The Last Pageant

DSC04185I was never destined to wear a sash and crown, and have lived most of my life comfortably with that knowledge. I came to this realization early in life, imprinted through a series of failed attempts to sit on a float and perfect my beauty queen wave. No, significant therapy dollars were not spent to help me overcome the trauma of this. Just one irrefutable fact. I simply did not fit the dress. Let me explain…

When I was a kid, every late summer/early fall, my family would go to a local biergarten park for a weekend of brew, brat, and oompah-fueled bacchanal known as Volksfest. Each year the festivities included a pageant of sorts, wherein that year’s Steuben Parade queen and her court of adorable mini princesses would be crowned. Until I came to my pageant epiphany, each year my hopes up would rise at the thought that one of those taffeta wrapped princesses would be me. Imagine a stage filled with a stream of little girls sashaying past a group of judges while some jaunty german ditty played. And there I was among them, ready to take my place on the throne. Then, as judge fingers pointed to the fortunate few, the rest of us would be handed a Kennedy half-dollar and shown the steps leading off stage.

Truth be told, I had two things going against me and my shot at a ride along Fifth Avenue  atop a crepe paper float. The most obvious was that my grandmother was one of the pageant judges, which upon my victory could open me up to ethical allegations that could haunt my Fifth Avenue float ride. But at 8 or 9 years old, that thought never entered my mind, nor prevented me from smiling my cutest smile, curtseying like a little Von Trapp, and batting my baby blues judge-ward. Yet despite stinkin’ cuteness, every year my Kennedy was dropped in my palm, and off the stage I’d go. Obviously there was another reason (not for nothing, but I was seriously cute). There had to be something sinister going on. Palms must have been greased. The fix had to be in. How was it possible that year after year, all I had was a collection of coins. Then I finally learned the truth. It wasn’t sinister goings on, it was sartorial. Turns out, all that princess taffeta came at a price, a discounted that price when all the dresses were one size. A size, it turns out, that wasn’t mine. In other words, no matter how cute a potential float-sitter, if the dress doesn’t fit, the judge can’t commit.

Why am I reliving this trauma now? After years, nay decades of swearing off pageants, I entered one last weekend. A pie pageant. Sure it was for a charity event with a cause most worthy, but the cash prize for the winner was enticement enough to block out my past taffeta-lessness and Kennedy coin flashbacks. It’s nice to know that in a constantly changing world, some things can be counted on. The sun rises each morning, the moon rises each night, and my pie didn’t fit the dress. Doesn’t matter. It raised about $40 for a great local charity, and tasted better than a bucket of Kennedys. 🙂

imageYes, this is the recipe of the runner up pie, though I prefer to think of it as Birthday Pie, since a special birthday was the reason I came up with this recipe in the first place. It’s a tasty amalgam of my mom’s pie, my favorite pie crust, and the addition of caramelized apples added out of necessity to use up some pink ladies I had sitting around for a while. This is a tart apple pie, so if you are looking for high sweetness, this dress won’t fit you. 😉

Birthday Apple Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie

For the Caramelized Apples:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 ½ TBSP sugar
  • 1 lb sweet-tart apples (pink lady, honey crisp), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream

For the pie:

  • 5-6 large granny smith apples (about 2 lbs), peeled and cut into 1/4’’slices
  • 3-4 rounded TBSP of sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Zest of one lemon (about 1 TBSP)
  • 3 TBSP cold butter, cut into about 1/4 ” cubes

Make a double batch of pate brisee according the recipe. Divide the dough into two pieces, making one disk slightly larger than the other. Roll each crust out, one to fit a 9″ pie pan (I use pyrex, but metal pan or foil pan works fine too), and one slightly larger to use as the top. Chill the crust while you prepare the apples.

For the caramelized apples:

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat; sprinkle sugar over. Stir until sugar begins to melt, about 1 minute. Add apples. Sauté until apples are brown and tender and juices orm, about 10 minutes. Add cream and simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Cool 15 minutes before adding to bowl with raw apples.

For the pie:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel and core apples, cut into slices ¼” thick slices. Put sliced apples in large bowl, sprinkle with the sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest. Add caramelized apples, toss well and set aside.  Pile the apples into the chilled crust-lined pan and scatter the butter cubes over evenly. Cover with the second crust and crimp the edges. Cut 4 slits around center of top. If you have some extra dough, you can cut out some leaves and place decoratively on crust. Brush top with a little cream and sprinkle with sugar (brush just the center, not the edges.) Put pie on a cookie sheet (it makes it easier to move in and out of the oven and catches any drips). Bake at 400°F for 30 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Let cool 20 minutes before serving.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at Thanks!  🙂


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