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My oh my, love that apple pie

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There was no shortage of apple pies at Cashmere Apple Days this past weekend.

Dorothea King made eight pies herself for the event. She made 16 last year, but she was only 89 years old then.

None of King's pies were entered in this year's Apple Days Apple Pie Contest. She was grand prize winner at least one year in the past and always a top finisher during the 10 years she's been a Cashmere resident.

"I'm a newcomer, but I feel like I invented the place. I love everything about it," said  the exuberant former Puget Sound resident.

Pie and baked good sales along with other Apple Days revenue is the main fundraiser for the excellent Cashmere Museum and Pioneer Village. Baked good sales raise between $3,000 and $3,500 for the museum each year, she said.

King didn't enter this year's contest because she was asked to be a judge. King, Scott Dilly, owner of Pioneer Market in Cashmere and Peshastin Market, and I judged 19 delicious pies Saturday morning.

Once a regular, it was my first time judging the contest in more than 25 years. No one could remember how long the contest has been held.

Cashmere resident Laurel Ayers baked the Grand Champion pie, also first in the senior division. Her pie had the perfect flaky crust and slightly tart apple filling, sweetened with sugar and cinnamon. Her secret weapon — one that clearly contributed to her top score — was the piping hot pie right from her oven. Warm pie was a sweet touch on a crisp morning of outside pie tasting.

Top winner in the highly competitive adult women's division was made by Sheila Parkins, a Cashmere native who now lives in East Wenatchee. I bought what remained of her delicious pie and can tell you it was all that a great apple pie should be: Great complexity of apple flavors in a flaky, perfectly cooked crust.

Parkins later told me she used five different types of apples in the pie: Granny Smith, Jonagold, Honey Crisp, Fuji and one mystery apple.Top winner in the men's division was Zech Siltman. Youth winner was Keelauna Lloyd.

Complexity and texture are important to a good pie, said King. Balance is critical. Not too sweet or tart. Full fruit flavor not masked with too much cinnamon. Soft but not mushy with a hint of apple crispness. Her preference in apple types are Gravenstein and Jonagold. I like Jonathan and Braeburn, partly because I have both growing in my yard, but it's a great combination for taste and texture.

King advised replacing a portion of the water with vodka in making the crust to reduce glutten and get the dough the right consistency without making it soggy. The vodka evaporates quickly in the oven. Ed Cannon, coordinator of the past 10 apple pie contests, recommended placing the pie on a preheated black pizza pan to get a perfectly baked bottom crust.

Cannon said he keeps recipes for all kinds of pies — not just apple — and is happy to share them. His e-mail is elcjdc@nwi.net.

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