Food Festival Spotlights National Pie Championships

Toffee pie takes best of show honors at National Pie Championships sponsored by American Pie Council and Crisco, all part of a food festival in Orlando, Florida.

Chocolate Trifecta Pie, winner of the Crisco Classic Chocolate Cream category at the 2012 National Pie Championships, part of the Great American Pie Festival.

Chocolate Trifecta Pie, winner of the Crisco Classic Chocolate Cream category at the 2012 National Pie Championships, part of the Great American Pie Festival.

courtesy American Pie Council

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The heat was on and the oven mitts were off, figuratively speaking of course, among professional bakers this year at the 18th Annual APC/Crisco® National Pie Championships held April 27-29 in Orlando, Florida. Pie makers fought for bragging rights and prize money in 12 pie categories. Of the 801 total pie entries in Commercial, Professional, Amateur and Junior Chef divisions, 115 were from professional bakers. The pies were judged by 195 pre-qualified volunteer chefs, bakers and assorted pie aficionados.

The 12 Professional division categories included: Apple, Cherry, Crisco® Classic Chocolate Cream, Citrus, Cream, Fruit/Berry, Crisco® Innovation, Mini Pies, Nut, Open, Peanut Butter and Raisin (sponsored by the California Raisin Marketing Board).

Susan Boyle, of DeBary, Florida, took Best of Show for her open category entry, Coffee Toffee Crunch a Bunch Pie, first place in the Innovation category for Going Bananas Pie and first place in the Crisco® Classic Chocolate Cream category for her Chocolate Trifecta Pie. She has won 15 first place awards in the National Pie Championships since 2007, but this is her first Best of Show award. The Best of Show winner in each division is selected among first place winners in each flavor category.

Boyle created her Best of Show pie in honor of her father, a coffee shop owner who passed away two years ago. "Coffee Toffee" was one of the shop's signature drinks, and her father had always asked her to create a pie with the same flavor. She entered a version last year but it didn't place, so she revamped the recipe for this year's contest, making the toffee from scratch and revising the crust. She entered the new-and-improved pie saying, "This one's for you, Dad!"

"Hearing the stories behind the creation and evolution of each pie, particularly those in our Professional division, is just as fun and rewarding as tasting and judging them," says Linda Hoskins, APC's executive director. "Each pie is so unique and comes to us with such a unique history and often incredibly fun and clever names, it makes this competition new and exciting each year."

First place winners in the Professional division include:

Apple, Dave Hulett, Richfield, Minnesota, Streusel Apple Pie

Cherry, Matt Zagorski, Arlington Heights, Illinois, Life is a Pie Full of Cherries

Crisco® Classic Chocolate Cream, Susan Boyle, DeBary, Florida, Chocolate Trifecta Pie

Citrus, Raine Gottess, Coconut Creek, Florida, Creamsicle Pie

Cream, Raine Gottess, Coconut Creek, Florida, 100 Years of Memories

Fruit & Berry, Andrea Spring, Bradenton, Florida, Peach Melba Pie with Almond Fried Crust

Innovation, Susan Boyle, DeBary, Florida, Going Bananas Pie

Mini Pies, Michele Stuart, Norwalk, Connecticut, Orange Creamsicle Pie

Nut, Dionna Hurt, Longwood, Florida, Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut

Open, Susan Boyle, DeBary, Florida, Coffee Toffee Crunch a Bunch Pie (Best of Show and First Place)

Peanut Butter, Lisa Sparks, Atlanta, Indiana, Fine Fudgy Flutty Nutter Butter Pie

Raisin, Bryan Ehrenholm, Riverbank, California, "Raisin" the Roof Pie

John Sunvold of Winter Springs, Fla., a speech communications teacher at Seminole State College, took Best of Show in the Amateur division (out of 237 entrants) for his cream category entry, Peg's Banana Cream Supreme Pie, as well as first place in the apple category for his The Apple of My Eye Pie. Sunvold won Best of Show in 2008, his first year in the competition, for his U.S. Route 1 Florida Key Lime with Maine Blueberries Pie.

Sunvold created the pie based on a favorite dessert he enjoyed as a child and has worked on perfecting the recipe for three years. "Since the ingredients make it a top-heavy pie and the graham cracker crust doesn't offer much support, I really had to work to perfect the recipe," Sunvold says.

