The not-so-humble pie now has arrived

Pie now has its own national day, festival and contest


Category Five Peanut Butter Pie by Phyllis Szymanek of Toledo, Ohio, won Best Pie by an Amateur in the 2009 National Pie Championships.

Courtesy of American Pie Council
Published: Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 4:15 p.m.

“Four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie

Facts

By the numbers

186 million: Pies sold in grocery stores alone every year; that's about $700 million. Lined up, these pies would circle the globe.
36 million: Americans who say apple pie is their favorite
6 million: American men ages 35-54 who have eaten the last slice of pie and denied it (and they still do!)
7,200: Number of cherries on a typical cherry tree; at 250 cherries per pie, typical tree can make 28 pies, with 200 left over for “snacking” on
350: Slices of pizza pie Americans eat every second
90: Percentage of Americans who agree a slice of pie is one of the simple pleasures in life
76: Percentage of Americans who prefer homemade pie over all others coming from anywhere else
20: Percentage of Americans who have eaten an entire pie by themselves
18: Percentage of men who say their wife makes the best homemade pie
6: The average number of slices of pie most Americans eat in a year
2: Percentage of women who say their husband makes the best homemade pie



Pie facts

  • While National Pie Day is Saturday, National Pi Day is March 14 - the 3/14 date on the calendar was made official by Congress last year. Pi, of course, is some math concept having something to do with a circle's circumference.

  • In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient in a pie's crust rather than filling.

  • Oliver Cromwell banned the eating of pie in 1644, declaring it a pagan form of pleasure; the ban was lifted 16 years later.

  • At one time, it was illegal in Kansas to serve ice cream on cherry pie.

  • Key lime pie was adopted in 2006 as the official state pie of Florida; apple pie was designated Vermont's official pie in 1999.

  • Pumpkin pie was first introduced to the holiday table at the pilgrims' second Thanksgiving feast in 1623.

  • The first apple pie was made in England, more than 600 years ago.
    Settlers of the American West made a mock apple pie, using crackers and spices, because they had no apples.

  • There really was a Granny Smith; Maria Ann Smith was born in England in 1799, but moved with her family to Australia in 1838. Thirty years later, she developed the variety of apple that bears her name.

  • The ancient Greeks first developed pie; called “artocreas,” it was a pastry crust onto which cooked meats were spooned.

  • The Cornish pasty originally was a handheld pie with meat in one end and jam in the other that was lunch and dessert for tin miners in Cornwall.

When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing”

- Children's nursery rhyme

At least cooks have stopped filling pies with live crows - imagine the PETA reaction to that!

But once upon a time, living pies were dinner fare fit for kings. According to a history of pie on WhatsCookingAmerica.com, “animated pies or pyes were the most popular banquet entertainment,” a joke served before the real dessert. Fillings in “ye olden dayes” were not limited to blackbirds, but included “rabbits, frogs, turtles, other small animals.”

Even people. The Web site notes one Jeffrey Hudson, who, at 7, was “served up in a cold pie as a child” during a feast honoring England's King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria.

“Before the queen could cut into the pie, the crust began to rise and from the pie emerged a tiny man, perfectly proportioned boy, but only 18 inches tall … dressed in a suit of miniature armor.” Crunchy, perhaps, but he became a favorite of the 15-year-old queen.

Lord Minimus, as he came to be known, was a companion to Henrietta Maria for 18 years - before being kidnapped by pirates and ending his days as a slave in Africa.

(No children or small animals were harmed in the writing of the previous paragraphs.)

Presumably, with National Pie Day on Saturday, most of us would rather concentrate on more contemporary types of pie such as apple, pumpkin, cherry, steak and kidney, rhubarb, mince, Eskimo and humble. Every one of us has a favorite kind, yet rarely do we turn down a slice of whatever kind of pie is presented.

And we certainly all like to receive one.

The recognition of this confectionary treat was launched 24 years ago by the American Pie Council to encourage “random acts of pieness” as well as to help “people across the nation recall the simple pleasure of presenting a pie as a gesture of kindness,” according to a council press release.

This year, the council is encouraging “pie-triotism,” which it defines as “sharing a pie with a hero” in your life - whether it's presenting a pie to someone in the military or their family, a firefighter, a teacher or another heroic figure.

“There's something touching about giving someone a gift as special as a pie,” says Linda Hoskins, executive director of the council in the release. “When you picture troops receiving pies as they rolled through a train depot in the Midwest, or recall a time when neighbors shared pies to reflect a treasured friendship or recognize the strength of a close-knit community, it all brings to mind a comforting sense of nostalgia and kindness.”

Yeah, and it's almost as good as eating them.

Contact Rick Allen at rick.allen@starbanner.com.

America's top pies

Every April, Crisco and the American Pie Council sponsor the National Pie Championships at the Great American Pie Festival. This year's festival and competition will be held April 23-25 at the Omni Championsgate Hotel in Celebration, near Orlando. Professionals, amateurs and children are pitted against each other in three divisions.

