Apple Pie

Apple Pie

While considering dessert for Independence Day, I naturally thought of red, white & blue desserts first. Then a radical thought: What could be more American than Apple Pie? Love of Apple Pie is like a sign of wholesome American-ness in presidential candidates.

Apple Pie is a fun project, it need not be a chore. Break it down, if that makes it easier. Making the pie crust dough a day or two before (store in plastic wrap in fridge til you are ready to roll) and make the apple filling a day or two in advance, too (let cool and store in a plastic container in fridge) and then when you’re ready, you just assemble as you wish. Think about the many ways you can present it: One single pie (infinite top crust options– Pinterest is loaded with ideas), a couple small pies, hand pies (pretty trendy these days and fun for a party) and even pie pops (this sounds nutty, but it can work! I tried it. Basically, you make little hand pies and bake popsicle sticks or lollipop sticks in position.)

My recipe for Apple Pie is something I worked on over several years. (Now I do the “poor me!” face and talk about the arduous task of not just flinging flour and shaking sugar in the kitchen, but the endless taste testing! Oh, my life is hard!) Here’s what I have learned:

• I prefer apples cut in chunks rather than slices because it makes the pie easier to eat and because the filling is easier to use in small hand pies that way.

• Also, I like the apples in my final pie to be soft and I like the top crust to be fairly snug against the apples. To achieve this, you need to pre-cook the apples on the stove before baking. A cooked-apple pie is both juicier and softer than a raw apple pie. That’s a fact.

• And finally, I do suggest pre-baking the bottom crust. You will be judged on your pie crust. People notice if it is flaky vs. soggy, so take heed. Former White House Pastry Chef, Bill Yosses, dubbed by President Obama as “The Crust Master”, advises pre-baking the bottom crust and adds this note, ” Placing the pie on the bottom oven rack or, even better, atop a baking stone will help ensure a nice, crisp pastry.”

You can use a variety of apples in Apple Pie. I generally use an assortment possibly including some combination of these: Crispin, Honey Crisp, Gala, Fiji, Jonathan, Jonagold, Pippin, Gravenstein, Braeburn, Fuji and Pink Lady.

Everyone enjoys a well-executed classic–everyone from presidents & hopefuls to salt-of-the earth regular guys. And all that diversity is just what America is all about. How do you like them apples?

P.S. Apple pie can keep at room temperature for 2-3 days or in the refrigerator for about a week if it has not been polished off well before then.

Apple Pie
Cuisine: All-American!
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 pie
This is the best Apple Pie because the crust is pre-baked and the apples are pre-cooked and when the two parts meet, it is unbeatable.
  • 1 batch pastry dough
  • 3lbs apples
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup honey
  • ⅓ cup corn starch
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  1. Make the pastry dough in advance and have it chilling in the refrigerator as you prepare the apples.
  2. Peel, core and cut the apples in to chunks. (should be about 7-8 cups by volume)
  3. Melt the butter in a very large skillet, then add the apples and toss them until covered.
  4. Set heat to medium and cover the apples. Stir occasionally for about 5-7 minutes until the apples are softened on the outside but still slightly crunchy.
  5. Stir in the sugar, honey, cinnamon,salt, lemon zest and lemon juice.
  6. In a separate bowl, combine the corn starch, with just enough water to make a thick but not lumpy liquid then stir this mixture into the apples to and increase heat slightly. Continue stirring occasionally as the juices become thick and syrupy (about 3-5 min.)
  7. Immediately after the filling is ready, pour it onto a baking sheet to cool--this will stop the cooking process so it won't get soggy. At this point, if you want to let it cool fully and store in the refrigerator and assemble the pie another day, you can do that, or after it cools you can continue.
  8. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees. Roll out your bottom crust and put it in the prepared 9" pie pan. Crimp the edges and use pie weights, dried ride or dried beans with a layer of parchment between to hold that crust down while it bakes for about 10 minutes. Then take it out and let it cool.
  9. Now add that apple filling and add your top crust. Brush it with egg wash and maybe sprinkle some coarse sugar to make it look extra nice. Bake for about 40-50 minutes until the top is richly browned and the filling has begun to bubble.


Pro Tips for Pie Crust

There’s a line I love in “Anything You Can Do,” the song from Annie Get Your Gun where Annie Oakley trades boasts with Frank Butler.