"Each year, my sister comes down from Chicago to compete with me. Last year, I entered this pie, but we ran out of room in the refrigerator so I never ended up submitting it," he says. "My wife, Peg, scolded me for submitting other pies over this one, so I let her choose the name for this year's entry, which is where Peg's Banana Cream Supreme comes from."

First place winners in the Amateur division include:

Apple, John Sunvold, Orlando, Florida, The Apple of My Eye

Cherry, Evette Rahman, Orlando, Florida, My Cherry Amour Pie

Crisco® Classic Chocolate Cream, Jeanne Ely, Mulberry, Florida, Lovers Pie

Citrus, Bev Johnson, Minnesota, Summer Breeze Pie

Best of Show and First Place, Cream, John Sunvold, Orlando, Florida, Peg's Banana Cream Supreme Pie

Custard, Pat Lapiezo, La Mesa, California, Raspberry Almond Bliss Custard Pie

Fruit & Berry, Carol Socier, Bay City, Minnesota, Blast of Berries Fruit Combo Pie

Gluten Free, Cordella LaRoe, Eustis, Florida, 3 Cheese Pumpkin Pie

Innovation, Evette Rahman, Orlando, Florida, Strawberry Kiwi Green Tea Pie

Nut, Savannah Kreinhagen, Palm Bay, Florida, Sweet Southern Pecan Pie

Open, Pat Lapiezo, La Mesa, California, Salted Caramel Mocha Crunch Pie

Peanut Butter, Janet Ropp, Edgewater, Florida, Savannah Daydreamin'

Cream Cheese, Grace Thatcher, Delta, Ohio, Drop Dead Gorgeous Strawberry Pie

Pumpkin, Alberta Dunbar, San Diego, California, Pumpkin Chocolate Surprise Pie

Raisin, Francine Bryson, Pickens, South Carolina, White Chocolate Raisin Nut Pie

No Sugar Added, Carol Socier, Bay City, Michigan, Jerry's Favorite Creamy Strawberry/Banana Pie

Sweet Potato, Jennifer Nystrom, Morrow, Ohio, Maple Pecan Sweet Potato Pie

The four Junior Chef categories included Chocolate Cream, Cream, Fruit & Berry and Open. Fourteen-year-old Ana Ramirez, of Polk City, Florida, took Best of Show for her cream category entry, Spider Monkey Peanut Butter Pie.

This is the first year Ramirez has entered the competition, but she's no stranger to the APC/Crisco® National Pie Championships. Her grandmother, Jeanne Ely, has entered the baking competition for years and has taken home a Best of Show award in the Amateur division in the past. This year, Ely took home first place in the Crisco® Classic Chocolate Cream category. Ramirez's sister also has competed in the pie championships in past years.

To prepare for the prestigious contest, the teen baked a pie every Sunday night for the last four or five months, asking her family for feedback and making adjustments until they agreed that this recipe could just be a winner. As to the imaginative name for the pie, Ramirez says, "Some of my friends and I call one of our other friends 'Spider Monkey' so the name is kind of an inside joke. My grandma and I were just sitting there and came up with the idea to use that name for the pie."

First place winners in the Junior Chef division include:

Chocolate Cream, Sarah Rahman, Orlando, Florida, Triple Chocolate Ripple Pie

Cream, Ana Ramirez, Polk City, Florida, Spider Monkey Peanut Butter Pie (Best of Show and First Place)

Fruit & Berry, Emily Pearce, Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, Chocolate Raspataz Pie

Open, Devin Davis, Plant City, Florida, Orange Cream Walnut Crunch Pie

Of the Commercial bakery entries, Bakers Square swept the competition with a total of 30 wins. A complete list of winners is available at the American Pie Council’s website.

Next year's competition is scheduled for April 26-28, 2013, at the Caribe Royal Orlando

Each year, the National Pie Championships are held in conjunction with the free-admission Great American Pie Festival, which features the Never Ending Pie Buffet. This year's festival was attended by close to 39,000 pie lovers, up from 32,000 last year, and featured an even more endless pie buffet with a mind-boggling 90,000 slices.

The American Pie Council offers individual memberships for amateurs as well as professionals and commercial bakers. Pie lovers receive multiple benefits including the "Pie Times" e-newsletter, membership directory and member-only online "pie talk" access for idea exchange, pie recipes, coupons and discounted entry into the annual APC/Crisco® National Pie Championships. For more details, to become a member of the APC or to register for the National Pie Championships, visit the website.

Crisco® is a registered trademark of The J. M. Smucker Co. For more information, visit Crisco’s 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 APC website.