How does a slice of "Vanilla Bean Brulee Pie" sound to you? What about a piece of "Silky Rich and Smooth Chocolate Pie?" Or, would you prefer something with berries, like "Blueberry and Basil Lime Pie?" If you can't choose, you'll have a good idea how difficult it was for me to select which winning pie from the 17th Annual American Pie Council (APC) Crisco National Pie Championships to bake first. This year's prestigious competition, held in Orlando, Fla., on April 10, drew 896 entries, in four divisions: amateur, professional, junior chef and commercial and were judged by 174 "pre-qualified volunteer chefs, bakers and assorted pie aficionados." Among the entries were pies especially created for the new baking categories of Royal Wedding (to honor the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29), Gluten-Free and Crisco Innovation, in recognition of Crisco's 100th Anniversary. Phyllis Szymanek, of Toledo, Ohio, won the amateur Best in Show for her "Royal Macadamia Raspberry Pie," along with $5,000 in prize money, as well as a new Sears Kenmore range and a Crisco gift basket. And, Bryan Ehrenholm, of The Lunch Pail (restaurant) in Modesto, Calif., took Best of Show in the professional division by wowing judges with his "Engagement Ring Pie," in the Royal Wedding category, consisting of walnuts and dates, meringue crust and a topping of blueberries and whipped cream sprinkled with edible diamond dust. (Ehrenholm gets his diamond dust in craft stores such as Michael's.) Like Szymanek, Ehrenholm earned $5,000 in prize money, a new Sears Kenmore range and a Crisco gift basket, plus an additional $200 and Crisco gift basket for also taking first place in the Royal Wedding category. If you're reading this and thinking you'd like in on some of this pie action, here's some advance notice -- next year's competition is scheduled for April 27-29, 2012, again in Orlando, Fla. For information on how to enter plus a list of winning pies, with recipes, visit the APC website at www.piecouncil.org
Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Second Place-Fruit/Berry Category, Professional Division -- Linda Hundt, DeWitt, Mich.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup cold butter cut in small pieces
1/2 cup refrigerated Crisco shortening
Mix the ingredients in the mixing bowl of a KitchenAid-style electric mixer set to medium speed until pea-size crumbs begin to form. Carefully sprinkle in cold water and mix until mixture becomes moist and gathers into a ball. Remove dough from bowl, pat into a disc, then wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour. When dough is chilled, place it on a lightly- floured surface and roll it into a circle 1-inch larger than a 9-inch pie dish. Carefully place dough into the dish. Roll overhang over and crimp edge. Freeze pie shell until ready to use.
5 cups frozen Michigan blueberries
1 cup sugar
1/4 rounded cup cornstarch
6 large basil leaves (placed in cheesecloth bag)
3 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
2 1/2 cups fresh Michigan blueberries- slightly mashed
Reserve fresh, slightly mashed blueberries -- you will use them when assembling the pie. Combine the frozen blueberries, sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When mixture begins to boil, add basil leaves bag and boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove pan from heat and discard basil leaves bag. Add lime juice and lime zest; set mixture aside.
1 cup half and half
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Whisk together the cream mixture, blending well; set aside.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks butter softened
Mix together topping ingredients either by hand or with a pastry blender until fine and crumbly; set aside.
Pour the fresh blueberries on the bottom of the frozen pie crust. Top with blueberry filling. Carefully pour cream mixture on top of filling. Top with crumb topping, spreading generously around edge. Bake in a pre-heated 400-degree oven until filling bubbles over, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Makes 1 (9-inch) pie.
(Kitchen Ade Note: Be sure to put a pan under your pie dish to catch overflowing juices. Allow pie to cool before attempting to slice.)
First Place-Crisco Innovation Category -- Dionna Hurt, DeWitt, Mich.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup Crisco shortening
1/2 cup unsalted cold butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 to 4 tablespoons cold water
Combine flour, salt and sugar in large mixing bowl. Cut Crisco and butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. In a measuring cup, combine egg, vanilla paste, vinegar and water. Pour egg mixture into flour mixture a little at a time fluffing with a fork after each addition. After egg mixture has been incorporated into flour, turn it out onto a piece of wax paper. Using wax paper, press into a ball and wrap it up. Chill ball in refrigerator for at least 1 hour and as long as overnight.
(Kitchen Ade Note on baking crust: When ready to bake the crust, remove dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a circle 1/4-inch thick and 1-inch wider than a 9-inch pie pan.
Gently press dough against bottom and up sides of the pie pan without stretching the dough. Fold overhang under, then crimp edge. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line crust with parchment paper, then weigh paper down with pie weights, raw beans or rice. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until crust begins to brown. Carefully remove parchment paper and weights and prick the bottom and sides of the crust with a fork to allow steam to escape. Return crust to oven and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until golden. (If edge of crust begins to overbrown before the rest of the crust is finished baking, cover the edges lightly with foil or a crust shield.) Remove crust from oven and cool on a wire rack before filling.
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 2/3 cups heavy cream
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
3 large egg yolks, beaten
1 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar
Sweetened whipped cream, to garnish
In a heavy saucepan, dissolve the cornstarch in the cream; stir in sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks. Over medium heat, cook and stir until thick and bubbly. Remove from heat, adding butter, vanilla paste and vanilla extract. Pour mixture into the prepared pastry shell and chill for 2 or more hours. Top with sugar and brown under the broiler. Garnish with sweetened whipped cream around the edge. Refrigerate leftovers. (Kitchen Ade Note: I found making 4 mini (4-inch) pies, large enough to serve two people each, a good way to serve this pie. In addition, a hand-held kitchen torch was ideal for browning the sugar topping. After the pies were browned, I placed them in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes to re-firm the custard just beneath the hardened sugar.)
First place- Crisco Classic Chocolate Category (Professional Division) -- Susan Boyle, DeBary, Fla.
4 cups crushed Oreo chocolate sandwich cookies, plus more for garnish, optional
1/2 cup of melted butter flavor Crisco.
Mix crust ingredients together until well combined and press firmly into pie pan.
Chill until ready to use.
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons instant chocolate pudding
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup (6-ounces) semisweet chocolate chips, melted
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup milk
Place cream, sugar and milk into the mixing bowl of an electric mixer. With speed set to medium, whip cream until stiff peaks form.
Chill the mixing bowl of an electric mixer in the refrigerator until it is cold. Once the bowl is cold, remove the bowl from the refrigerator. Place the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla into the bowl. With mixer set to medium speed, beat cream cheese mixture until it is smooth. Lower speed, slowly adding pudding, cocoa and cream, mixing well. Blend in melted chocolate. Raise speed to medium and whip mixture until well blended and firm, then spoon into chilled cookie crust. Pipe whipped topping around pie, garnishing with chocolate curls or cookie crumbs, as desired. Makes 1 (9-inch) pie. (Kitchen Ade Note: I allowed the pie to firm 2 hours in the refrigerator before slicing.)
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