The American Pie Council (APC) is as pleased as, well, pie, to announce the winners of the 17th Annual APC/Crisco® National Pie Championships held April 8-10 in Orlando, Fla. The pie competition is held each year in conjunction with the Great American Pie Festival and the Never Ending Pie Buffet, an event which draws an annual following of more than 32,000 pie lovers and features more than 87,000 slices of pie!
This year's pie championships drew an astounding 896 entries in four divisions: Amateur, Professional, Junior Chef and Commercial, and featured three exciting new categories: "Royal Wedding," Gluten-Free and "Crisco Innovations." The pies were judged by 174 pre-qualified volunteer chefs, bakers and assorted pie aficionados.
"We want to thank all those who traveled to Orlando to participate in the 17th Annual APC/Crisco National Pie Championships®. The creativity and skill demonstrated in all of the categories, but especially our new categories - 'Royal Wedding,' Gluten-Free and 'Crisco Innovation' were truly inspiring, not to mention, mouthwatering!" said Linda Hoskins, APC's executive director. "Congratulations to those who earned first, second, third and honorable mentions, and especially to our Best in Show winners. It's not uncommon for our bakers to pull all-nighters during the competition to ensure that they're entering the 'perfect pie' and we truly appreciate their dedication to their craft."
The Royal Wedding Pie category, which was only added for one year, challenged professional bakers to use their imaginations to create a pie fit to serve Prince William and Kate Middleton at their upcoming April nuptials. The winner of the Royal Wedding Pie category, Bryan Ehrenholm of The Lunch Pail in Modesto, Calif., also took the Professional division's Best in Show out of 142 entries for his creation called "Engagement Ring Pie." Of his sweet confection, Ehrenholm wrote, "The engagement ring worn by Kate Middleton is rich with history and grace, symbolizing the eternal love of Diana for her son William and William for his future Queen. So this pie is rich with history of English walnuts and dates, graced by a meringue crust and topped with the deep color of blueberries and encircled with the lightness of whip cream and diamond dust."
For his Professional Best in Show win, Ehrenholm took home $5,000 in prize money, a new Sears Kenmore range and a Crisco gift basket. He earned an additional $200 and Crisco gift basket for taking first place in the Royal Wedding category.
Taking second place in the Royal Wedding category was, ironically, Susan Boyle - no, not the British Susan Boyle who rose to worldwide fame on the TV show, "X-Factor," but a baker from DeBary, Fla. who also made a blueberry pie in honor of the soon-to-be princess's engagement ring. She took home a Crisco gift basket for her second place win.
A most notable of pie championship judges and particularly, the "Royal Wedding" category, was Darren McGrady, a.k.a. "The Royal Chef," who served as Senior Chef for Queen Elizabeth II of England for 11 years and as the Personal Chef for Diana, Princess of Wales, and her sons, William and Harry, for four years until Diana's tragic death in 1997. He moved to the United States in 1998 and is now employed as a private chef in Dallas. As the chef for Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson's wedding, McGrady will make appearances later this month on "Oprah" and "The Today Show" to discuss the menu for William and Kate's wedding. During the Great American Pie Festival, McGrady signed copies of his cookbook, "Eating Royally - Recipes and Remembrances of a Palace Kitchen."
The Commercial division brought in more than 447 entries in five categories and 23 flavors. Bakers Square took top honors with 32 wins, followed by Bonert's Slice of Pie with 21 wins.
Second only to the Commercial division, the Amateur division garnered 301 entries spread among 17 pie flavors. Phyllis Szymanek of Toledo, Ohio took the Amateur Best in Show with her Royal Macadamia Raspberry Pie. Her Crisco-based crust featured ground macadamia nuts, as did her cream cheese and Cool Whip filling, which was topped with a glaze comprised of fresh raspberries and raspberry Jello. Szymanek took home $5,000 in prize money, as well as a new Sears Kenmore range.
Junior Chefs, ages 14-17, also made a strong showing at the competition, but last year's winner once again emerged victorious. Devin Davis of Plant City, Fla., took the Junior Chef Best in Show with his Creamy Guava Pie, which consisted of a crust made with Crisco Butter-Flavored Shortening, filled with a whipped cream and cream cheese mixture which was then layered with a guava topping made from guava paste, lemon Jello, sugar and water, and topped with a whipped cream topping sweetened with sugar and vanilla. Davis won a $2,000 scholarship and a Crisco gift basket.
In celebration of Crisco's 100th birthday this year, the competition also featured a "Crisco Innovation" category, challenging Professional and Amateur bakers to come up with a creative new pie concept while incorporating at least ½ cup of Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening. Taking Best of Show in the Amateur division was Naylet LaRochelle, of Miami, Fla. whose pie name was as creative as its flavor: "My Big Fat Italian Strawberry-Basil Wedding Pie." LaRochelle's big fat pie featured a crust made from Butter-Flavored Crisco Shortening and a filling made with Smucker's Strawberry Preserves, mascarpone cheese, whipped cream, unflavored gelatin and chopped fresh basil, topped with a vanilla bean white chocolate mousse.
Best of Show in the Professional "Crisco Innovation" category was Linda Hundt of DeWitt, Mich. for her pie called, "Laura's Sticky Toffee Pudding Apple Pie." Her pie also featured a Crisco-based crust layered with a sticky toffee pudding filling and praline pecans, topped with a mixture of cooked apples, cinnamon, butter and sugar, baked and then smothered with homemade caramel and more praline pecans. No stranger to the pie championships, Hundt won Best of Show in the Professional category in 2009 for her "Tom's Cherry Cherry Cherry Berry Pie."
Both LaRochelle and Hundt received $2,000, a gift basket filled with Crisco baking products and a special trophy. During the competition, Crisco asked professional chefs for their best pie-making tips, which will soon be compiled into a top 10 list to aid bakers everywhere, including those who want a leg up on next year's APC/Crisco National Pie Championships®, which will be held in Orlando April 27-29, 2012.
The Gluten Free category was also added as this year to the Amateur division to meet the needs of pie lovers who have wheat allergies or celiac disease. The first place winner of this permanent new category was Liza Ludwig of Winter Curlew, Iowa, with her "Mom's Mudpuddle Pie." The pie featured a brownie crust with a rich filling made of Mexican cocoa, Mexican vanilla, cream, semi-sweet chocolate, chopped nuts, butterscotch chips, and mini-marshmallows, topped with crushed Score candy bars. Ludwig won $200 cash for her first place win.
Additional winners in the junior, amateur and professional divisions, as well as winning pie recipes are posted online at www.piecouncil.org.