Midwest Apple Picking + My Perfect Pie Crust Recipe

This year, fall seemed to be even better than I remembered—unusually warm temps and mild weather, gorgeous changing colors of leaves, and LOTS of delicious apples from the orchard.  Erika Mattingly Photography met me at Garwood Orchards in my hometown of LaPorte, Indiana for an afternoon of apple picking…and my dear Mama (and baking partner-in-crime) came along for the fun! Also, scroll down for my favorite flaky pie crust recipe…turns out perfect EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Perfect Flaky Pie Crust


12 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon sugar

⅓ cup very cold vegetable shortening

6-8 tablespoons ice water (about ½ cup)


Dice the butter and shortening into 1/2 inch pieces. Store in the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture. In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse a few times to mix. Take the cold butter/shortening pieces and in batches pulse it together with the flour until it resembles coarse peas. With the machine running on low, gradually add the ice cold water. When the dough starts to come together, dump out onto a lightly floured surface. Form a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator for 30 min until ready to use. Can also be stored for up to 3 days if wrapped well. Makes two single pie crusts.

With my handy apple picking basket from Williams Sonoma, I was able to carry more than enough apples to make some pies.

Mama and I enjoyed an impromptu orchard picnic—a mug of cold Garwood’s apple cider, buttery homemade caramels, and mini apple pie pops.

I’m thankful for my wonderful Mama. Always by my side…

I wrapped mini apple pies with scraps of gingham fabric. A lovely little gift or favor!

These homemade caramels are seriously ADDICTING. I can easily eat 10 in one sitting. I love to package these up in jars as gifts—complete with a white satin ribbon.

I call this my Apple & Caramel Gift Basket—a jar of yummy caramels, fresh-picked mini Garwood Orchards apple, and a bar of Hannah Jane apple soap…all packaged in a mini bushel basket.


Baking Photoshoot + Scone Recipe

For years it’s been a dream of mine to do a baking photoshoot—to show the real Sweet Melissa behind-the-scenes, making something delicious. What a fun day I had with Erika Mattingly Photography! And what a gorgeous backdrop—none other than DL Loft in Chicago, IL.

My inspiration is my grandmother, Carolyn Sue Southard, who I affectionately call “Memaw”. It’s a nickname often used in the South, similar to “Nana” or “Granny”. Originally from Arkansas, Memaw moved to the Midwest after marrying my grandpa in 1954.

Her recipe box, weathered and lovingly-used utensils surround her 1953 photo. I remember watching her make biscuits, using the tin cup to measure out buttermilk. This is how I learned to bake—sitting at her kitchen counter, wide-eyed as she whipped up biscuits and gravy, banana pudding, or chicken and dumplings.

“Gimme some sugar,”
Grandpa would always say.
And, of course, we obliged.

These scones are so incredibly easy to make—and have the most tender crumb. Cherry-almond is my favorite flavor combination. The dried cherries add a wonderful chewy texture inside while a drippy glaze on top with toasted sliced almonds ties it all together.

Cherry-Almond Glazed Scones


2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
3 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbsp cold butter, cut into 1/4″ cubes
3/4 cup dried cherries
2 capfuls almond extract
1 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 to 2 Tbsp milk
1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted


In large bowl combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Mix thoroughly then cut in cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal with a few slightly larger butter lumps. Stir in the dried cherries, 1 capful of extract, and heavy cream with fork until the dough begins to form, about 30 seconds. Transfer dough onto counter and knead by hand just until it comes together into a rough, slightly sticky ball (5-10 seconds). Half dough and press each into a circle (approx. 6″) and cut into quarters. Then cut each quarter in half, creating triangles. Place triangles on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake in 425° oven for 12-15 min until light brown. Cool on wire rack. When cooled drizzle with icing and sprinkle the top with toasted almonds. Makes 16 scones.