Apple pie is a precious family recipe – The Loveland Reporter-Herald

Pittsburgh – Travis Harhay takes great pride in his deep-dish apple pie. Stacked with fall favorites under a sugary blanket of crunchy crumbs, this is exactly what you imagine when you think of an all-American classic—sweet and fruity, with a luscious crust you can’t wait to dig into.

The fact that the recipe has been passed down through the generations makes it even more special. His maternal grandmother, Angeline Schultz of Acme, Pennsylvania, was the first to make it, and it’s been introduced at countless family gatherings over the years, says Harhay, 30, who works for People’s National Gas to repair gas lines.

However, he didn’t think he could be the winner of the 2021 Blue Ribbon apple pie competition at the Westmoreland County Fair.

“I couldn’t even put it into words,” the Mount Pleasant resident says of his win and the $100 prize that came with it.

It’s even more surprising when you consider that Harhai had only recently started baking, and that he didn’t decide to enter the August 21 contest until the night before, after learning about it from his girlfriend Ashley.

“Then I woke up at 5 in the morning and started peeling the apples,” he says. The finished product went straight from the oven to the judges’ table because “everyone loves warm apple pie”.

Harhai bakes his first pie in four years, at a friend’s dinner party, after he lied about knowing how. He says things did not go well. “So I had to call my mom and get my grandmother’s recipe.”

It took a little trial and error to perfect: He learned the hard way that it’s better to use butter than margarine for the topping. He also now knows that if you use a lot of water in your dough, you’ll have a hard time getting very curly edges.

He is estimated to have made at least 100 pies for family and friends. “It sped off really fast when it started to taste like Grandma,” he says with a laugh.

Although his mother, Jenny, says his pie is better than his grandmother’s pie, Harhay was nervous that day at the fairgrounds. He jokes that he ran three miles during the judging process. (Disclosure: I was among the three judges who sampled the fifteen entries.) In the end, everyone won with his delicious combination of Granny Smith apples and McIntosh, simple crumbs made with sugar, butter, and flour.

He says the toppings are what makes his apple pie special. “If you can do it right, everything else will taste good afterwards.”

Here’s the winning recipe.

Blue Ribbon Apple Crumb Pie

for the crust
1 1/4 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon chilled vegetable shortening
1/4 cup cold water
to fill
10 Granny Smith and/or Macintosh apples
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
to top the crumbs
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare the crust: In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Cut the ghee using a pastry blender or until crumbly. Mix 1 tablespoon of water at a time to form a paste. (They should hold together when pinched.) Form into a ball, flatten it with the palm of your hand into a disk, then roll it out on a floured surface in a circle about 2 inches wide from the pie plate. Transfer the dough to a pie plate.

Prepare the filling: Peel and core the apple and cut it into slices, then place in a large bowl. Add the dry ingredients and mix by hand until all the apples are covered. Pour into pie crust. (It will look like a lot, but the apple will bake.)

Prepare the topping: Put the sugar and flour in a medium bowl. Rub the butter into the mixture with your fingers until it crumbles. Lay the crumb mixture over the unbaked pie.

Place the pie on a cookie sheet (to catch any drips) and bake for 60 minutes or until the apples are completely soft when pierced with a knife. (My pie took about 20 minutes longer).

Transfer the pie to a rack to cool completely, then enjoy.

Makes 1 pie.

Travis Harhay Recipe, Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania.

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