Hunter Ernst is a pie kind of guy.
He’s not big on baking cookies or cakes, he says; pies are his thing. And he’s made a variety through the years: blueberry, pumpkin and others.
Not bad for a 7 1/2-year-old.
It was Hunter’s apple pie that carried the day when he clinched the people’s choice honors Saturday in the third annual apple pie baking contest at Naper Settlement.
The incoming Avery Coonley School second-grader was matter-of-fact about his win afterward.
“If I won, I’d be OK,” he said. “But if I didn’t win, that would be OK too.”
Part of the outdoor living history museum’s yearly Hometown Picnic festivities, the competition drew nine freshly baked contestants. Hunter’s entry was capped off by a lattice crust adorned with an apple-shaped pastry decoration tinted red and green.
Three crumb-topped interpretations of the all-American pie were selected as winners in the primary competition. Kay Slocum’s first-place creation, French Crumb Pie, brought a delicate balance of flavors and textures, which the baker attributed to the apple varieties, including Granny Smith and Pink Lady, she chose for the filling. The recipe, she said, came out of a well-loved Betty Crocker cookbook she received as a shower gift before she was married.
The crust also was a hit with the four-member judging panel. Slocum, a former Naper Settlement board member, credited her mom for that.
“I lived in the middle of an apple orchard when I was growing up, so I watched her baking apple pies all the time I was growing up,” she said.
The 21-year Naperville resident related how the northwest Indiana orchard surrounding her childhood home held a half-dozen varieties of apple trees, planted decades earlier by her grandfather. Her dad would show some of the finer specimens at the county fair, and also made cider from the fruit yielded by the 100 or so trees.
“My job was to pick up the fallen apples from the lawn,” Slocum said.
She hadn’t baked the pie for a competitive event before, so it was pleasing to come away with top honors.
“I’m a little surprised,” she said. “I looked at the others, and there were some that were so beautiful.”
Eye appeal was a factor for the second-place winner, a crumb-topped tart garnished with pastry hearts and stars, blueberries and raspberries, to underscore the all-American theme. The pie — presented on a flag-themed tray, alongside a vase bearing a cheery sunflower — fell just two points shy of Slocum’s blue ribbon winner.
“That was my great-Aunt Margaret’s recipe,” said Jennifer Walters, the pie’s creator.
Finishing out the top three was the streusel-topped pie entered by Donna DiCosola, who nestled her entry into an old-fashioned pie basket.Tags: Naper Settlement
Here is the recipe, as adapted from Betty Crocker on Pinterest, used by Naperville resident Kay Slocum for her first-place entry in the Naper Settlement apple pie baking contest held Aug. 9.
French Crumb Apple Pie
One 9-inch single pie crust
6-7 cups sliced apples (cored and sliced in 1/4 inch slices)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, chilled
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Mix cinnamon and sugar. Toss sliced apples in cinnamon sugar mixture.
Place sugar-coated apples inside your pie crust in the pie pan. They should mound up above the edge of the pie pan (apples cook down some).
Mix streusel ingredients lightly, using fingers or a fork, until they come together in crumbly pea-sized pieces. Top the apples with the streusel topping.
Set pie pan in a jelly roll pan to catch any drips as it cooks. Bake in 400 degree oven for about 50 minutes. Check periodically and cover topping with a layer of aluminum foil if it is browning too much (you can pretty much count on needing to do this).
Let cool slightly (or completely) to facilitate cutting.