bottom of the page and select Daniela’s Blue Ribbon Applie Pie.

For the crust:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp sugar

¾ tsp salt

1 stick unsalted butter, cold

¼ cup organic vegetable shortening

¼ cup very cold water (with ice cubes)

1 egg, lightly beaten


3 lbs apples (about 6)

2/3 cup white sugar

¾ tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp allspice

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp salt

1 tbs lemon juice, freshly squeezed

2-3 tbs cornstarch or flour

2 tbs butter, unsalted

Egg wash

1 egg + 1 tsp water

Make the crust: Mix the flour, salt and the sugar. Cut the shortening into the flour using a pastry cutter or two knives. Cut up the butter into small pieces and cut it into the flour. Rub the butter completely into the flour with your fingers until it is pea size. Beat the egg with the water, then drizzle it evenly over the dough. Lightly stir the dough together with a fork. The dough should be damp. If the dough is too dry, add 1-2 tablespoons ice water to the dry parts. Bring it together into a ball. Divide it into two equal pieces. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and shape each into a disk. Refrigerate at least 30 min. or up to two days.

Roll out the bottom crust: Lightly dust the counter with flour. Pat a disk flat with your hand. Lightly dust the dough with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a circle 2 inches bigger than your pie dish. Gently put the dough in the pie plate. Trim and fold the edges. Refrigerate it while you make the filling.

Make the filling: Wash and pat dry the apples. Peel them and slice thinly. Pour the lemon juice on the apples. Mix the sugar with the cornstarch (or flour) and the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and the salt. Pour the mixture over the apples. Mix well and set aside.

Roll out the top crust: Lightly dust the counter with flour. Take the second disk out of the refrigerator and pat it flat with your hand. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a circle 2 inches bigger than your pie dish. Make vents by cutting slits in the dough or using pretty cookie cutters.

Assemble the pie: Take the pie plate with the bottom crust out of the fridge. Pour the apples into it. Cut up 2 tablespoons butter into small pieces and spread them all over the apples. Put the top crust on. Trim it so it hangs ½ inch over the edge of the pan. Fold the edges down, pinching both crusts together. Crimp as desired.

Bake the pie: Beat one egg with 1 teaspoon water and brush the top of the pie with it. Sprinkle with a little bit of sugar. Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 45 minutes. The pie is ready when the crust is golden and the fruit is bubbling lightly. The juice may spill and make a mess. So, to catch any drips, place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet on the rack below the pie 15 minutes. before it’s done.

Enjoy with vanilla ice cream.


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