Smitten with Apple Pie

1/12/2013 7:00 AM
By Anne Harnish Food and Family Features Editor

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Getting young people enthused about home-cooking is a big motivator for winning baker Lorrie Rauch of New Tripoli, Pa.

“Everything homemade tastes so great,” said Lorrie Rauch, maker of the best apple pie in the state of Pennsylvania this year, according to contest judges at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg, Pa., last Saturday. Rauch wants people to start cooking at home again, and explained why.

“There are many reasons. You get a sense of accomplishment,” she said. “I love to cook and bake, and I want young girls to start cooking and baking again.”

Rauch works in the Kutztown University housing department and shares her enthusiasm with students there.

“Students say, Oh, it’s too much work,” Rauch said, even though they love to eat her homemade pies, which she makes to order during the holidays.

Rauch likes entering food contests, especially, she said, “competing with all the other great bakers in the state.”

The pie entries at the Farm Show do not need to be traditional two-crusted apple pies, but the filling must be at least 60 percent apples.

Though Rauch won the first-place apple pie prize in 2009, she changed a few details this time around. Her winning Peachy Apple Pie featured the same crust as her 2009 winning pie, but she created a different filling — layers of peaches and cream cheese. She also added more strips to the lattice crust on top and wove them more densely this time.

Her apples are always the freshest Cortlands she can find. Her family has 18 of their own fruit trees on her husband’s farm, but she said the spring frost damaged their apples this year, so she purchased her Cortlands at a store, also noting they were grown at an orchard in Shanesville, Pa.

For winning first place, Rauch took home a blue ribbon and $500, which she said will go toward expenses for her daughter’s upcoming wedding.

What is Rauch’s advice to other potential baking contestants: “Never give up.”

Rauch has certainly not given up. Besides 2009, she won the Farm Show’s award for third-place apple pie in 2010 and second-place honors in 2011.

In addition to being rated on overall appearance and creativity, the apple pies were judged on a broad variety of factors such as the filling’s flavor, consistency, doneness and moistness, and on the crust’s color, flavor, texture and doneness.

Second-place apple pie winner RoseAnn Scheurer, Nazareth, Pa., prefers to make a crumb topping for her apples. She won the first-place prize for her apple pie at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in 2008 and said “the judges seem to like the taste of caramel or butterscotch (in the pie).” She also competed in the chocolate cake contest this year (and took third place) but emphasized that “chocolate cake is a lot of work!”

Scheurer won $250 for second-place honors and said she plans to put the money into guitar lessons, which she started taking recently.

Stacie Hart, Muncy, Pa., the fourth-place winner, said she sends her pies to work with her husband so he can get feedback from his buddies.

“They are my judges,” she laughed, after accepting her award at the Farm Show pie contest.

Hart entered a Blackberry Cheesecake Apple Pie with apples on the bottom.

“In the summer, I was just playing around (with ingredients),” she said about how she came up with her combination.

Hart is the owner of a hair salon and said she listens to the Food Network “a lot” while she cuts hair, which gives her new baking ideas.

Hairdressers apparently have a knack for baking pies this year. Hairdresser Jennifer Shawver, of McClure, Pa., also took home $100 for her third-place pie.

For Shawver’s pie, she spent time researching “a lot,” she said, and pieced together her ingredients. Her uncle Jerry also enjoys entering their local fair’s food competitions and the two have had a playful competition in the baking contests over the years.

“I like to try different things,” Shawver said. She “tests” her pie creations at family gatherings and large events.

Tara Cloud, Quarryville, Pa., won fifth place in the apple pie contest last Saturday. She uses Granny Smith apples and this year added raisins to her pie at the request of her husband.

“I knew I made a good pie,” she said, describing what motivated her to enter the contest at her local fair. (Apple pie contestants at the Farm Show must place first in one of Pennsylvania’s more than 100 fairs to make it to the state level.)

Cloud added a special crust this year, shaping delicate “leaves” out of dough and overlapping those shapes to make a special edging around her pie.

At right is the first-place pie recipe by Lorrie Rauch.

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