I entirely blame the Food Network Challenge series for my rude foodie awakening. I specifically remember watching the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Contest three years back knowing the recipe I've crafted over many, many years could at least be a contender. Over the past year I've entered some recipe contests yielding precisely zero wins. (Oh, the promise my Portobello Parmesan with a Quick Caponata had!) After watching Orlando Food Writer and Recipe Developer Dawn Viola win the professional category at The 2009 Great American Pie Festival for the APC (American Pie Council) National Pie Championships, I went pie crazy this year.
I'm a newbie to recipe contests no doubt, but I wanted to wow judges with a traditional American dessert elevated to pie deliciousness. Preparing my Chocolate Fruit Salad Pie about 1o times prior to the contest, I needed to be sure the ONE pie entered in the 2010 APC National Pie Champions was my best. I thought the flavors of chocolate, almond, and the fruit salad of apples, peaches, and strawberries were a bit complex but still super familiar to any American pie lover. I thought the thick, fudgy pie crust made mostly of almond meal would score huge points for taste and creativity. And finally, I thought my coconut chocolate chip cookie crumble topping was the metaphorical cherry on top of this pie sundae.
Apparently though, I thought wrong. The one slice judges of the Fruit/Berry Pies category sampled pulled me no ribbons nor even an honorable mention nod. In the ninth grade I was All County Honorable Mention DH, or designated hitter for high school varsity softball. After coming back from ACL reconstructive knee surgery to make the varsity squad, I was athletically validated at fifteen for being mildly good at hitting a softball with a bat. Thanks one year of grueling physical therapy and a DonJoy knee brace which gave birth to the RoboCop nickname! Still, when a total loss is at hand an Honorable Mention looks like the little sister to the brass ring-pretty damn good. Except the APC National Pie Championships doesn't even have an Honorable Mention. In the sadness of defeat, I fantasized this contest did for my own bruised ego's benefit.
It was clear at the Amateur Awards Ceremony a handful of seasoned pie competitors have this pie game down and took home the goods (over and over again) to prove it. I did make some sweet friends though while anxiously awaiting the announcement of the winners. Four lovely older women whom were judges earlier that day happened to sit next to and behind me during the awards. More than mature, these broads were down right hilarious snidely or kindly remarking their opinions of each competitor and their pie entries just amongst us girls. In addition to the laughs and the jeers they also imparted some great contest intelligence to me. My Chocolate Fruit Salad Pie would have done better in the Open category rather than the Fruit/Berry category I entered in. The new, creative pie on the block will bow down to the almighty blue, cherry, and raspberry pies.
Still, the contest and The Great American Pie Festival was a superb way to spend a pre-summer Saturday in Celebration, FL. This was my first time to Celebration and being an Orlando-ite for ten years I've heard all the rumors about the town that Disney built. Like, "a priest being asked to pack up and move out after placing a plastic pink flamingo on this lawn violating some home owner agreement," is just my favorite of the absurd Pleasantville-esque myths about this place. Yet there were retirees asleep in their rocking chairs on front porches and sons and dads fishing together in the pristine man made streams on Water Street. I'm sure this community has its problems too (like spoiled wealthy children with fast cars), but you really couldn't know it by spending the day in this 100% fidelity of reality, virtually.
The Great American Pie Festival offered lots of vendors, great activities for kids, carnival games and ride attractions, and the almighty Pie Buffet. The 'Thanks for Participating' condolence prize for all pie enter-ers was an Emile Henry ceramic pie plate-which I totally love-and the admission tickets to the Pie Buffe-which I used to totally ease the nerves of competition. A time as good as pie was had by all, except for I suspect the poor chaps working PR in The Pillsbury Doughboy and The California Raisin mascot costumes in the 90F+ sweltering heat. I hope they were paid time-and-a-half for enduring extreme conditions. Mascot abuse aside, enjoy some of the Kodak highlight moments of The Great American Pie Festival before the big reveal of the 'Thanks for playing!" Chocolate Fruit Salad Pie Recipe.
Chocolate Fruit Salad Pie Recipe Category: Fruit/Berry
- 4 graham crackers
- 1 1/4 cup almond meal flour
- 2 tbl cocoa powder + 2 tbl. for dusting
- 1/2 cup cup sugar
- 2 tbl flour
- 2 large egg whites
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- Crisco Butter Flavored Cooking Spray
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 3 medium ripe apples; washed, dried, peeled, core removed, and quartered then cut into three or four bite size pieces.
- 2 cups cut fresh strawberries
- 1 cup ripe peach washed, dried, peeled, seed removed, and quartered then cut into three or four bite size pieces.
- juice of 3/4 tangerine
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 tbl. cornstarch
- 14 processed Coconut Chip Chip Cookies
- 3 tbl melted butter
- 2 tbl flour
DIRECTIONS Filling Preparation:
- In a large sauce pan, add the light brown and white sugars.
- Wash, dry, peel, cut, and prep all the fruits. Use a wedge of both lemon and tangerine to squeeze over the cut fruit to prevent oxidation.
- Turn on the heat under the pan with the sugar to medium heat.
- Add the apples and peaches to the pan.
- Squeeze half of a tangerine & lemon down over the fruit.
- Bring the sugar syrup to a bubble.
- Stir and let cook at a slow boil for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the strawberries and let cook another 3 minutes stirring occasionally.
- Turn the heat off, remove the pan from the heat, and let the fruits and syrup cool. Make the crust while cooling.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Grease the pie pan with Crisco Butter Flavored Cooking Spray and then dust 9" pie pan with cocoa powder.
- Put 4 large graham crackers in the food processor and run until a find consistent crumb is achieved.
- Add the almond meal, cocoa powder, sugar, and flour into a food processor. Pulse until the dry ingredients are well-combined.
- Add the egg whites and the almond extract and mix until thoroughly combined. Mixture will be thick and sticky!
- Have a cup of cold water on hand as you need to dampen your fingers to press the crust evenly into the pie pan with your fingers.
- Divide the sticky crust mix into fourths. Press the dough piece by piece evenly in the pie pan. There should be a tablespoon or so leftover, use that to reinforce the even center of the crust bottom but be sure to distribute it evenly.
- Once the crust is completely in the pie pan. Lightly blot the crust with a paper towel to remove excess moisture.
- Bake the crust on its own at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.
- Take it out of the oven. Let cool at least 15 minutes before filling.
- Process the cookies until a crumb is achieved.
- Soften 4 tbl of unsalted butter.
- In a small mixing bowl combine the cookie crumb, the flour, and the butter using your fingers to run the butter into the dry ingredients.
- Heat oven to 375 degrees.
- Using a slotted spoon, add the fruit salad into the pre-baked crust.
- Drizzle 1 tsp. the pan syrup over the peaches and crust.
- Place the pie pan on a cookie sheet and bake for 25.
- Prepare the topping.
- At 25 minutes, remove the pie from the oven and add the entire cooking crumb topping over the fruit created a mound on top.
- Return the pie to the oven and bake for an additional 12-15 minutes or until the entire cookie crumb topping is browned.
- Let pie cool to room temperature then let pie chill for 3 hours before serving.