The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper


DieHard TryHards Try Baking Pies

By Staff Writers Nishi Bhagat, Sabrina Cai, Tavish Mohanti, Helen Tian

Careful, this content is HOT… out of the oven! In this unique challenge, the DieHard TryHards channel their finely tuned (or not) quarantine baking skills to see who has the finest pies. Tune in to see the bake-off and its results!




While my pie repertoire may be limited to the annual Thanksgiving dessert, I know that my newfound quarantine baking skills and my dessert design background from binge-watching Cupcake Wars will pull through. You can’t go wrong with a classic apple pie, so that’s where I’ll be taking this challenge — but with a twist! Go big or go home is the DieHard TryHard way, and I know my competitors won’t believe their pies when they see my final product. 


Quarantine has rekindled my deep-seated love for McDonald’s — specifically, their apple pies. So it’s safe to say that after many a time sitting in the parking lot eating three of these baked apple pies (plus an obligatory McFlurry), I am a dessert connoisseur ready to conquer this challenge. I’ll be making miniature-sized apple pies so I can practice a variation of braids and lattices. Paired with a buttery, flaky crust (courtesy of Pillsbury), my recipe will most definitely blow the competition out of the water.


Though I have never attended culinary school, I’ve learned all I need from “The Great British Baking Show,” “Chopped,” and Bon Appétit. I loaf to bake — from banana bread to macarons to carrot cakes. I  hope to take this challenge to the next level with a creamy lemon meringue pie atop a graham-cracker and salted almond crust. To all my fellow bakers, you better watch out, because this tough muffin is ready to turn up the heat. 


I have never baked anything outside of the given cake box mixes, banana bread, and chocolate chip cookies. Baking a pie? Not in my vocabulary. But, you know what, I’ve watched enough “Without a Recipe” to be considered a baking prodigy. So, I guess this would be the perfect starting place for my journey as a Michelin Star chef and honestly, making this salted caramel apple pie should be a piece of pie (cake). I bet my pie will score a 3(.1415926) out of 3 and my competitors wish they could get a piece of me.


Tavish: 1st place

After making that pie, I’m confident people would pay some good le-money to purchase it. Although the crust itself did not turn out as satisfactory as I’d hoped, the end result was still a bright, delicious bite. The meringue was egg-cellent, and the lemon flavor definitely burst through. Though the end result was sweet, the process was definitely a little sour from whisking constantly for fifteen minutes, to burning my fingers on the baking dish. I guess baking just takes some patience, love, and pre-made pie crust. 

Helen: 2nd Place

To say the least, I’m not that happy with my salted caramel apple pie; I’m actually a little salty about it all. Not only did I burn my tongue and lips while making the caramel, but I also forgot to butter my pan. In the end, the pie didn’t even look that cute either. I guess maybe I’m not ready to be a Michelin Star chef yet, but on the bright side, at least the taste wasn’t absolutely terrible, especially with the ice cream and caramel on top. So, I’m glad I gave baking pies a shot and I would still give it a 3(.1415926), just out of 5 this time.

Nishi: 3rd Place

I’m a firm believer in “It’s what’s on the inside that matters,” and I’d say that applies to pies too. Sure aesthetically, my pie may not be amongst the rank of the Cupcake Wars Champions, but the apples within were like a warm, cinnamon hug. The designs turned out a lot cuter than I thought they would, so it ended apple-y ever after all. At the end of the day, my pie still smells and tastes great so win or lose, I’m still ~filling~ great. 

Sabrina: 4th Place

So I probably should have followed a recipe while making my pie instead of blindly trusting my poor intuition. For my first time, I’d say it’s not bad. But is it subpar compared to my competition? Unfortunately, yes. My attempts to cover up my pie shortcomings with whipped cream didn’t work either. What am I left with? A semi-ugly pie that looks like a child’s playdough experiment gone wrong. But it actually tastes pretty good (how can cinnamon apples and ice cream not taste good?), so I’d say I’m the real winner here.