The 2009 winning recipes were: Tom's Cheery Cherry Cherry Berry Pie, by Linda Hundt of DeWitt, Mich., professional; Category Five Peanut Butter Pie, by Phyllis Szymanek of Toledo, Ohio, amateur; and Tropical Italian Pie, by Carmela Crutcher of Orlando, junior.

Tom's Cheery Cherry Cherry Berry Pie

By Linda Hundt, DeWitt, Mich.

Crust:

1½ cups of flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

½ cup Crisco shortening

Mix all ingredients in a stand mixer on medium speed swiftly until crust appears “pea-like.” Carefully sprinkle ice-cold water in crust mix until it just starts to be fully moistened and gathers together. Pat into disc, wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Roll out on floured surface, and make and crimp piecrust. Freeze until ready to use.

Filling:

4½ cups Montmorency tart cherries, frozen

1 cup sugar

¼ cup cornstarch

½ teaspoon real almond extract

1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice

½ teaspoon orange zest

½ cup dried Michigan cherries

1½ cups of frozen blueberries

Combine frozen cherries, dried cherries, sugar and cornstarch. Stir constantly on medium-high heat until boiling. Add blueberries. Boil for one minute or until thickened. Add almond extract, lemon juice and zest. Pour blueberries in bottom of pie shell, and pour cherry mixture over them.

Crumb Topping:

1 cup sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

1 stick butter, softened

Mix all crumb-topping ingredients by hand or in a pastry blender until crumbly. Cover filling with crumb topping. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for 45 minutes to one hour or until filling is bubbling over crust.

Category Five Peanut Butter Pie

By Phyllis Szymanek, Toledo, Ohio

Crust:

1 1/3 cups finely crushed vanilla wafers

2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup melted unsalted butter

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl until blended; pour into a 9-inch pie dish sprayed with Crisco cooking spray. Press into the bottom and sides; bake in a 350-degree oven for 8 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool.

Peanut Butter Filling:

¾ cup powdered sugar

1/3 cup Jiff creamy peanut butter

3 tablespoons softened unsalted butter

¼ cup chopped peanuts (save small amount for garnish)

Mix first three ingredients in a small bowl. Spread into the bottom of cooled pie shell and sprinkle with peanuts.

Filling:

2/3 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon Pillsbury All-Purpose Flour

½ teaspoon salt

3 cups milk

3 egg yolks, lightly beaten

¾ cup Jiff peanut butter

1½ teaspoon vanilla extract

6 small (.55 ounce) frozen peanut butter cups, chopped

In medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt over medium heat. Gradually stir in milk until smooth; bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Gradually stir in one cup of hot filling into the egg yolks. Return all to saucepan, stirring constantly. Return to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and peanut butter. Let cool, then fold in five chopped peanut butter cups. Pour into cooled pie shell. Garnish with whipped topping and remaining chopped peanut butter cup and remaining chopped peanuts.

Tropical Italian Pie

By Carmela Crutcher, Orlando

Crust:

1 cup flour

½ tsp salt

1/8 tsp cinnamon

¼ cup ground macadamia nuts

½ cup Crisco shortening

3 tbsp cold water

Bottom Filling:

3 eggs

¼ cup + 2 tbsp sugar

12 oz velvety ricotta cheese

1 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup coconut

1/8 tsp cinnamon

Middle Filling:

8 oz mascarpone cheese

2½ tbsp sweetened condensed milk

2 tbsp heavy whipping cream

1 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts

¼ cup coconut

Top Filling:

8 oz. Cool Whip

¼ cup sweetened condensed milk

½ tsp vanilla

2½ tbsp pineapple juice

¼ cup coconut

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, cinnamon and ground nuts for the crust. Add Crisco shortening. Combine with pastry blender until coarse crumbs form. Add cold water, a tablespoon at a time, mixing with fork until pastry just holds together. Form pastry into a ball with hands. Wrap in wax paper, and refrigerate.

For the bottom filling, beat the eggs and sugar in an electric mixer. Add ricotta, vanilla, coconut and cinnamon until blended.

Take out refrigerated pie dough. Lightly flour surface, rolling pin and dough. Roll out dough into a circle about 11 inches in diameter. Transfer into pie pan; cover bottom and sides. Make decorative edge if desired, and cut off any excess dough. Pour in pie filling.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes until set.

In another mixing bowl, cream the mascarpone for the middle filling. Add the milk, cream and vanilla until blended. Fold in nuts and coconut. Refrigerate.

For the top filling, add Cool Whip in another mixing bowl. Fold in milk, vanilla and pineapple juice. Refrigerate.

Once baked, refrigerate pie until no longer warm. Spread the mascarpone mix on top, and then spread the Cool Whip mix on top of that. Sprinkle with coconut.

Refrigerate pie anywhere from 4 hours to overnight. Serve cold, and enjoy.

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