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Sunday, January 23, 2011

How to Bake Up a Damn Good Party

Posted by on Sun, Jan 23, 2011 at 6:04 PM

pecanpie.jpg

Should you drive up North Duke Street tonight between 8 and 10 p.m., you may catch a faint whiff of buttery crust or the aroma of warm spiced fruit.

It’s National Pie Day today—not to be confused with National π Day, celebrated on March 14 (think about it)—and thus, it seems a good and right and joyful thing to spend this Sunday night eating 3.14 slices of pie. Personally, I’ll be assembling my allotment from a great variety of pies (say, 1/3 of a slice from each of 10 pies), because this evening heralds my longtime friends’ Annual Pie Party in Durham.

Their guest list is closed, but you too can throw a pie party. Here’s how my friends do it: Most years, ten or so pies are entered in their Best Pie contest, and though only one baked good can go home with the title of Best Overall, slightly lesser pies will receive honorifics such as Most Original, Best Crust, Most Decadent, Best Presentation, etc. Everyone attending may vote; votes are recorded in color-coded crayon on a master pie chart for each category (Key lime with a green crayon; chocolate mousse pie with a brown, and so forth). As votes are talleyed at the end of the night, hosts can entertain the anxious bakers with a well-chosen pie-laden soundtrack, culminating in a sing-along of Don McLean’s “Miss American Pie” (if possible, hand out printed lyrics, but after a few glasses of dessert wine, who needs them?). Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” is optional.

For my entry, I’m tackling the tall Rye Pecan Pie served at Diner in Brooklyn. The recipe was devised by pastry chef Avery Wittkamp.

My trial run on the recipe last Thursday went well; I found I did not need to chill the crust a second time after rolling it out, which saves 45 minutes or so. Now it's in the oven. (Here's a photo of how it looks baking. This pie is made in a springform pan using an extra-stretchy crust to allow the crust to stand up tall when the springform is removed.)

Your assignment? Go grab a hunk of butter, some salt and flour, and make your own party, or read through last year’s Indy pie-hunt issue for a restaurant to help you celebrate tonight appropriately.

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