July 18, 2018. Nancy Lindahl

Despite record heat and throngs of Taste of Chico shoppers, Chico bakers rallied to present a multitude of lovely pies for Zucchini and Vine’s 3rd Annual Pie Contest on Saturday.

Notable this year were pies by young bakers: a fresh cherry pie and a Peach and Blueberry Pie baked by 9 and 11-year old sisters Charlie and Elliot Ward. Peach and berry pies were abundant as bakers took advantage of the season’s bounty, but there were some interesting outliers – a couple of lemon pies, an amazing Raspberry Chiffon pie, and a savory French Potato Caramelized Onion Pie, all prize winners.

Although judging a pie contest sounds like a dream job, it takes concentration, and experience with benchmark baking to distinguish a merely good pie from a prize-winner. Points are awarded for appearance, flavor, crust, aroma and texture with a total of 100 points possible. Good judges write comments on their score sheets, and all told judging the pie contest is a serious task, with pie entrants, their fans, and potential pie tasters hovering around the tables, watching the process.

This year’s judges, Celeste Muncie, Mim’s Bakery, Miguel Maldonado, Live Life Juice Co., Jessica Jones, Upper Crust Bakery, and last year’s First Place Pie Contest Winner, Janet McMurray were a stellar group, and although each voted independently, their scores were often in perfect agreement.

First Prize went to Peter Hansen for his Lemon Pie which judges said had spectacular flavor. Inspired by his backyard Meyer Lemon tree, he looked up a recipe online and make a few expedient alterations, like omitting meringue because he just “didn’t want to fool around with it”. Peter arrived in Chico as a freshman from San Jose and never left. He works at Chico State as an I.T. consultant, has a wife, two kids, a mortgage and a prize-winning pie recipe. Life is good.

Peter Hansen’s Lemon Pie

Ingredients:

For the graham cracker crust:

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs, 11-12 full sheets of crackers

1/3 cup granulated sugar

5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

For the lemon pie filling:

1 cup fresh lemon juie

2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk

5 large egg yolks

Topping:

Homemade whipped cream

Instructions: Graham Cracker Crust

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Combine the graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a mixing bowl and mix until well combined. Add the melted butter and stir until fully combined and all of the crumbs are moistened.

Scoop the mixture into a 9 – 91/2-inch pie plate and firmly press it down into an even layer on the bottom and up around the sides of the dish.

Bake at 350°F. for 8 – 10 minutes, or until the crust is lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 5 – 10 minutes while you make the filling.

Keep the oven temperature at 350°F.

Instructions: lemon Pie Filling:

Combine the lemon juice, sweetened condensed milk, and egg yolks in a large mixing bowl and whisk until fully combined.

Pour the filling into the slightly cooled graham cracker crust and spread it around into one even layer.

Bake at 350°F. for 18 – 22 minutes, or until the top of the pie is set.  The pie will still be jiggly.

Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool to room temperature for about 2 hours. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 5 – 6 hours or overnight.  Once chilled, top with whipped cream, (Peter did rosettes around the edge of the pie with his yard-sale-find whip cream dispenser). Serve and enjoy! Leftover pie may be stored in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days.

Ellie Azzarito took second place with her Raspberry Chiffon Pie which smote one judge so completely, all he could say was “OMG”. Originally from upstate New York, and more recently from the Bay Area, Ellie’s love of baking was sparked by her grandmother. A Chico resident since 2012, Ellie volunteers at the Food Locker, the Cancer Center, and St John’s Catholic church and bakes for various church hospitality events. This spectacular pie, inspired by her husband’s love of raspberries, is a labor of love, and worth every minute.

Ellie Azzarito’s Raspberry Chiffon Pie

Ingredients for the crust:

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool

2 ounces cream cheese, softened but still cool

Ingredients for the Fruit Layer:

12 ounces frozen raspberries

3 Tablespoons pectin (sure-jell original formula, in the yellow box)

1 ½ cups sugar

Pinch of salt

1 cup fresh raspberries

Ingredients for the Chiffon Layer:

3 Tablespoons raspberry-flavored gelatin

3 Tablespoons boiling water

3 ounces cream cheese at room temperature

1 cup heavy cream, chilled

Ingredients for the topping:

¾ cup heavy cream, chilled

2 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

To make the pie crust, lightly oil a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth and well-blended, about 2 minutes. Mix in the dry ingredients on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until large clumps of dough begin to form, about 30 seconds. Reserve 3 Tablespoons of the dough and set aside.

Gather the remaining dough into a ball and flatten into a 6-inch disc. Transfer to the pie plate. Using the heel of your hand, gently press the dough evenly over the bottom of the pie plate. Using your fingertips, continue working the dough evenly until it covers the sides and bottom of the pie plate completely. On a floured work surface, roll the reserved dough into a 12-inch long rope. Split the rope into 3 equal pieces and roll each of these into an 8-inch rope. Use the 8-inch ropes to edge the circumference of the pie plate and squeeze them together to join them at the ends. Use your fingertips to mold a fluted edge. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least I hour.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Prick the bottom of the crust evenly with the tines of a fork. Bake until the crust is golden brown, 35 – 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the fruit layer, add the frozen berries to a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the berries begin to release their juices, about 3 minutes. Stir in the pectin and bring to a full boil, stirring constantly. Stir in the sugar and salt and return the mixture to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much of the puree as possible. Reserve 1/3 cup of the raspberry puree for use in the chiffon layer. Gently fold the fresh raspberries into the remaining puree and spread the mixture in the bottom of the cooked pie crust in an even layer.

To make the chiffon layer, dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water in a large bowl. Add the cream cheese and the reserved raspberry puree and beat on high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the heavy cream and beat on medium-low until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl. Beat on high speed until the mixture holds stiff peaks, about 2 minutes. Pour over the fruit layer in the pie crust and smooth into an even layer with a spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.

When ready to serve, whip the cream and confectioners’ sugar on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Spread or pipe over the chilled pie. Slice and serve.

Christine Dickinson, winner of the coveted Third Prize, is originally from Redding and worked in the dental field for many years with Dr. Bob Ryan, DDS. Christine loves all things French and follows the blog of Corey Amaro, a Willows girl who writes from France. Christine figured everyone would be baking peach and berry pies, so she decided to go a different route and chose a savory French Potato Pie recipe. It was unexpected, delicious and beautiful – arrived hot out of the oven, still bubbling.

Christine Dickinson’s French Potato Pie with Bacon and Caramelized Onion

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

4 ounces bacon cut into pieces

2 onions, thinly sliced, 3 garlic cloves, sliced

2 pounds russet potatoes peeled and thinly sliced

2 cups grated Comte cheese

½ teaspoon nutmeg

Salt, pepper and herbes de Provence

Double recipe of tart dough

1 large egg and 1 Tablespoon cream for egg wash

Tart Dough: Double this recipe for a two-crust pie

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

9 Tablespoons unsalted butter cut into cubes and chilled

1 large egg

3 Tablespoons cold water

Mix all tart dough ingredients in mixer until dough forms a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Directions:

In medium pan heat 1 teaspoon olive oil, cook bacon until crisp. Remove and set aside. Heat remaining teaspoon olive oil and caramelize the onion and garlic. Add seasonings. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Divide dough in half. Roll out 2 rounds, 12-inches for base, 9- inches for top. Layer potatoes, onions and cheese, (2 layers), sprinkle with nutmeg and top with pats of butter. Place other round and cutouts over top. Brush with egg wash. Bake at 400°F. for 45 minutes.  Bon Appetit!

Thanks to wonderful local bakers and diligent judges! Keep your eye out for the pie recipe you want to perfect for next year’s contest!


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