Nishi: Nishi’s Apple-y Ever After Apple Pie



  • 2 ½ cups of  all-purpose flour
  • ¾ sticks of unsalted butter
  • 2-3 tablespoons of cold water


  • 4 apples
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons of cinnamon 



  1. Fold flour and butter together
  2. Add tablespoons of water as needed to form a ball of dough 
  3. Separate dough into two chunks
  4. Roll out into two sheets 
  5. Layer sheets on top off each other
  6. Cover in plastic saran wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes 
  7. After 30 minutes, take out and let it rest until it comes to room temperature again
  8. Roll into one thin sheet 
  9. Gently place the sheet over your pie tray 
  10. Use a fork to poke holes into the crust and then cut off the excess crust that hangs around 


  1. Wash, peel, core, and cut the apples into equal sized slices
  2. Evenly coat the apples with white sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon 
  3. Let the coated apples refrigerate for 30 minutes

Making the pie

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
  2. Place the apples into the pan with the crust 
  3. Roll out some of the excess dough to form a top 
  4. With the remaining dough, shape the punny designs that you want on your pie and place them accordingly
  5. Bake the pie for 30 minutes at 350°F and then for 10 minutes at 250°F. 

Sabrina: The best recipe that money can pie


  • Pillsbury Pie crusts
  • 2 apples
  • White sugar
  • Cinamon 
  • Nutmeg
  • Lemon juice
  • 1 egg
  • Heavy whipping cream


  1. Butter or oil your muffin tins
  2. Roll out the pie dough and cut circles to fit into the muffin tins
  3. Wash, core, and dice your apples into small cubes
  4. Mix in some sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon juice and let sit for 10 minutes.
  5. Scoop the filling into the pies
  6. Using leftover dough, make designs to place over the pies.
  7. Brush the pies with an egg-heavy whipping cream wash.
  8. Bake until golden brown. 

Tavish: Tavish’s “Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy” Meringue Pie



  • 9 (135g) full-sheet graham crackers
  • 1/2 cup (62g) salted almonds (I used roasted)
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons (72g) unsalted butter, melted


  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 2 lemons, juiced and zested
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • 4 egg whites
  • 6 tablespoons white sugar



  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
  2. Make the crust: Using a food processor, pulse the graham crackers and almonds together into crumbs. A few larger pieces of nuts is OK! Pour into a medium bowl and stir in sugar and melted butter until combined. Press tightly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie dish. Pre-bake crust for 8 minutes. Leave the oven on.


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. To Make Lemon Filling: In a medium saucepan, whisk together 1 cup sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt. Stir in water, lemon juice and lemon zest. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil. Stir in butter. Place egg yolks in a small bowl and gradually whisk in 1/2 cup of hot sugar mixture. Whisk egg yolk mixture back into remaining sugar mixture. Bring to a boil and continue to cook while stirring constantly until thick. Remove from heat. Pour filling into the baked pastry shell.
  3. To Make Meringue: In a large glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites until foamy. Add sugar gradually, and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue over pie, sealing the edges at the crust.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until meringue is golden brown.

Helen: Helen’s “I’m Still Salty” Salted Caramel Apple Pie



  • Betty Crocker Pie Crust Mis
  • 2 tbsp and 2 tsp cold water


  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp soy milk
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch sea salt


  • 5 apples
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

¼ cup all-purpose flour

  • 3/2 tsp ground cinnamon



  1. Stir the Betty Crocker Pie Crust Mix with the cold water until the pastry forms a ball.
  2. Refrigerate for 1 hour.


  1. Mix the brown sugar, soy milk, butter, and sea salt together in a saucepan on a medium boil.
  2. Once the mixture is slightly bubbling, remove from heat and add in vanilla extract.


  1. Peel, de-core, and cut apples into small 2 by 2 inch pieces.
  2. Toss apples with white sugar, lemon juice, all-purpose flour, and ground cinnamon.

Making the Pie

  1. Take the pastry out of the refrigerator and roll into a thin sheet.
  2. Butter a 9-inch pie pan and place the pastry in it. With a small and sharp knife, trim the extra overhang of crust and discard it.
  3. Fill the pie crust with the apples.
  4. Drizzle ½ cup of caramel over the apples.
  5. With the extra crust, make designs to place over the pie.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
  7. Once the oven is preheated, put the pie in for 20 minutes.
  8. After done baking, let pie sit for 4 hours and top it off with caramel and ice cream.

Cover Image by Staff Writer Nishi Bhagat

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