Bare feet, budding peonies, pulled pork and coleslaw, kegged Kolsch, a candy-filled cannon, sparklers in the sunlight, cerulean smoke, a Federalist/Republican debate and a preceding campaign song, sweet tea and bourbon, a field spaniel named Sweetie, cirrocumulus clouds, mountain backdrop, front deck philosophizing, and a pie contest=one perfect July 4th.
Chris’s coworker, I’ll call him The Colonel (because he’s a classy, posed fella who has a great love for history and things that go boom), invited us to his house for his annual July 4th celebration. Now, I’ve been to The Colonel’s house once, this past New Years Eve, in fact. It was a 1920s themed party; he and his partner converted their cabin into a space that was 1920’s magical with music, oysters (there was more food but I only remember the oysters), lights, drapes, and a bartender. A bartender (or several bartenders for that matter, many guests taking turn) and a list of 1920s themed cocktails, including my drink of choice for the evening, the French 75. The French 75 is a combination of gin, champagne, lemon juice, and sugar, named so because when it was created in 1915, it was said to have so much kick, it felt like you were getting shelled with a French 75mm field gun. Get shelled that night, I did. I won’t share that story with you because it ended badly for me and you don’t want to know all the gory details, but the take-away (believe it or not, there was a takeaway other than I’m never drinking that much again) was this: I was able to let loose like I’ve never been able to do in my life, partly because of the end to a stressful, hellacious (is that a word?) 6 months at my day-job, and also because of the welcoming and FUN! space The Colonel and his partner created. Letting loose is important to do, even if the cost is being confined to a couch or a body ache or a sunburn.
So, all of that to say, I was stoked to be invited back and was even more excited to learn of the annual pie contest which takes place at this party. Obviously, I had to participate, and I came up with a pie that ranked 3rd out of a dozen or so. Not bad for a first year contender.
The crust is a cheddar crust, inspired by America’s Cookbook Cheese Stick recipe. Well, it’s actually the Cheese Stick recipe itself, rolled out into a pie crust instead of cut into strips. What better to go with cheese than apples? What better to go with apples than maple syrup? With maple syrup, bacon? It’s one-upping the good-ole’ American apple pie by adding even more American cured bacon.
Bacon on a pie, I know it seems weird, and from the look on a handful of party people’s faces when they saw it, they, too, were a little mortified. It’s worth the weird looks. Bacon is always worth it. I should also mention: a piece of this pie makes for a fantastic breakfast.
- For the crust
- 2½ cups all purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cups shortening (Crisco or butter), chilled
- 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
- ⅓ cup ice water
- For the Pie Filling
- 4 large apples (I used 2 Granny Smiths and 2 Pink Ladies)
- 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
- ¾ cup high quality maple syrup
- ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. nutmeg
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- Milk or cream for the top of pie
- ¼ cup Parmesan Reggiano, finely shredded
- For the Maple Whipped Cream
- ½ cup cold whipping cream
- 2 Tablespoons of cold, high quality maple syrup
- Assemble your food processor with the dough attachment. For the pie crust, sift salt and flour together in the bowl of your food processor. Put on the lid. Cut shortening or butter into pieces a little bigger than the width of your thumb and add it to the food processor along with the cheese. Pulse 4-5 times or until the shortening breaks down just a bit. Add 2 tablespoons of ice water and pulse again. Keep adding water, a tablespoon at a time, and pulsing until the dough just comes together. Since you're using a food processor, you'll have to do the "snowball test" to see if it's ready; grab a small handful and shape into a ball. If it holds together without crumbling, it's ready to be refrigerated.
- Divide and roll dough into two balls. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator until the dough is chilled (at least 30 minutes).
- While the dough is chilling, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
- Peel and core your apples and cut each into very thin slices, about ⅛ inch.
- In a bowl, add apples and squeeze lemon juice over slices, tossing until well coated.
- Add maple syrup, brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt to the apples.
- When the dough is chilled, take out of the refrigerator and roll each one flat. Line pie plate with one pastry, fill with fruit mixture, and dot with butter. Top the pie with the second pie crust and trim the excess along the sides of the pie plate.
- Crimp the edges and cut three slits in the top crust so air can escape when cooking.
- Brush top crust with milk and place in the 450 degree oven for ten minutes then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake about 30 minutes longer.
- When the pie has about 5 minutes left to bake, sprinkle top crust with finely grated parmesan reggiano.
- Remove from oven and let cool slightly before adding whipped cream and bacon crumbles.
- **For maple whipped cream: Chill the bowl of a stand mixer in the freezer for about ten minutes. Take it out of the freezer and assemble your mixer with the cold bowl and the whisk attachment. Add cream to bowl and whisk on medium setting until soft peaks form. Add maple syrup and whisk until firm.
Happy belated July 4th, friends! I hope everyone had a safe and lovely long weekend sans sunburns, mosquitoes, and hangovers (whether from food or spirits).