Notes from a Fan
I try to be open minded in my real life, not judgmental – but when it comes to Pie….well, this is not my first pie judging. And there is a difference between the good, the very good and the sublime. I have yet to have bad homemade pie (commercial pie is a whole ‘nother world), but I am willing to keep tasting to risk it!
Pies have 2 parts – crust and filling. They are evaluated separately and then together.
There were 2 criteria – appearance and taste. I would add name as a criteria….because what you call it raises expectations, but can also be clarifying. And it has to deliver. Promise and delivery – that’s the name of the pie game.
Pastry Soapbox time: Pie dough, pie crust – whatever you call it, it should be golden, and browned and beautiful- not pale or wan. It needs to contribute to the whole – otherwise, put the filling in a greased casserole dish and call the whole thing pudding!
To quote Martha Stewart Living magazine Nov 2016 p. 142
“With pies, color equals flavor: We can spot a pale, underbaked one a mile away! Look for deep golden-brown top and bottom crusts, and major bubbling action in the center.” *
*Fruit pie have the bubbling center action – other sorts of pie, not so much or not at all!
Without proper browning, the flour is pasty and the fat component is just greasy. Many pie recipes are far too timid in the baking – start with a hot oven – you can turn it down in 10 or 15 minutes – and really build some color and depth of flavor.
Pale crust says ‘Not sublime’ And now back to judging criteria….
Slice – It doesn’t have to hold be perfect, but it has to hold promise. If it has a sloppy or runny filling, use a spoon to serve so we know that you know what’s going on. Spoons are more traditional!
Scent is part of the first taste – what does it promise?
A quick note about names….what you call it sets an expectation, too. And it should deliver. There was a chocolate cream pie that looked rather more like pate …a name label made a HUGE difference on my expectation!
Three tastes are necessary for judgment – the first impression; the second after your mouth knows what’s coming, the middle notes; the third for a lasting impression, the one you take away. Mouth feel, spicing, balance, texture, funny bits…all things to look for in taste.
First impressions are sometimes a surprise. That’s why you need a second taste (and maybe a bottle of water) to get a real grasp of what’s going on.
Memory – 5 minutes later….which are the pies you want to go back to? Was the flavor hit fleeting or lasting?
Because I was late to the Pie Contest in Hawley, the other judges had already begun. They had moved the tarts, quiche and clafuti into a separate category, so that we were judging pies against pies.
FYI – Every pie had a prize. Because I know how Tinky plans these things, I was pretty sure that there were as many prizes as pies. No one went home empty handed (even the judges got booty bags).