Innovations in Traditional Pies

A new category at the American Pie Council Crisco National Pie Championships draws innovative bakers in both the amateur and professional divisions.

A slice of My Big Fat Italian Strawberry Basil Wedding Pie, created by Naylet LaRochelle.

A slice of My Big Fat Italian Strawberry Basil Wedding Pie, created by Naylet LaRochelle.

courtesy American Pie Council

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Orrville, Ohio — Proving that trusted household brands like Crisco® will continue to be baked into American culture, two pie makers stood out at this year's 17th Annual American Pie Council Crisco National Pie Championships® in the first ever Crisco Innovation category.

In celebration of the brand's 100th anniversary, the Crisco Innovation category challenged bakers in the amateur and professional divisions to combine creative flavors and techniques with classic pie baking while using at least ½ cup of any variety of Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening. The sky was the limit with this open-ended category, and both winners came up with incredibly imaginative, tasty pies.

Naylet LaRochelle from Miami, Florida, took Best of Show honors in the amateur division with My Big Fat Italian Strawberry Basil Wedding Pie, featuring a crust made with Crisco Butter-Flavor All-Vegetable 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. 

In the professional division, Linda Hundt, owner of the Sweetie-licious Bakery Café in DeWitt, Michigan, earned Best of Show with Laura's Sticky Toffee Pudding Caramel Apple Pie, which featured a Crisco pie 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.

The Best of Show winners each took home $2,000 and a gift basket filled with Crisco baking products as well as a special trophy. 

"Over the last 100 years, the Crisco brand has earned the trust of bakers, allowing them to be more innovative in the kitchen," says Maribeth Badertscher, vice president of Corporate Communications, The J.M. Smucker Co. "Likewise, the two Crisco Innovation category winners used Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening to take their pies to the next level of taste and originality."

For Naylet, taking top honors in the Crisco Innovation category in the amateur division was a tremendous honor. "Sometimes I get too creative for a traditional contest, so when Crisco announced this new category, it was like the category that came from above! So I took two of the flavors that I really love, strawberry and basil, and said, 'How can I make that into a pie?'"

Naylet, a mom of three who works as a school counselor by day and bakes in the evenings as a stress reliever, decided to keep her pie crust traditional while incorporating innovation into her filling and presentation.

"You really can't improve on the Classic Crisco Pie Crust. That was the traditional part," Naylet says. "So it was about taking the filling to the next level with the strawberry and basil. I incorporated fondant flowers, which you would typically see in wedding cakes, made them myself and included them in the pie. I used ideas from traditional cake decorating – something we don't often see in pie baking – to make a wedding pie. When you first look at it, it's a completely white pie. You don't see the gorgeous pink and green until you cut into it."

For Linda, taking top honors in the Crisco Innovation category for the professional division was especially meaningful. "I'm completely over the moon about it!" Linda says. "I'm a huge believer in Crisco Shortening. My mom always used it. It's always around at my shop, and I use it to teach my baking classes."

The basis of the Crisco Innovation category, combining creative flavors and techniques with classic pie baking, also felt like a "complete match," Linda says. "I was really wanting to win this one because it's also how I bake and cook. I'm always finding old recipes and making them new again. I truly believe that's how people should cook and bake."

Linda's pie, Laura's Sticky Toffee Pudding Caramel Apple Pie, was inspired by her twin sister, Laura, who spent several years in British Hong Kong and fell in love with the sticky toffee pudding served there. "After tasting this dessert, I decided a delicious fusion of the classic British recipe with the All American Caramel Apple Pie would be delicious."

No stranger to the APC Crisco National Pie Championships®, Linda had four first-place wins in 2010, took Best of Show and three first-place wins in 2009, and had numerous first-place wins in 2008 and 2007.

Both Naylet and Linda have ideas in mind for what they'll bake for next year's APC Crisco National Pie Championships® and offered this advice to novice bakers:

"Never underestimate the importance of a well-baked crust," Nayle says. "It is just as important as the filling. Always use quality ingredients in your pie. This will absolutely make the difference between a good pie and a memorable pie!"

Linda says, "Though pie baking is about precise measurements and quality ingredients, an innovative and classic recipe is its heart and soul. Don't be afraid to be creative with traditional recipes to craft an amazing signature pie that is all your own!"

Honors were also given to runners up in each division and each was given a Crisco gift basket. They are:

Amateur division:

First Place: Patricia Lapiezo of LaMesa, California, for her "Red Velvet Cream Pie"

Second Place: Evette Rahman of Orlando, Florida, for her "Blueberry Pomegranate Cheese Pie"

Third Place: Amy Freeze of Sebring, Florida, for her "Black Forest Mocha Truffle Pie"


Professional division:

First Place: Dionna Hurt of Longwood, Florida, for her "Vanilla Bean Brulee Pie"

Second Place: Michele Albano of Norwalk, Connecticut, for her "Strawberry Napoleon Pie"

Third Place: Kathryn Hanson of Orlando, Florida, for her "Boston Cream Pie"


Winning recipes from the Crisco Innovation category are posted on the APC’s website and will soon be posted on Crisco’s website.

Since 1995, bakers of all ages, skill levels and degrees of training from across the United States have gathered to celebrate a rich tradition of pie making. For more information about the competition, visit the American Pie Council’s website.

For more than 110 years, The J.M. Smucker Co. has been committed to offering consumers quality products that help families create memorable mealtime moments. Today, Smucker is a leading marketer and manufacturer of fruit spreads, retail packaged coffee, peanut butter, shortening and oils, ice cream toppings, sweetened condensed milk, and health and natural foods beverages in North America. Its family of brands includes Smucker's®, Folgers®, Dunkin' Donuts®, Jif®, Crisco®, Pillsbury®, Eagle Brand®, R.W. Knudsen Family®, Hungry Jack®, White Lily® and Martha White® in the United States, along with Robin Hood®, Five Roses®, Carnation®, Europe's Best® and Bick's® in Canada. The company remains rooted in the basic beliefs of quality, people, ethics, growth and independence established by its founder and namesake more than a century ago. The company has appeared on FORTUNE Magazine's list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in the United States 13 times, ranking No. 1 in 2004. For more information about the company, visit the website.

The American Pie Council is the only organization committed to maintaining America's pie heritage, passing on the tradition of pie-making and promoting America's love affair with pie. The APC offers personal, professional and commercial memberships. For more information, visit the council’s website.