Thursday, December 12, 2013
When they set the first fruit pie in front of me on Sunday, my first reaction was “Uh oh.”
It was called “Sublime Blueberry Lime Pie,” and it was gorgeous. If all the other entries looked this great, I was in trouble. I’d never be able to pick a winner.
I was judging the first annual pie and cupcake baking contest at the Kitchen & Cork in Scarborough, tucked inside the Cabela’s plaza. The event, organized by store owner Jane St. Pierre and sponsored by King Arthur Flour, the event was a benefit for the March of Dimes and ended up raising more than $600 for the charity. St. Pierre said she hopes to hold the contest again next year, so one reason I’m writing about this experience, and posting photos, a recipe and a list of winners, is to encourage all of you amateur bakers out there to enter in 2013. Seriously, the level of skill and craftsmanship among the 40-plus entries was really impressive.
Check out this show stopper apple pie:
Or this Blueberry-Mascarpone Pie:
My fellow judges for the event were Kate Squibb, a former contestant on “Chopped” and chef at the Cafe at Pat’s on Stevens Avenue; Holly Russell, a board member of the March of Dimes; and midcoast food writer Paula Anderson, whose work appears in the Boothbay Register, the Coastal Journal, and Maine Food and Lifestyle. Dave Mallari of The Pig Kahuna catering and resident chef at the Kitchen & Cork, served as emcee.
Here's St. Pierre talking to the judges as results are being recorded:
Anderson and I were assigned to pies, and Squibb and Russell took the cupcake category. The entries were all assigned numbers, so the judging was blind. The bakers brought two of every entry, one to be judged and one to be sold to benefit the March of Dimes. Entry fees also went to the charity.
The fruit pie category was especially, er, fruitful. The pies were beautiful, and most of them were delicious to boot. While some had undercooked bottom crusts, top crusts that were tasteless, or fillings that just didn’t work, the Sublime Blueberry Lime Pie had just about everything going for it. The crust was flaky and had not gotten soggy during the waiting period from oven to judging, which is all the more impressive considering the woman who baked it, Melanie Feehan, drove two hours and 45 minutes from Massachusetts to take part in the contest. Instead of a crimped crust, Feehan made a nice scalloped edge with pieces of pie dough.
What also impressed me was how high the pie was, and it held its height after slicing. This was a small slice for judging, but you still get the idea:
Most of the fruit was still whole and burst in your mouth. Another memorable blueberry pie from a different baker had great flavor, but the filling was a little soupy. It just goes to show that every little detail makes a difference when the competition is so stiff.
As you can see from the recipe below – Melanie was kind enough to email it to me – it’s a very simple pie. (But simple is so often the best, right?) I suspect she may be holding back some crust-making secret since she didn’t include the crust in her recipe. The crust was buttery and flaky, and a big part of why the pie won.
The fruit pies were all so terrific that Paula and I had the cupcake judges weigh in on our top two. They agreed that Melanie’s blueberry pie was something special. A couple of them said it reminded them of the proverbial homemade pie cooling on the windowsill at grandma’s house.
You can read Melanie’s take on the contest on her blog.
The other recipe that bowled me over was Melissa Wolfganger’s Summertime Celebration Pie, a cream pie that was topped with a lotus-like pattern of organic strawberries. It was the hands-down first place winner in the Cream Pie category. (Thanks to Jane St. Pierre for the photo of this pie, the photo of the prizes below, and the two cupcake photos. I was so busy eating pie I didn't get any photos of cupcakes.)
This was the only pie I couldn’t stop eating, even after I was stuffed with pie from all of our judging. It was Pie Nirvana. MELISSA WHERE ARE YOU??? I want that recipe!
Winners received a number of great prizes, including ribbons, Emile Henry pie plates or progressive cupcake party carriers (depending on which contest they were in), King Arthur gift cards, bags of candy from Haven’s, and gift cards from Bei Capelli Salon, Bull Moose, Portland Pie and The Dairy Corner. (Reny’s was also a sponsor.) All of the winners are posted below the blueberry pie recipe.
SUBLIME LIME BLUEBERRY PIE
pie dough, enough for a double crust pie, divided
3 pints Maine blueberries
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
the zest and juice of two limes (coarse grate the limes)
egg wash ( 1 egg yolk plus 1 tablespoon cream)
2 tablespoons coarse sugar
Preheat oven to 375º. Generously grease pie plate with butter. (Pam will not do.) Place blueberries in a mixing bowl. Add sugar, flour, lime zest and juice. Very gently toss blueberries to coat. Be careful not to bruise the fruit. Roll out one half of the pie dough. Place into buttered plate. Fill with fruit/flour/sugar mixture. Top with second layer of crust. Cut slits in crust. Brush egg wash over top and sprinkle coarse sugar to finish. Bake for one hour. Be sure to use a guard or tin foil to prevent edges from burning.
Cooks notes: Frozen blueberries are a fine substitute. Just be sure to thaw and drain well before using. Add 1 tablespoon flour when using frozen blueberries. If you don’t have limes, lemon will work as well. Just use one lemon juiced and zested instead of the two limes suggested.
Here are the winners:
FRUIT PIE CATEGORY
1st place: Sublime Lime Blueberry - Melanie Feehan
2nd place: Apple Custard - Melissa Wolfganger
3rd place: Apple Raspberry - Juanita Greenleaf
CREAM PIE CATEGORY
1st place: Summertime Celebration - Melissa Wolfganger
2nd place: Blueberry Mascarpone - Kellie Varano
3rd place: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake - Laurie Warchol
Here's the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Pie:
ALTERNATIVE PIE CATEGORY
1st place: Pumpkin - Mary Cattadoris
2nd place: Susan’s Derby Pie - Melissa Wolfganger
3rd place: Chocolate Hazelnut
Here's the Pumpkin Pie and the Derby Pie:
1st place: Mayan Macaroon - Jeffrey Kustron
2nd place: Vanilla Panda Bear - Angelica Cloutier
3rd place: Devil’s Food with Buttercream - Julia Swim
1st place: Pink Lemonade - Emily Roper
2nd place: Chocolate Chocolate Chip - Casey Brown
3rd place: Hidden Surprise - Juanita Greenleaf
1st place: Mayan Macaroon - Jeffrey Kustron
2nd place: Chocolate Truffle - Angelica Cloutier
3rd place: Pumpkin with Pumpkin Spice - Alexandria Poland
1st place: Turtle Cupcake - Emily Roper
2nd place: Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake - Amy Dube
3rd place: Key Lime Surprise - Marcia Travers
Meredith Goad has harvested oysters on the Chesapeake Bay, eaten reindeer in Finland and sipped hot chai in the Himalayas. She writes the weekly Soup to Nuts column and enjoys a good cocktail.
Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business before turning to journalism more than a decade ago. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs. A newcomer to Portland, she is an online content producer for the Press Herald.
Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or saxelrod [at] pressherald.com.
On Twitter: @susansaxelrod