TRUE CONFESSION: I’m writing this at the end of a weekend wherein I taste-tested over, um, gulp, 27 different pies.
There, I said it, and yes, I’m a pie butt, albeit this past weekend I was officially one for a very good cause. You see, I was honored/happy/over the moon when I recently found out that I had ‘made the cut’ (oye-now starts the pie puns. . .) to be an official judge at the recently completed National Pie Championships sponsored by the American Pie Council, whose purpose is “committed to preserving America’s pie heritage and promoting America’s love affair with pies.”
Yea, there really is, and you betcha, I really was!
First, a little background on this contest, aka the NPC. It began in 1995, is open to amateur, professional and commercial bakers, and since about 2002 has been held right here in Central Florida.
Oh, what’s that you say? Enough with the boring details? Well, okay. Now that I’ve escaped (somewhat) from my pie-sugar-coma, I’m going to share some of the amusing photos I snapped during this wonderful experience.
And let me tell you that being a pie judge isn’t as easy as it sounds. The whole experience left me with a new appreciation for being a judge of just about anything, including but not limited to people accused of crimes. . . cheer and dance competitions. . . talent shows. . .and well, pies. I quickly found out that these people do take their pies very seriously, and therefore as a judge I felt an obligation to also do the same. So I began my judge’s journey by calling on a friend who had previously walked the path to pie heaven and asked for some advice. She offered this, “Take small bites.”
Turns out that was excellent council. I also did further homework by reading the “Official Judging Guidelines” which outlined some of the many details we had to consider with each and every pie we inspected. The short list included three main areas for judging strategies: 1] First Impressions (this is where the whole pie was presented to us for viewing), and 2] A Closer Look (a healthy slice was cut and then both the whole pie and the slice were presented to us again for the viewing for an inside/outside look), and 3] Overall Impression wherein we had to answer questions like, ‘was it memorable, and would you purchase it?’ In between the big categories came the good part – the sliced piece was shared among the judges and graded on flavor, mouth feel, crust consistency, aftertaste, and so much more. This is where that mantra, “take small bites” kept running through my head.
Oh, and did I mention that my particular category was chocolate cream pies? Well, now you know, and just to be clear I didn’t even attempt to calculate my calorie intake during this intense undertaking. Let’s just put it in the ‘extremely high but not yet reaching insulin shock’ category. And for the most part, each pie was delicious in their own unique ways whether it be through their filling, toppings, or crust variations. (Well, except for maybe those labeled NSA – no sugar added – but even those weren’t altogether terrible.) See for yourself how tough this assignment got:
Plus, I spent some time with the APC Executive Director, Linda Hoskins, who claims that she’s not a student of the ‘art of pies’ despite her admission to making over 75 pies in one year alone, “just to get the hang of it.” She also gave me this great quote when asked what being at the helm of this organization means to her: “It’s about more than just pies. It’s about bringing families and people together over something fun and wonderful to bake and eat.”
Well if that doesn’t just make you want to go out and pick some blueberries then roll out the pie dough I don’t know what would!
And even though National Pie Day was back on January 23, it’s never too late to start planning for next year. As for me, now that I’ve conquered chocolate cream pies and all their variations, fingers crossed for apple crumb, pumpkin or maybe even a tasty key lime next year!