Making apple pie, with baker extraordinaire Linda Cockton
In terms of comfort food, there are few dishes that can rival a home made apple pie.
Although a traditional dessert made from the simplest of ingredients, it can be very intimidating to make one for the first time, or worse, if they haven’t been up to par in the past.
We checked in with pie baker extraordinaire and Apple Pie Contest judge Linda Cockton to get some tips.
She remembers baking her first pie at age 10.
“My mom said, ‘It’s time you learned how to make a good apple pie,’” said Cockton while peeling apples at her kitchen sink. She doesn’t know exactly what type of apple is going into this particular pie because she was given a bag of them at Grandma Lambe’s but she usually selects Macintosh, or Spys a bit later in the season. She cuts them into small pieces, saying she doesn’t like chunky pies, she likes it when the apples cook right down and become saucy.
Growing up just outside of Creemore, her family had a big orchard of Greenings and Spys, which went into those early pies. She used lard back then, too. Once she learned it was rendered from pork, she switched to shortening (For Linda, it’s Crisco and nothing else).
After learning how to make her first pie, from then on it was Cockton’s job to make the pies for family dinners. It was a tradition to have a big meal on Sunday.
Leaving the apples, Linda moves to an island in the middle of her kitchen that is set up as a baker’s paradise. It has all her measuring cups and pans stored in large drawers; everything is within reach.
As for the pastry – the most intimidating to some – Linda says the secret is to work with cold ingredients and don’t over work it.
“It’s so simple even you could do it,” she says, but I am not convinced.
She scoops two cups of Five Roses all purpose flour into her bowl and adds one cup of cold shortening, right from the fridge.
“Try to avoid touching the mixture with your hands,” she says, because they warm it up. Cut in the shortening with a pastry knife until it’s chunky and then continue mixing with a pastry blender until crumbly. Now drizzle in cold water (approximately 6-8 tbsp) and mix until it all holds together.
Unless you’re telekinetic you will eventually have to use your hands to form the dough into two balls, one for the bottom crust and one for the top. On a floured surface roll out the dough using a floured rolling pin to a perfect thickness (about an eighth of an inch, maybe?).
I will add a disclaimer here: There is a lingo used among bakers like ‘mix until gooey’ or add ‘a smidgeon’ of this or that. Sometimes you just have to have a feel for it.
After pressing the dough into the pie plate, trim the excess from the edge with a knife, and turn the oven on to 450 F.
Linda turns her attention back to the apples now. She stirs in one half cup of white sugar and a heaping tablespoon of flour and ‘a good sprinkle’ of cinnamon – this depends greatly on personal taste.
After placing the apples in the pie shell, Linda sprinkles them with brown sugar and adds a few dabs of butter. This creates a butterscotch type sauce once the apples start to cook down. She then rolls out the second ball of dough and cuts air vents in it before transferring it to the top. Using water, she seals the edges of the crust, pinching her way along.
Once the oven reaches temperature, she bakes the pie for 15 minutes before turning the oven down to 350F to cook for another 40-45 minutes. Cooking it at a higher temperature for the first bit makes the bottom crust crisp.
Linda said the best part of baking an apple pie is sharing it with others. She said she loves having company, feeding people and seeing them happy. And they are always happy to see her apple pie.
The annual Creemore Apple Pie Contest will be a part of the village’s Thanksgiving celebrations. Bakers are encouraged to have a homemade pie ready for the judges on Saturday, Oct. 12.
Apple pies must be submitted by 9:30 a.m. at the Apple Pie Contest booth at Creemore Farmers’ Market next to Station on the Green.
They will be judged on flavour, appearance, crust and texture. The winner will be announced at 10:30 a.m. with ribbons going to the top bakers.
New this year, non-pie apple treats will be accepted into a separate category, with one winner chosen.
Those in attendance will have a chance to sample some pie in exchange for a donation to the charity of the winner’s choice.
We made a few errors in the print version of this story but they have been corrected here. Sorry Linda!