The Recorder - Apples take center stage: Without peaches this season, Apex Orchard celebrated apples at their annual season kickoff event

The Recorder – Apples take center stage: Without peaches this season, Apex Orchard celebrated apples at their annual season kickoff event

I love being a food writer, despite the relatively low pay. I get to indulge my senses. I get to learn about people and cultures by trying their recipes. I even get to deduct the price of some of my groceries.

Perhaps the thing I enjoy most about this profession is interacting with the public. A couple of weeks ago I had two different opportunities to do this, both of which were a lot of fun.

On Thursday, Aug. 24, I visited the Cookbook Club at the Southwick Library.

This group meets monthly to cook from various cookbooks and discuss the dishes they make. Their August project was to cook from my cookbooks, which the library stocked from our local library consortium, CW MARS (Central and Western Massachusetts Resource Sharing).

The only work I had to do consisted of driving and talking. The drive on back roads to Southwick was lovely, and talking is never really work for me. In exchange, I got to know fun new people and eat food I hadn’t prepared. To cap off the evening, I sold copies of my cookbooks.

The entire evening was pleasure … until I had to drive home in the dark on those picturesque back roads. My night vision has never been good, and it seems to be getting worse! Despite my fleeting fears that I would end up in a ditch in Montgomery or Cummington, I arrived home safely and in good spirits.

On the following Sunday, Aug. 26, I was invited to Apex Orchards to help celebrate the farm’s season kickoff. In the morning, I made a couple of apple dishes from my books for customers using my (gloved!) hands and my toaster oven.

In the early afternoon, I joined Apex’s co-owner, Tim Smith, and DJ Bobby C. Campbell in judging the orchard’s annual recipe contest.

For the past couple of years, this contest has focused on peaches. Sadly, as I’m sure readers know, there aren’t any local peaches this year. Apex did have some in stock from Connecticut, but the orchard didn’t feel like celebrating the peach situation so it decided to solicit apple recipes for the contest.

We were all a little concerned as the deadline for entries approached. For a long time, there was only one entry on the table. As the 1 p.m. judging time approached, however, more apple dishes began to show up. By the time we started eating, we had eight entries to judge, a respectable number.

Most of these were sweet. We did have a couple of savory entries. The owner of Caravan Kitchen, the food truck that was on hand for the weekend-kickoff event, submitted two delicious paninis that featured apples.

In addition, someone — I forgot to write down who! — submitted Cheesy Apple Sliders, which stuffed apples and cheese between two star-shaped mini-biscuits.

Choosing a winner wasn’t easy. A couple of the submissions, a Gooey Apple Cake in little paper cups and beautifully frosted Apple-Spice Cupcakes, stood out for their stupendous presentation. Nevertheless, we focused as much on flavor as on taste.

After discussion and repeated tastes (judging is hard and filling work!), we ended up awarding first prize to the lovely and delicious Apple Squares created and baked by Kathleen Higbee of Summerville, South Carolina.

Kathleen grew up in Greenfield and comes home frequently to help care for her 97-year-old mother. Her sister knew that Kathleen loves to bake (Kathleen’s husband has a sweet tooth, and she caters to it) and suggested that she enter the contest.

Her squares had the strongest apple taste of any of the entries, with lots of cinnamon sprinkled in. They were also beautifully presented; she swirled a confectioner’s-sugar-based glaze on top for extra appeal.

Second place went to the previously mentioned Gooey Apple Cake, by Sue Grader, and third was won by Jim Graves’s Apple Coffee Cake. Honorable mention went to the succulent sandwich called Sweet Surrender (which featured peaches as well as apples!) by Caravan Kitchen.

Kathleen Higbee gladly shared her recipe, which appears below. Happy apple season!

Kathleen Higbee’s Apple Squares


for the apple filling:

6 cups or more apples (about 6 apples, depending on size), cut into tiny pieces (1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes); Kathleen didn’t specify the type of apple; look for something that will hold its shape while baking

sugar and cinnamon to taste (3/4 to 1-1/2 cups sugar, 2 to 3 teaspoons cinnamon)

2 heaping tablespoons Clear Jel

for the crust:

1 cup vegetable shortening

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2-1/2 cups flour

1 egg, separated

2/3 cup milk

2 tablespoons softened butter

for the glaze:

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

water as needed


Begin by making the filling. Place the apples in a medium saucepan. Pour 1/2 inch of water onto the bottom of the pan.

In a bowl, combine the cinnamon and the sugar. Stir in the Clear Jel.

Sprinkle this mixture on top of the apples.

Heat the mixture until the apples are semi-soft. Remove the pan from the heat, and let it cool. The apples should be soft with a syrupy liquid.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

To prepare the crust, mix the shortening, the sugar, the salt, and the flour together with a pastry blender. Beat the egg yolk, and add it along with the milk.

Roll out half of the dough to fit the bottom of jelly roll pan. Spread half of the softened butter over the dough. Spread the apple filling over the butter. Dot the remaining the butter over the apple filling.

Roll out the second half of the dough. Place it on top of the apple filling.

Lightly beat the egg white, and brush it on top of the dough.

Bake the squares for 35 minutes. Taken them out of the oven, and let them cool.

When the squares have cooled completely, prepare the glaze.

Combine the confectioner’s sugar and the vanilla. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons water, enough to achieve drizzling consistency. Drizzle the glaze over the apple bars, and give the glaze a little while to harden before slicing the squares.

This makes about 24 bars, depending on size.

Tinky Weisblat is an award-winning author and singer known as the Diva of Deliciousness. Visit her website,

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