Pile your plate high with pie - host your own pie contest

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PHOTO GALLERY | Pie contest

Does anyone really need an excuse to eat pie?

We don't, here at The Berkshire Eagle, but sometimes we like to celebrate random holidays — such as Pi Day (March 14) by holding a pie contest. But when Winter Storm Stella ruined our delicious plans, we decided to welcome the first day of spring by eating pie.

The Features Department put a call out newsroom-wide for anyone — who felt so inclined to participate — to bake one 9-inch pie for the competition. The rules were simple: you could use a store-bought crust if you felt like it, but the pie itself had to be homemade, and it could be sweet, savory, traditional or outside-the-box. The pie's the limit, so to speak.

Nine delicious-looking pies lined the table in our shared conference room on Monday afternoon — ranging from a sweet peach pie and banana cream, to two variations on a sugar-free apple pie recipe and mini pie-tarts with an oatmeal crust. Anyone was invited to stop by for a sliver of each pie — and really, a sliver was all one needed by the time they hit the seventh, eighth, ninth pie — and then vote via secret ballot for the best presentation and the best overall pie.

The winning pie recipes are printed here. But the real winners were the staff members who got to taste these delicious pies while taking a much-needed five-minute break with co-workers over plates piled high with soft crusts and fruity filling.

In the end, the best overall pie was a dead tie between our Night News Editor Dave Coffey's smoothly sweet and delicious raspberry oatmeal cream pie and Features Editor Lindsey Hollenbaugh's decadent and rich peanut butter pie. Dave's pie won by a landslide in the presentation category — no one could resist the fresh fruit topping with perfectly placed raspberries welcoming thoughts of a spring thaw just around the corner.

If you're looking for an excuse to eat mounds of pie, host your own pie contest at work or with your friends. All you need is a few bakers, or bakers-in-training, willing to make one pie. Provide plates, forks, napkins — and maybe some milk to wash it all down.

Raspberry oatmeal cream pie

Ingredients:

For the crust:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

For the cream filling:

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 cup granulated sugar

4 eggs (Dave used duck eggs because they’re a bit richer)

2 cups milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons salted butter

For the fruit topping:

4 cups fresh raspberries

1/2 cup granulated sugar

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1 orange

Pinch of salt

Directions:

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

To make the crust, pulse together the flour, oats, brown sugar and salt in a food processor. Drizzle in melted butter and pulse to make moistened crumbs. Transfer mixture to 9-inch pie pan and press the crumbs evenly across the bottom and up the sides. Bake until lightly browned — about 20 minutes.

While crust is baking, make cream filling. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar and eggs and whisk until frothy and no lumps remain. Add the milk and whisk once more to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan constantly, until the mixture comes up to a boil and thickens - about 7 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract and butter. Once the crust and filling are both finished, pour the cream filling into the crust and distribute evenly. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream and refrigerate until cold - about 2 hours.

Next, make the raspberry topping. Zest and juice the orange. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, orange zest and juice, salt and half the raspberries. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently until the fruit is broken down and slightly thickened — about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Lastly, spread the fruit topping evenly over the surface of the cream filling. Arrange the rest of the raspberries across the surface of the pie.

Peanut butter pie

Ingredients:

For the crust:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling:

1 ¼ cups heavy cream

1 ½ cup smooth, sweetened peanut butter

1 8-ounce block full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature

2/3 cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon kosher salt (if you’re using regular processed peanut butter, skip the salt because it already has salt added in)

Directions:

Make the crust: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9-inch standard pie plate. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, flour and salt. Add butter, stirring and mashing with a fork, until the crumbs are evenly moistened.

Transfer the crumbs to the prepared pan and press them evenly into the bottom and sides until crust is about 1/4-inch thick. Bake crust until it looks dry and set, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Make the filling: In a large bowl, whip the cream to stiff peaks using an electric mixer at medium-high speed. Set aside. In another large bowl, beat the peanut butter, cream cheese, brown sugar, vanilla and salt on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Use a large rubber spatula to gently fold the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and smooth the top. Chill uncovered for at least 4 to 6 hours, until filling is set.


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