Friday, October 7, 2011

Art on the Avenue: The Pie Contest!

It's finally here, the pie contest! I baked so freakin' many practice pies, and finally got something I thought was good enough, here goes nothing!

The day of the contest started out fine, I got up and started baking with plenty of time to spare. We were having a bunch of people over for brunch, and I knew everyone would want a slice, so I baked a second pie. Mixed up the crust, looks good. Barely got the crust in the pans, but still going relatively smoothly. Put the first pie together, everything went fine. Put the second pie together. Forgot to put the filling in. Just pears and a crust. Shoot.

So after a moment of panic, we injected it with a mustard bottle. It was dramatic and a little messy, but it kinda worked. Put the pies in the oven, and they looked...ok. The one that I decorated and made all pretty for the contest wasn't working too well, the nuts on top were getting a little burnt, and to top it off, the drama with the filling put us behind schedule. Like, I would only have a few minutes to run a piping-hot pie down the street if we didn't do something, and fast.

Anyway, after lots of chaos involving messing with the fancy-pants oven, the freezer, a wet bath towel, and luckily an abnormally cold day, the pie made it down there with about two minutes to spare. It wasn't quite the "room temperature" that the rules required, but too bad, it was a pie, and it was on time! I got my number; 29. That's a lot of pies.

Look! That's mine!
I took a quick look to check out the competition. There were a lot of apple, a couple berry (raspberry and blackberry mostly) and some oddballs like me. There was a crustless brownie pie that looked good, and a blackberry nectarine, and a sausage pie that looked more like a quiche to me. Mine was definitely unique, but not too crazy, exactly what I was hoping for! It got lots of "oohs" and "aahs" from innocent passers-by.

But the one thing that really surprised me was how ugly all the other pies were! I mean, maybe I'm the only one who read the scoring, but HALF of the score came from appearance! A few looked like some effort went into the "pretty" factor, but in general, this was NOT an attractive bunch of pies!

On to the judging! Our celebrity judging panel consisted of Congressman Jim Moran, a chef at a new, tasty pizza shop in the neighborhood, and two other people without very important titles, who didn't look like they knew what on earth they were doing. In fact, Moran was the only one who looked like he even vaguely belonged there, everyone else looked like they got dragged off the street and were just eating lots of pie. I stuck around for a little bit to watch the judging, but they didn't have the food network style judging commentary, and it was really cold, so I got bored pretty fast.

Back home, my mom and I decided that we really needed a slice of the spare pie. I took a bite and-- oh my gosh, it was the best pie yet. By far. It was absolutely perfect. I don't know what it was, but the crust was perfect, and the crumble was perfect, and the pear flavor came out perfectly! It was to die for! I mean, if the other pie came out as amazingly, I HAD to win!

Ok, so I didn't win. I didn't even place. I'm convinced I got fourth place, because my pie was amazing. Freakishly amazing. Those judges just didn't know how to tell a good pie if it slapped them in the face! Ok, so maybe a pie that slaps you in the face isn't exactly good...Anyway, the day was an overall success, I got some Christmas present ideas, and a cute new game-day hair bow, and I got to play with my Irish band. Yes, I play ukulele in an Irish band, I'm just that cool.

Jackie's Fourth Place Spiced Pear Pie

1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
2-3 tbs ice water

4 cans sliced lite pears (Check the label, make sure there's no added sugar! Just pears and juice!)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
3 tbs sugar
1 tbs honey
2 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs cornstarch

3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
6 tbs butter, softened

For crust, combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening. Add water slowly, until a paste forms. Chill, and roll into greased pie pan.
Fill crust with a single layer of pear pieces. Sprinkle about half the walnuts evenly over pears. Add another layer of pears, and sprinkle the remaining walnuts. Add any remaining pears. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, honey, and lemon juice. Heat over medium heat until just boiling. Remove from heat and add cornstarch, stir until combined. Pour lemon mixture over pears.
For crumb topping, mix four, sugar, and spices in a bowl. Add butter, and stir until combined. Cover pears evenly with crumbs, and press gently. Bake at 450 for 15 minutes, then turn oven down to 375 for about 20 minutes, or until crust is golden on bottom. (Which you can't exactly tell if you're not using a glass pan, but whatever.)

My sister made that sweater. She's the best!

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