Win is easy as pie

Top pastry is a 'topsy turvy' treat

Top pastry is a 'topsy turvy' treat

November 19, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

It looked like a pie of sticky buns, which isn't a bad thing.

Most importantly, it tasted wonderful.

Carolyn Etzler's topsy-turvy apple pie was one of the more unusual looking pies in The Herald-Mail's second annual pie contest. But more importantly, it was ruled the best pie.

"The crust was amazing and the presentation was beautiful," said Hagerstown resident Paul Foltz, 28, retail assistant manager and contest judge.

"It wasn't overly sweet, but enough to satisfy your sweet tooth," said Roslyn Levine, customer service/retention manager for The Herald-Mail's Circulation Department.


Etzler, 56, won $50 and bragging rights. She said she found the recipe in one of her more than 8,000 cookbooks, a 1951 Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest cookbook. She adds a caramel topping - "because apples and caramel go together" - and uses chopped pecans instead of whole ones.

She uses Ida red apples and has used any kind of cooking apple except Granny Smith because they are too tart and don't cook as well.

The pie looks a bit odd because it is flipped over after it is baked.

"I never saw a pie like that before," said Art Williamson, dessert lover and husband of one of the sisters who bakes and sells baked goods under the name Three Sisters' Sweet Treats.

Etzler, a contractor for clinical research management at Fort Detrick, says she's no stranger to winning baking contests. During the years, she's won at least once at the Great Frederick (Md.) Fair, the Walkersville (Md.) Community Show and the Thurmont (Md.) Community Show.

This is the first time she's won a pie contest.

"I just throw stuff together. I don't usually go by a recipe. I like to tweak them to my taste," Etzler said.

Etzler has cooked since she was 14, when her mother went back to work. She was made responsible for preparing supper for her family of five.

It wasn't until her 20s that she started experimenting a little, by tweaking recipes. With such a large collection of cookbooks, Etzler likes to find a recipe for a dish in two or three cookbooks and merge them together to create a slightly different version.

She's collected the cookbooks since she was a teenager. A couple of years ago she joined an online cookbook club that reviews, talks about and swaps cookbooks. To learn more about the club go to and search for cookbooksEtCetera.

She's found new recipes and new friends that way, dining on the night of our pie judging with a fellow club member from Texas.

There were 21 entries in The Herald-Mail pie contest, with six going into the finals.

The pies were judged on taste, appearance, overall quality and originality of the recipe. The nine judges were split into two teams with one team reviewing 10 pies and the other team receiving 11 pies. Each team picked three pies to go to the final round. All nine judges tasted the finalists and ranked each on a scale of one to five, with five being the best score. The pie with the highest score won.

The judges were Levine; Foltz; Williamson; Sylvia Shives, retired culinary instructor from the Career Studies Center; Janet Rohrer, who along with her sisters sells their baked goods under the name Three Sisters' Sweet Treats; Jeff Cunningham, dessert lover and maintenance technician for The Herald-Mail; Ann Platou, who judged the cake contest at the 2008 Washington County Ag Expo and Fair, and who is wife of Herald-Mail reporter Arnold Platou; Brigitte Grewe, 14, writer for The Herald-Mail's Pulse teen section; and Beth Rowland, dessert lover and wife of Herald-Mail columnist Tim Rowland.

Topsy-turvy apple pie

For the glaze and crust:

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
15-ounce box of Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box

For the filling:

1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Pillsbury Best all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups Ida red apples, peeled and thinly sliced (4 medium apples)
4 tablespoons Smuckers caramel ice cream topping

For the garnish:

Your favorite ice cream or whipped topping

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a 9-inch shallow glass pie pan, mix the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup. Spread evenly in bottom of pan. Arrange pecans over mixture.

Make pie crusts as directed on box for two-crust pie, placing bottom crust over mixture in pan.

To make the filling, in a small bowl, mix the granulated sugar, flour and cinnamon. Arrange half of the apple slices in the crust-lined pan. Sprinkle with half of the sugar mixture. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of caramel ice cream topping over the sugar mixture.

Repeat with remaining apple slices, sugar mixture and caramel ice cream topping. Top with second crust. Seal edge and flute. Cut slits in several places in top crust.

Place pie pan on sheet of foil on middle rack in oven. Bake 8 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake 35 to 45 minutes longer or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown.

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