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Great-grandma’s secrets help Solon pies fill winner’s circle

SOLON– After learning to make pie in 2010 at her great-grandmother’s house in Lone Tree, Brianna Smith went right to work on a prize-winning recipe.
In 2011, she won best overall pie filling, beating adults and entries from the youth division. Brianna is now 12 and this year took the best youth pie honor for her apple pie with caramel sauce topping and homemade crust.
After a sleepover, friend Mady Hess joined Brianna and her mom, Michelle Smith, for a collaborative pie-making session before the 2012 Johnson County Fair. The girls entered both names on pies and ended up sharing some top prizes.
“Mady wanted to come to the fair with us and I told her if she wanted to come, she had to make a pie too,” Michelle Smith said. The mother of two showed Hess how to make the filling for a strawberry-blueberry dazzle pie. They used a store-bought crust, but it still won its combination-berry division.
Hess was on a sleepover and they ended up making several and entering both names on the pies.
But it all started in 2010 with Brianna’s great-grandmother who taught about 20 cousins and kids, some of whom went on to teach others parts of their families, in a grand pie-making session.
All the Iowa side of Smith’s family was there to soak up the knowledge of decades of pie-making expertise and it paid off in delicious dividends.
Brianna took Best Youth Pie this year and made more pies for both sides of her family for the holidays.
“I like to boil the caramel sauce,” Brianna said, it’s the topping for her caramel-apple masterpiece (it bears mentioning that she does use Granny Smith apples, but Brianna’s great-grandmother is named Gertrude Swanson).
Her other favorite part is brushing on the milk to make the top crust flaky and then poking crow’s feet to vent the steamy fruit center.
Just what is this seventh-grade, budding baker’s favorite dessert treat? Not pies, it’s cookies, naturally. And for the record, she wants to be a zoologist, not a chef.
If you’re thinking of entering and competing against this precocious prize-winner, remember homemade pie crusts or purchased crusts are allowed, but no refrigerated, custard, cream, meat, or single-crust pies will be accepted. More details on the contest can be found at www.johnsoncofair.com/pie_contest.html.
Always a gracious winner, Brianna agreed to share the recipe for her caramel-apple filling but to find out how to make a homemade crust you’re on your own:

Smith’s Caramel Apple Pie filling
10 T unsalted butter
3/4 C white sugar
3/4 C brown sugar
1/3 C water
1/2 t cinnamon
2 pinch salt
5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Combine butter, white sugar, brown sugar, water, cinnamon and salt in a sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, set aside.
3. Roll out the pastry for the bottom of the pie in bottom of pie plate.
4. Pour apple slices into pie plate.
5. Roll out top crust and cut into strips to make a lattice work top for pie. Fold edges over, crimp and seal.
6. Pour butter-sugar mixture over top of pie– coating the lattice work and allowing any remaining sauce to drizzle through the crust down into the apples.
7. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 min. reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake until the crust is golden brown, the caramel on the top crust is set and the apple filling is bubbling, approx. 35-40 minutes more. Allow to cool completely before slicing.