Spunky Annie pretty consistently tops Frank — in sharpshooting, drinking, fast-talking, and more — until they reach the ultimate challenge: “Can you bake a pie?”

Frank frowns.

“Neither can I,” shrugs Annie.

And I must say, pie-baking can be intimidating — until you learn a few things about pie crust.

Sticky dough, crumbly dough, difficulty rolling, trouble transferring a rolled crust to the pie pan: I’ve been there at various times. But as with scones and biscuits, the basic techniques and a trustworthy recipe will do the trick every time. Ready for pie perfection? Let’s roll!

1.Use the Right Recipe
First off, you need to start with an iron-clad recipe. I always use this one. For chicken pot pies as well as for fruit pies. For lattice top pies, for hand pies and mini pies.

2.Chill The Dough Just Enough
When I was first making pies, I misunderstood this direction and I wound up chilling the dough til it was completely solid then trying to smash that down and roll it. That does not work, in case you don’t know. The dough just cracks and is unworkable. You chill the dough until the butter is firm but still malleable. If your dough is too cold, let it sit on the counter a bit before you roll it. On the other hand, if it is too soft, you might keep putting flour on your rolling pin and counter top, but it will just keep sticking. That’ll be because the butter is too warm and you need to chill the dough before continuing.

3.Use A Light Dusting Of Flour
You should have already made the perfect pie crust, so don’t alter the proportions much by adding in a bunch of flour now. Use only just what you must to prevent sticking–a light sprinkling on your work surface and rolling pin a few times should be enough to do the job.

4.Work All The Angles
The idea here is that if you keep rolling in the same direction such as from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock on your dough and back again, you will get some unevenness. If you alternate with some rolling in other directions such as a diagonal roll from 5 o’clock to 11 o’clock and 7 o’clock to 1 o’clock. Mix it up to get your smoothest, most level crust.

5.Use a Bench Scraper
This tool is so helpful! You use it as you are rolling to lift the dough up a few times along the way and re-position it by lightly flouring again underneath and giving it a 1/4 turn. Doing so prevents sticking and helps keep it smooth. (Bench scrapers are also useful in cutting strips for a lattice top if you wish, for easily lifting scones to the tray, and as a tool in icing cakes.) You’ll use it again in the next step.

6.Easiest Way To Get It In The Pan
Once you’re satisfied that you’ve rolled the dough out nice and evenly, grease your pan and hold it above the rolled dough to make sure your dough extends past its size and will fill the pan with room for a pinched crust. Looks good? Ok, now use your bench scraper to pick up the edge of the fully rolled crust and gently lift it over the rolling pin. Slowly roll the pin with the dough scrolling around it like a window shade. Hold this above your pie pan and unscroll it until it drapes slightly off all sides. Press out any air bubbles so it’s flat against the pan. Now you’re ready to crimp the edges, trim,  fill it and bake.

That’s it, hot shot. Now you’re baking pie that really hits the mark!


We’re Back for St. Paddy’s Day!

Is this getting to be a thing?

In addition to selling packs of freshly-baked Ginger Chocolate Cookies each weekend at Very Virginia Shop, I’m once again offering cookies for holiday pickup — this time for St. Patrick’s Day.

As usual, we’re talking about the fresh-baked, 100%-scratch cookies you know and love. I’m offering them by the baker’s dozen — either an assortment or a single flavor — and I’m also offering shamrock-shaped sugar cookies by the half dozen. Order online and then pick them up in historic downtown Leesburg. I’ll be packing them in bakery boxes with tissue paper and a Lola sticker, just as we did at the bakery.

Here’s some info to know:

♣ The address of Very Virginia is 16 South King Street.

♣ Pickup is from 1pm to 5pm only — so please select a pickup day when you can definitely make it into downtown Leesburg during the afternoon.

♣ My online store is a bit finicky and will act like you’ve placed a shipping order. Please ignore that: All cookie orders are for pickup only.(We’ll send an e-mail reminder to everyone who orders.)

♣ And finally, I always recommend ordering early if possible to ensure availability. I’ll be deleting the heavily booked pickup dates from the online order form as I reach capacity.

Thanks again to Very Virginia’s owner, Sola Pallotta, for enabling me to bake for Leesburg. Be sure to get other Virginia-themed gifts when you’re in her store!

