By Chef Judi Gallagher.
When the American Pie Council called and asked me to be a judge at the 2010 pie competition at Champions Gates in Orlando, Florida I was elated. I love pie; my lifetime culinary goal, in fact, is to discover America’s best apple pie. So far, Mom’s Apple Pie in Sebastopol, California is number one on my list.
I obsess about crust. My preference is for a flaky lard or Crisco base that seeps apples and cinnamon. I am quite open to pies other than apple; I love lemon curd so something lemony and tart with a graham cracker crust is a nice second choice or maybe a classic peach or berry pie.
But honestly, nothing stirs my heart more than a GREAT apple pie. And, since I was not born with the gene to make good pie crust, I go in search sometimes buying a dozen pies in one day at farm stands looking for that single superlative apple pie. I went into judging this contest with high hopes.
Unfortunately, I was mistakenly placed in the commercial pie judging division, instead of the professional and amateur categories. So, after almost six hours tasting and evaluating poor to mediocre pies, I was dispirited. Then I posed myself a problem based upon the mound of inferior pies piling up around me. What would I do if someone came to dinner at my house and brought a mass-produced apple pie from a grocery store and expected me to serve it for dessert?
Well, first, I know that warming a fruit pie brings the flavor forward and sometimes hides that chemical taste. I would flake the pie with a fork and place it in the microwave to warm. Using martini glasses (because we eat with our eyes), I’d place sweet cream or semi-melted, high-quality vanilla ice cream on the bottom of the pretty glass. Then, I would layer the warm fork-flaked pie and repeat twice with semi-melted ice cream. Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
When presenting the apple pie dessert, I would thank the guest who brought the pie so everyone might know this rescued pie was not my choice. Here’s a tip when bringing a food hostess gift: do no expect that the hostess will have to change her menu and serve your gift that night. The exception, of course, is a potluck dinner.
My pie-judging adventure was not a total loss. I was fortunate to receive both Amateur and Professional winning recipes for this year’s competition. Let’s hope 2011 brings me the real deal for great pie. In the meantime, I will keep searching for the ultimate homemade apple pie. Shoot me an email if you know where my dream pie lives.
American Pie Council/Crisco National Pie Championship
2010 Best of Show Amateur Winner
Lemon Swirl Cream Cheese Pie
Kate Stewart Rovner from Plano, Texas
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
½ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup butter, cut into small cubes
Vanilla Wafer Crumb Crust
1½ cup vanilla wafer crumbs
¾ cup almonds, finely ground and toasted
2 teaspoons lemon zest
pinch of salt
7 tablespoons melted butter
Lemon Cream Cheese Filling
2 (8-ounces) packages cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sugar
½ cup sour cream
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon lemon extract
Reserved Lemon Curd
½ cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
About 12-15 fresh raspberries
1 lemon, cut into thin slices and quartered
Prepare Lemon Curd: In a 1½-quart saucepan, whisk together lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar. Whisk in eggs and butter. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking frequently for 7 minutes or until curd is thick. Remove from heat and use a food mill or sieve to strain curd into a small bowl. Remove ½ cup of lemon curd, reserving remaining lemon curd. Press plastic wrap directly onto surfaces. Cool 30 minutes. Heat oven to 350-degrees. Spray a 9-inch pie plate with Crisco non-stick spray.
Prepare Vanilla Wafer Crumb Crust: In a medium mixing bowl, use a fork to toss together vanilla wafer crumbs, almonds, lemon zest, and salt. Stir in melted butter. Press mixture onto bottom and sides of prepared pie plate. Bake for 12 minutes on bottom rack. Remove from oven and set aside.
Prepare Cream Cheese Filling: In a medium mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed for 2 minutes or until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat at low speed until incorporated. Beat in sour cream, vanilla, and lemon extract. Beat in reserved Lemon Curd. Pour into baked crust. Dollop remaining ½ cup lemon curd onto filling and swirl into filling with a small knife. Bake for 30 minutes or until center is nearly set. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Cool for 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Prepare Garnish: In a chilled, medium mixing bowl, beat whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla with
a hand-held electric mixer, starting at lowest speed and increasing gradually each minute, until stiff peaks are formed. Using a #32 tip, pipe whipped cream decoratively around border of pie. Decorate with fresh raspberries and lemon slices. Refrigerate until serving time.
Chocolate Raisin Walnut Pie
1st Place Raisin
Andrea Spring from Bradenton, Florida
1-1/2 cups Crisco shortening
1 teaspoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons milk
½ cup hot water
4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Combine shortening, vinegar and milk. Pour in hot water. Mix well. In separate bowl, mix to
gether flour, salt and cornstarch. Combine flour mixture with shortening mixture until dough forms. Separate into four equal balls. Wrap in film wrap and refrigerate 1 portion and freeze remainder for future use. Refrigerate for at least one hour before rolling out.
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup dark corn syrup
¾ cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup dark raisins
¾ cup chopped walnuts
Mix eggs, vanilla extract, sugar, cinnamon, butter and corn syrup until well blended. Add chocolate chips and walnuts, mix well. Set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out one portion of pie dough. Place in 10” pie pan. Sprinkle raisins over bottom of pie shell. Carefully pour filling over raisins. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Lower temperature to 350-degrees for 30 minutes or until center of pie is just set.