Pie's the Limit at Excelsior's Farina Baking Co.

Two pies
The holiday season gives Excelsior’s Farina Baking Co. an opportunity for this classic dessert.

The holidays are upon us, and with them all of the delicious seasonal flavors we Minnesotans have come to know and savor. This month, Excelsior-based Farina Baking Co. owners Matt and Tracy Kohler share one of their classic favorites. “Everyone loves the pumpkin, the apple, the pecan pies this time of year,” Tracy Kohler says. “People really do tend to stick to staples during the traditional holidays.”

Apple Crumb Pie
The pie dough recipe makes two  9-inch pie shells.


-1 tsp. salt
-2/3 cup very cold water
-3 cups, plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
-1 cup, plus 5 Tbsp. very cold unsalted butter

Dissolve 1 tsp. salt in 2/3 cup very cold water. Keep cold by resting your measuring cup in an ice bath until needed. Prepare your cold butter by cutting it into 1-inch pieces. Add the flour and butter pieces into a food processor, and pulse until pea-size pieces form. Sprinkle in the very cold salted water, and carefully pulse to bring the dough together into a shaggy ball.

Working quickly, turn the shaggy dough onto a floured work surface, and divide into two pieces. Shape each into a 1-inch-thick disk. Wrap well in plastic, and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight. When you are ready to bake the dough, place your cold disk on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it out into a circle about 1/8 inch thick. The circle should be 2 inches larger than the dish. Carefully fold the shell into quarters, transfer it onto the dish and mold the shell to the dish.

Trim the dough evenly to the rim of the dish. Chill the prepared shell for at least 30 minutes before baking to ensure a flaky crust.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the prepared pastry shell with parchment paper, and fill with pie weights or dried beans (Farina’s preference). Bake with weights until the shell is lightly brown all over (about 20 minutes). Remove the parchment with weights, then return to the oven until golden brown all over.


-2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
-3 lbs. baking apples, such as Golden Delicious, Cortland or Mutsu
-2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
-4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
-1 tsp. ground cinnamon
-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
-1/4 tsp. ground cloves
-1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Place the lemon juice in a medium bowl. Peel and core the apples; cut each in half, and cut each half into 4 wedges. Add the apples and brown sugar to the bowl with the lemon juice, and toss.

Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the sugared apples, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to simmer (about 2 minutes). Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the apples soften and release most of their juices (about 7 minutes).

Strain the apples over a bowl to catch all the juices. Return the juice to the skillet, and simmer over medium heat until it has thickened and lightly caramelized (about 10 minutes). Toss the apples with the thickened juice, cinnamon, salt, cloves, ginger and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Cool completely.

Cinnamon Oat Streusel

-3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
-1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
-1/4 cup sugar
-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/4 tsp. ground allspice
-7 Tbsp. chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
-1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

Blend first six ingredients in food processor. Add butter; using on/off turns, blend until moist dough forms (mixture will resemble wet sand). Add oats; using on/off turns, mix briefly, leaving half of oats whole. Stir filling.

Line the prebaked pie shell with the apples. Transfer the streusel on top of the apples, mounding in the center, and sprinkle evenly over the pie. Bake pie at 375 degrees until topping is golden (about 40 minutes to 1 hour). Bake until apples are tender when pierced. Cool pie on rack until slightly warm, at least 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pie-Making Pro Tips
Master baker Tracy Kohler shares her words of wisdom.

1. It’s important to work with ingredients that are very, very cold, because that’s how you get the flaky crust.
2. If you make your pie crust using a bowl instead of a food processor, use a pastry cutter to quickly cut the butter into small pieces.
3. You can also wrap and freeze the prepared pie dough shell, and there is no need to thaw it before baking.
4. Fruit pies are seasonal, because the ingredients should be fresh. Use apples that bake up crisp, versus mushy.
5. Shake the colander to extract as much liquid from the fruit as possible.
6. Cooled filling can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 6 months.
7. Cover your pie loosely with foil during baking if the topping and crust are browning too quickly.