♣ ♣ Sláinte! ♣ ♣


Taking Pickup Orders for Valentines Week Cookies!

Great news! After the success of our Christmas season cookie sales via Very Virginia Shop, I’ve decided to once again offer cookies for pick up the same way for the week of Valentines Day.

Once again, I’m offering local pickup of Lola’s fresh-baked, from-scratch cookies, sold by the baker’s dozen and sugar cookies by the half dozen. Order online and then pick them up in historic downtown Leesburg.

You can buy a dozen of one of my popular flavors, or an assortment that includes some Valentines Day-themed sugar cookies. I’ll be packing them in bakery boxes with red tissue paper and a Lola sticker, just as we did at the bakery.

There are a few things you should know.

First, the address of Very Virginia is 16 South King Street. Second, pickup is from 1pm to 5pm only — so please select a pickup day when you can definitely make it into downtown Leesburg during the afternoon. Third, my online store is a bit finicky and will act like you’ve placed a shipping order. Please ignore that: All cookie orders are for pickup only.

(We’ll send an e-mail reminder to everyone who orders.)

And last, I recommend ordering early to ensure availability. This is important: I’ll be deleting the most popular pickup dates from the online order form as I reach capacity — so if you absolutely need a February 14th pickup, for example, now’s the time to order.

My deep thanks to Very Virginia’s owner, Sola Pallotta, for enabling me to bake for Leesburg again this season. Be sure to get other Virginia-themed gifts when you’re in her store!



Back in Downtown Leesburg

After a couple of years, Lola’s is back in historic downtown Leesburg!

Not a new bakery, alas — but our fresh-baked cookies are now available each weekend at the Very Virginia Shop.

You might remember that our little bakery once shared a building with Very Virginia: We opened our doors at the same time in 2006, with Very Virginia in the front of the pink house and Lola’s in the back.

Lola and Leo
Lola and Leo the Leesburg Bear

Very Virginia’s owner Sola Pallotta has been a great supporter of Lola’s ever since. (Sola is a great supporter of everything Leesburg. Besides selling lots of local goods, she books all the music acts that make First Fridays so much fun.)

For quite a while now, Sola has wanted me to sell cookies through her store. This fall she asked again, and the timing was finally right.

So here’s the scoop: Very Virginia is located nowadays in the heart of the historic district, at 16 South King Street. Each weekend, from Friday afternoon through Sunday, it sells my trademark Ginger Chocolate Cookies and M&M Cookies, each in packs of three.

While you’re getting your Lola’s fix, I hope you’ll linger in Very Virginia. It’s a charming shop full of local flavor: Foods and merchandise from right here in Leesburg, from Loudoun County, and from Virginia more broadly. If you need a gift with some Leesburg character, it’s a terrific place to shop.

In fact, this is the perfect time of year to rediscover all the shops in our lovely downtown. Stroll around with a Lola cookie in your hand — what could be better on a fall day?

Cream Cheese Icing

Cream Cheese Icing

{ Photo by Galie Photography }

For some cakes and cupcakes — coconut, carrot cake and red velvet, to name a few — nothing is a better match than cream cheese icing. My recipe is simple and classic.

Cream Cheese Icing
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: Icing for 18 cupcakes
  • 1½ sticks butter, cut into chunks
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 1 lb 11 oz powdered sugar
  1. Put butter in the bowl of stand mixer and run at low speed until it is broken down, then increase speed to medium and beat it until it is smooth. This could take 3-6 minutes.
  2. Scrape down the bowl when it seems done, checking that butter is completely smooth. If it needs more time, run mixer again.
  3. Once the butter is totally smooth, add cream cheese and stir at low speed until it is fully combined.
  4. Add the extracts, and stir until combined.
  5. Add half the powdered sugar and stir in slowly. Then add the rest of the powdered sugar bit by bit, stirring until it is all mixed.
  6. Scrape down bowl; run mixer once more to ensure everything is fully mixed.
  7. You can use this icing right away, or put it in an airtight container to use later. It will keep for up to 3 weeks in the fridge.
  8. If you opt to refrigerate, let the icing soften before using: Set container on counter at room temperature for at least 60 minutes, or soften by running in the mixer.
Recipes that feature this icing: Coconut Cupcakes; Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes


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