By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Dec 17, 2009 at 9:03 AM Photography: Bobby Tanzilo

This may have been the most difficult Milwaukee Challenge ever, since the apple pies we sampled from Mukwonago's Elegant Farmer and Apple Holler, in Sturtevant, were darn good, delicious examples of this most all-American of desserts. Our entire editorial staff agreed: This holiday season, you won't go wrong with either choice.

The Elegant Farmer pie, priced at $14.99, is famously baked in a paper bag. The Apple Holler's version ($13.99) claims to have five pounds of apples baked inside.

The choice was so difficult that when the writers and editors ended up deadlocked in a 4-4 tie, we asked President Jeff Sherman to weigh in and provide the deciding vote.

His ballot rendered Apple Holler the winner.

Tim Cuprisin
Media columnist
Pick: Elegant Farmer

While the Apple Holler pie was full of cinnamony goodness, it tasted more like an elegant apple pastry than the apple pie I was looking for -- and found -- in the Elegant Farmer's pie, all crusty and with just enough tartness. 

Molly Snyder Edler
Staff writer
Pick: Apple Holler

The Apple Holler's Dutch apple pie is quite possibly the best apple pie I've eaten -- various family members' recipes included. Don't get me wrong, the Elegant Farmer makes a mean pie, too, but the crispy, crumbly, sweet top on the Apple Holler pastry launches it to "heavenly" status.

Plus, the Apple Holler pie is spicier -- with more cinnamon -- that adds a little kick to the pie-eating experience. The Elegant Farmer pie was more tart than sweet, which I liked, but I simply could not stop eating the Apple Holler pie because of the amazing crust.

Julie Lawrence
Staff writer
Pick: Apple Holler

A Milwaukee Challenge hasn't been this tough since, perhaps, the custard challenge (Kopp's vs. Leon's) in 2005. Never having tasted either Apple Holler or Elegant Farmer apple pies previously, I was first struck by how delicious they both were, and then by how different the two were.

After some serious thought, I gave my vote to Apple Holler, and I'll explain why. The hearty, crumbly top (which I learned is an attribute of the Dutch apple pie, rather than just the "regular" apple pie) was my first impression and I was hooked. I also liked that the dense filling, featuring long, thin strips of apples, stayed together despite my attack on the outer edge.

The Elegant Farmer pie, on the other hand, was much mushier. But it was a very tasty mush, indeed. What I liked about it was its distinct homemade feel, but to me, it came off as a bit tart for my taste in contrast to the blast of cinnamon and sugar I received from Apple Holler's. Some might prefer the more mild flavor of the pie baked in a paper bag, but me, I like indulging in decadent sweets during the holidays.

Drew Olson
Senior editor
Pick: Elegant Farmer

For starters, both of these pies would please your guests after dinner. They're at the top of the class in terms of pies I've sampled locally. The only shame in this challenge is that we were "forced" to eat this pie at 10 a.m. and without ice cream, whipped cream or even a dollop of Cool Whip.

I liked that Apple Holler's offering had the great crumb-laden topping and a hint of caramel, but -- in a matter of personal preference -- the filling congealed a bit more than I like from a pie. The Elegant Farmer's, which I admit to buying a few times a year, tasted a bit more "classic" to me. The crust was crunchy and the apples seemed a bit more tart and fresh.

Maureen Post
Staff writer
Pick: Apple Holler

No question, today's flavor battle between Apple Holler and the Elegant Farmer may just be one of the toughest Milwaukee Challenges to date. Both apple pies are homemade with fresh apples from local orchards, done just the way my grandmother would've done it. But for me, it all came down to my love for a crumble crust.

Apple Holler's Dutch Apple Pie was a dense five pounds of apples layered in a thick cinnamon and sugar filling. Baked in a rich, yet soft, crust, it was the crumbled cinnamon, sugar and flour topping that won me over. It wasn't an easy call, either.

The Elegant Farmer's pie is light and fresh with a flaky crust; the desired result of the brown paper bag baking technique. Much lighter on the cinnamon flavoring, the apples are cut thick and seem to be just a touch fresher.

Jeff Sherman
Pick: Apple Holler

I’m a blueberry and pumpkin pie guy, so when it comes to apple I’m far from an expert.  Also, I generally prefer an apple crisp over the traditional apple pie.  This fondness for the crisp may have swayed my preference toward the Apple Holler pie.

To my taste buds, the Apple Holler pie was more sweet and less spice.  I microwaved each slice for 18 seconds and really liked how the Holler crust crunched a bit more and appeared and tasted a bit less oily and runny.

I’d eat another slice of either variety, but if forced to choose just one, it’s Apple Holler for me.

Bobby Tanzilo
Managing editor
Pick: Apple Holler

This challenge reminds me that I really, really like apple pie.

Apple Holler's apple pie has a great, crispy and crumbly top but the thick, brown filling is very, very sweet and loaded with spice. Great, of course, but maybe a little much.

The Elegant Farmer pie -- baked in a bag, has a filling that is less sweet -- and probably a little more to my liking, but, though the crust is also top-notch, I think I prefer the Apple Holler crust.

Because I like the crust more than I like the filling, I give the edge to Apple Holler.

Andy Tarnoff
Pick: Elegant Farmer

If you found yourself in a bind and absolutely had to choose between Apple Holler and Elegant Farmer, don't fret.  Whatever the outcome, you won't lose.  Picking between these two pies is like deciding between delicious and mouthwatering. Elegant Farmer's apple pie is a little more tart, while Apple Holler is spicy and sweet.

Apple Holler has a soft texture, while Elegant Farmer is more smooth.  Hints of cinnamon come out in the aftertaste of Apple Holler's pie, while Elegant Farmer's offering gets sweeter as you chew.

I liked Elegant Farmer's crust a bit better, as it was less sweet and didn't fight with the flavor of the apple.

Mind you, both are just awesome, but when forced to pick, I found Apple Holler's pie to taste a little like something I'd buy in a store, and Elegant Farmer's pie to taste a little more homemade.  That's why I chose Elegant Farmer, but just barely.  Either way, I like them apples.

Andrew Wagner
Staff writer
Pick: Elegant Farmer

For me, it came down to the crust. I'm the guy that always tears through the filling, leaving portions of the top and the entire crust for others to scavenge. That said, I had to go with Elegant Farmer's offering. Other than that, the race was close.

Both were full -- and I mean full -- of filling. Both are similar in price. Both had similar tastes -- sweet and plenty of apple in every bite, though lacking any sort of "spice." I drew some curious looks when I used the word "bland" in my initial analysis, but like the esteemed Mr. Olson stated above, I prefer my pie warm and with either whipped cream or a couple scoops of vanilla.

In the end though, Elegant Farmer's pie in a bag is my winner for its crust, which was almost like a crumbled sugar cookie. Add that to what I thought was a little heartier taste, and the good folks from East Troy got my vote.