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Try these top regional apple pie recipes and bake a classic autumn dessert

Apple Pie Hero Charles Brutlag/Shutterstock

When apples, sugar, butter, cinnamon, and other warming spices come together and are nestled in the loving embrace of a delicate dough, the enticing aroma wafting from the oven is one of the best parts of autumn. It’s as American as, well, apple pie.

Meet two expert bakers who share their stories and best tips for making scrumptious apple pies at home. Plus, our curated list of orchards will help you find local apples for your autumn recipes. 

Blue Owl Bakery’s Levee High Apple Pie

A record-setting Missouri flood in 1993 inspired this culinary creation that’s been featured on the Food Network, the Travel Channel, the Today show, and was touted by Oprah. From this charming bakery and restaurant in Kimmswick, Missouri, comes the impressive Levee High Apple Pie. A mound of Golden Delicious apples (18 in total) are stacked into a deep-dish pie crust, baked, and smothered in caramel and pecans.

Mary Hostetter

The Blue Owl's Mary Hostetter holds the hefty Levee High Apple Pie. | Photo courtesy Blue Owl Bakery & Restaurant

Kim Hostetter, Blue Owl Bakery manager, said it’s their best-selling pie. Up to 50 per day are made during busy season, nearly half of which are for the adjacent restaurant that her mother, Mary Hostetter, opened in 1985.

“Last holiday season, I had one person order 200 of them for client gifts,” she said.

Pie lovers can pick up a Levee High Apple Pie at the bakery for about $60 (online, $109). But for home bakers who want to try their luck, Hostetter said the key is using a green Tupperware lettuce bowl to stack the apples.

“That’s the secret to stacking them perfect, and we stack each slice, one at a time. No piling the apples in,” she said. “We also stack some of the apples in the bottom pie crust to give it extra height when we overturn the green bowl.” Download the recipe.

Kimmswick, located about 24 miles south of St. Louis via Interstate 55, was spared during the 1993 flood. During autumn, the town holds a signature event, Apple Butter Festival, that Hostetter said brings 100,000 people into Kimmswick over the last weekend in October. However, the festival for 2020 was canceled in light of COVID-19; next year’s event is scheduled for Oct. 30 and 31.

With or without a festival, the town and its shops are open for business. But if you want a Levee High Apple Pie for your Thanksgiving table, get the order in early. 

Blue Owl Bakery and Restaurant, (844) 448-4340,

Arkansas Fried Apple Pie, Big Springs Trading Co.

They’re a labor of love, so when Jennifer Jones has her grandma’s fried pie on the dessert menu, you know these tiny packages of fruity goodness are going to be special. Her pies were featured last year in Saveur magazine.

“It takes me about two hours to make a full batch (about 16 pies), start to finish, in my commercial kitchen. Home cooks should plan for them to take up the morning,” Jones said.

Her restaurant, Big Springs Trading Co., is located on U.S. Highway 65 in St. Joe, Arkansas, about two miles north of the Buffalo National River. Meats are smoked on the premises using methods taught to Jones by her great-uncle Ben Stills. It’s easy to see how barbecue tops the menu here. She said more than half of her customers come "from the river," but she also gets a lot of travelers from Branson, Missouri.

Jennifer Jones, Big Springs Trading Co.

Jennifer Jones uses her granny's fried apple pie recipe when making the dessert for her Arkansas restaurant. | Photo by Terra Fondriest

There was no doubt that her grandma’s fried pies would be part of the restaurant when it opened at this location 16 years ago. The pies, which sell for $3 each, are not offered every day, so it’s best to call ahead. “You can order a batch with enough notice,” Jones sai

For the filling, Jones uses fruits that are in season, but when it’s apple time, any firm apple will work, like Rome, Granny Smith, or the preferred Arkansas black apple, an heirloom apple from Benton County.

“You’re cooking the apples before you put them into the pies, so you don’t want anything mealy or soft,” she said. “They should keep their shape after being cooked.” Download the recipe

"The thing with making these is that it takes practice, just like any pastry," Jones said. "It's a whole lot easier to show someone how to make them than to tell them, and the telling is what this is all about. Passing ways of doing things down from grandmother to granddaughter is a way of talking about a lot more than pie."

Although fried pies didn’t originate in Arkansas, there’s a long tradition of rural cooks who turned the dessert into a staple dish. Highly portable, the fried pies could be sent with workers into the factory or fields. This Southern culinary staple can be found almost anywhere in Arkansas, according to food writer Kat Robinson. 

Although some cooks shape the pies into triangles, Jones’ pies are crescent-shaped and dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Her best tips for home cooks are to use cast-iron when cooking the apples, crimp the edges well, and don’t overfill the circles. Smelling the filling cooking in the skillet is a harbinger of autumn, a beautiful season in The Natural State.

“Everything about the fall in Arkansas is wonderful: the way the air smells, the leaves, the weather,” Jones said. 

Big Springs Trading Co.,

Liberty Apple Orchard

Enterprise apples are ready for picking at Liberty Apple Orchard. | Photo by Stephen Miller

How about them apples?

Here are five spots to visit this fall for apples. There’s room to spread out on the orchards and farms or at the outdoor market. Health and safety measures related to COVID-19 are noted on individual websites. 

Fayetteville Farmers Market, 1330 N. College Ave., Fayetteville, Arkansas. The best of the autumn harvest can be found in this popular market on the downtown square, and that selection includes Arkansas Black Apples. Since 1973, this year-round market has featured all Arkansas grown and made products. Open on Saturdays and Tuesdays, the market also accepts online orders. 

Liberty Apple Orchard, 8308 Kuhn Station Road, Edwardsville, Illinois. Pick your own, visit the new farm market building, or choose curbside pickup; whichever way, you’ll get locally grown, crisp apples from this family farm. October varieties include Braeburn, Candy Crisp, and Gold Rush. Other treats—cider, baked goods, applesauce, and apple butter—also will be for sale.

Engelbrecht’s Countryside Orchard, 16800 Old Petersburg Road, Evansville, Indiana. Since 1919 when John Engelbrecht started an orchard in north Evansville, this farm has provided fresh food to the area. Owned today by Joe Black (founder, Apple Hill Orchard in Bruceville, Indiana), most of the 40 acres are devoted to peaches, but fall presents Granny Smith apples. This farm’s produce also is available at area farmers' markets.

Cider Hill Family Orchard, 3341 N. 139th Street, Kansas City, Kansas. Seriously, get the apple cider donuts. Probably as popular as the 25 varieties of apples at this family farm, the donuts alone are worth the visit. Kettle corn and take-and-bake sweet treats are here, too. And while hayrides will not be available this season, there is online ordering for customers who need to quickly pick up a peck, half, or full bushel of apples and other goodies. On Thursdays, crop updates are posted to the farm's Facebook page.

Centennial Farms, 199 Jackson Street, Augusta, Missouri. This farm has been in service since 1821; it’s been in the Knoernschild family since 1854. Bob Knoernschild and his wife, Ellen, planted the orchards in 1967, which have grown to include 1,500 apple trees. Grandson Gabe Wright manages the farm today. Pick from 16 varieties of apples. The farm’s kitchen supplies the store with apple butter, preserves, honey, and salsa.

Deborah Reinhardt is managing editor of AAA Midwest Traveler and AAA Southern Traveler magazines.

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