Wednesday, December 30, 2009



In the 2009 Crisco Great American Pie Festival, Dawn Viola’s vanilla apple pie won top honors in the professional category. Dawn, a professional member of the American Culinary Federation, is a food writer, award-winning cook, and nationally recognized artist who has written original recipe articles, food features, cooking instruction documents and commentary for a variety of publications and blogs.

There’s been some hype going around the blogosphere about Dawn’s winning recipe, and I was sucked in. I actually bought every expensive ingredient so that I could make this pie ($12.00/lb for Danish butter + vanilla beans + vanilla powder). This ranks as the most expensive pie I’ve ever made. And, sadly – or happily, depending on how you look at it – I will never make it again.

There were six of us ready to sink our teeth into this delectable-looking pie the day I made it. And all six of us were let down. The consensus was that the pie is over-flavored with vanilla and heavy with fatty butter in the crust and filling. It’s very heavy and rich tasting, to the point where the apples are overwhelmed. In addition, broiling the apples is very time-intensive. It took about a half hour for the amount of apples (13 cups to be exact) to broil properly. You really need to stand right by the broiler the whole time and constantly toss apples to keep them from burning. If you’re looking for a really great pie recipe that delivers a truer apple flavor, try Perfect Apple Pie, the absolute best apple pie I’ve ever tasted, and the hands-down fave of everyone who has tried it. For less work, and almost as good results, try Southern Living's Best-Ever Apple Pie or Food Processor Apple Pie. But, just in case you don’t believe me and need to find out for yourself, I’m printing the recipe below. I’ve rated this pie 7 out of 10. The reason I gave it such high marks is because we did enjoy it. The crust is very flaky and tender and the filling is good – it’s just not good enough to warrant the expense and work involved. Final word: It’s okay to add a little vanilla to an apple pie, but the amount that’s used in this recipe is overkill. And, although butter rocks, you can overdo anything.

Final, final word: It doesn't make me happy to diss a recipe. This pie did win a major prize, and the judges obviously loved it. Dawn clearly came up with a winning combination of flavors, and I'm sure that anyone who makes this pie will love it. I'm just sayin'...

Vanilla-Vanilla Bean Roasted Apple Pie
Source: Dawn Viola, 2009 Crisco Great American Pie Festival Professional Category
Rating: 7 out of 10 PRINTABLE RECIPE
Crust: 2-1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. vanilla powder
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2-1/2 sticks unsalted Danish butter, cut into 1/2” cubes
1 Tbsp. white vinegar, chilled
6-8 Tbsp. ice water

Filling: 4 Tbsp. Danish butter
12 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced in large chunks (about 13 cups)
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup sugar
4 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup apple cider
1 Tbsp. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract (Dawn left this out of the ingredient list, and I’m guessing the amount.)

Egg Wash: 1 egg
1 Tbsp. cream
coarse sugar

Measure out all crust ingredients and place in freezer 15 minutes. Place the food processor blade & bowl in freezer for 15 minutes. Combine flour, salt, vanilla powder, sugar & vanilla bean seeds in food processor; pulse to mix. Add butter cubes; pulse 10 times, or till mixture is like coarse meal with pea-sized pieces. Add vinegar; pulse to mix. Add 1 Tbsp. water at a time, pulsing to incorporate, till mixture begins to clump together. Pinch some dough in your hand. If it sticks together, the dough is ready. If dough does not stick to itself, add another Tbsp. of water, pulse and pinch dough again. Repeat till dough holds together without being overly wet. Remove dough from processor; transfer to work surface. Dive into two equal parts and gently shape into two flat round discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat broiler. Add apples, vanilla bean seeds, cinnamon and 2 Tbsp. of the sugar to a roasting pan; toss apples to coat. Broil until the tops of the apples begin to brown. Toss apples as they brown. Once apples are caramelized, remove from heat and add remaining sugar, flour, vanilla extract and salt. Add apple cider & cream; stir to incorporate. Taste for seasoning, add salt, sugar, vanilla or cinnamon to taste.

Place a 9” pie plate in freezer. Remove one dough disc from fridge and let sit at room temperature 5-10 minutes, or till easy enough to roll, but still chilled. Lightly flour work surface; roll dough out to 12” circle. Place in bottom of the chilled pie plate. Return to fridge to chill. Remove after 5 minutes and add apples. Remove second dough disc and roll out to 1” circle on lightly floured surface. Place on top of apples and pinch top and bottom dough edges together to enclose apples. Add decorate edge if desired. Slice 1” air vents around top of pie.

Beat egg in small dish; mix in cream; lightly brush over top of pie and along edges. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake at 400F 30 minutes. Cover edges with aluminum foil if needed. Turn pie in oven and continue to cook for another 15 minutes, or longer until crust is golden brown and flakey and apples are cooked through. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool at least 2 hours before serving.


Velva said...

I was sorry to hear that the pie was a disappointment-especially, after all that work and expensive ingredients. I guess this pie is proof that expensive and complicated are not always best.

Happy New Year to you!

George Gaston said...

Judy, great review of this Award Winning pie. Just goes to show that you do not have to spend lots of money to have the best. Too often the simpliest ingredients that are home-grown and easy to obtain are better than those that cost lots of money and are from far away.

It does look delicious, but still taste is what makes a recipe great!

Many thanks for saving us from making this recipe.

A Year on the Grill said...

I so much appreciate this review. I am too cheap to buy the ingredients, so i feel a little better about missing out. Thanks for the extra links

Lynda said...

This is a gorgeous looking pie, Judy! But I can't believe the amount of butter it uses-WOW!
I'm perfectly happy with the other pies myself and I appreciate your honest reviews.
Have a Happy New Year!

Katrina said...

Wow, that is a beautiful pie! But wow, the cost! I'd probably just stick with a good old apple pie recipe, Ina's mile high apple pie is really good! I adapted that one a little bit once and it got rave reviews.

Katrina said...

Oh, Happy New Year, Judy!

Gera @ SweetsFoods said...

What a magnificent pie exactly to my liking :)

Happy New Year for You!!

Wishing the best,


Donna-FFW said...

What a shame to waste all that money, I so love your honest review however.That is why I know I can trust your recipes. I come back to them time and again.I will follow your recommendations on the apple pie!

Fresh Local and Best said...

Sorry to hear the pie was a disappointment. That is an awful lot of butter. I'm glad that you have other great recipe to recommend.
Happy New Year!

Anncoo said...

Happy New year and wishing you & your family all the best for the coming year.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I hate when I spend a lot of money and time on a dish and it doesn't pan out! Sometimes a simple apple pie is best!

Happy New Year Judy! Looking forward to your creations in 2010!

Linda said...

I totally appreciate your candor.... I find that the trend with professional cooks ... especially the food network and even contests such as expensive ingredients and complicated recipes that add more work than necessary... that's fine for them... but that's not what I'm about...

As far as overdoing butter (or cream or sugar) apparently you never watch Paula Deen? The amazing thing is she . too, is extremely popular... guess different strokes for different folks...

Thanks again for your honesty... I'll pass on this recipe..

Have a very Happy New Year!

Kerstin said...

Aww, I'm sorry it was disappointing. I'm going to check out your other recommendations!

Grace said...

i think i'll always find something to love about every bite of any apple pie i ever ingest, but i've definitely had some that wasn't up to snuff. sorry this one disappointed, but i can see how it might happen--vanilla should never overshadow cinnamon! :)

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