Once again, crust is king at Home of Economy-Grand Forks Herald Pie Bake-off
After two rounds, the original field of 16 has been sliced to just four. Read this story to see the winners, as well as photos of each of the eight pies judged during Round 2.
GRAND FORKS — As the judges in the Home of Economy-Grand Forks Herald Pie Bake-off scored the second-round pie baked by Evan Andrist, they did something they hadn’t yet done throughout the contest.
They cleaned their plate.
“The look of this pie is really pretty,” said Lane Leech, one of the contest judges and the head chef at Harry’s Steakhouse. “Can we take this one home?”
Andrist’s pie was a raspberry-chocolate silk creation topped with raspberry whipped cream, chocolate shavings and three decorative fresh raspberries. By luck of the draw, it was the first pie judged Monday morning, but finished with 111 points – the highest score of the day.
In the second round of head-to-head matchups, Andrist (sponsored in the contest by the North Dakota Mill), beat Peggy Raddatz (sponsored by Ground Round); Caitlin Olson (sponsored by Hope Church) beat Tammy Schmitz (sponsored by Alerus); Brityn Proulx (sponsored by Valley Senior Living) beat Alexandra Lunseth (sponsored by Northern Roots Boutique); and Jill Hanson (sponsored by Hugo’s) beat Brenda Dufault (sponsored by Toasted Frog).
With Andrist’s pie, the judges notably discussed his crust ingredients, especially the use of “leaf lard,” which prompted the judges – two of whom have culinary degrees – to search Google in hopes of learning more.
According to a website called “The Spruce Eats,” here’s what they found: “Leaf lard specifically comes from the soft, visceral fat from around the pig's kidneys and loin. As such, it has a very delicate, super spreadable consistency at room temperature. This, along with its clean, un-porky flavor, is why leaf lard is considered the highest grade of lard.”
“I’ve never heard of leaf lard,” said Kristen Whitney, executive chef at the Museum of Art Cafe. “But this is yummy.”
Whitney and Leech, along with Marsha Johnson of the Grand Forks Herald, again served as judges. The contest’s fourth judge, Jessica Rerick, could not attend after a potential exposure to COVID.
For each pie, the judges are given a single serving, presented on a plate that’s placed in the center of the table. Using fresh forks for each taste, they pick at, poke at and sample each entry. And throughout both rounds of the contest – 24 total pies so far – Andrist’s second-round pie was the only one that saw a serving entirely consumed.
Andrist was in California last week and took advantage of some down time to do research.
“The whole flight back, I Googled different types of lard,” he said. “And it essentially came down to the fact that you want to use leaf lard.”
Turns out, he has a coworker who renders lard and – in a fortuitous coincidence – happened to have some on hand.
Andrist’s 111 was good enough to beat the 82 points scored by Raddatz. In the other matchups, Hanson beat Dufault 110 to 100; Olson beat Schmitz, 106 to 87; and Proulx beat Lunseth, 79-74.
The name of Andrist’s pie was named “Raspberry French Silk Pie.” Others were “Salted Caramel French Silk Pie,” by Raddatz; “Georgia Pecan Pie Delight,” by Hanson; “Ooh-La-La Apple Pie,” by Dufault; “Strata Pie,” by Olson; “Apple Cranberry Pie,” by Schmitz; “Salted Caramel Apple Pie,” by Proulx; and a traditional apple pie by Lunseth. The average score of the day was 94 points. Last week, which included 16 pies, the average was 69. The four winners from Monday move on to next week’s third round.
“It was kind of like the next level of pie baking in this round,” Johnson said. “I think the bakers took some pointers from the article (in the Herald, published after the first round).”
“I think last week, people were maybe trying too hard to make a perfect, beautiful slice. There might have been too much overthinking rather than letting the pie do what it’s supposed to do,” she said. “There was a lot of improvement. They listened to the comments that we made.”
Once again, crust was a central talking point.
In the first round, not many of the bakers used lard as the fat in their crust. This week, the majority did.
An interesting occurrence happened about halfway through this week’s judging. When the judges sampled Hanson’s crust, they correctly ascertained it was hers – even without having any definitive knowledge whose pie they were tasting. Hanson was the only baker in last week’s competition to have a perfect score from all judges in the crust category.
The judges asked a Herald representative if it was the same baker. When they were told that they were not allowed to know until after the judging concluded, they discussed it with certainty anyway.
“This is totally her,” Leech said. “I could eat the whole crust on this pie.”
Once again, Hanson had perfect crust scores, earning 45 points out of a possible 45. Andrist had the highest score in the filling category, earning 44 points out of 45, and Olson had the best presentation, earning 28 points out of 30.
Andrist, shortly after the contest, said he was feeling “pretty good.”
“I was kind of worried about the filling,” he said, “but the presentation, I felt, was gorgeous.”
Sponsors of the contest are Home of Economy, the Grand Forks Herald, American Crystal Sugar Co., Wall’s Medicine Center, The Lighting Gallery, Bremer Bank, Valley Senior Living, Harry’s Steakhouse, Hugo’s, Hope Church, Altru Health System, the Grand Forks-East Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce, Ground Round, Blue Moose, North Dakota Mill, Alerus, Northern Roots Boutique, Toasted Frog and Greenberg Realty.
The contest continues on Tuesday, Sept. 6, and will conclude on Monday, Sept. 12. The pairings in Tuesday's third round will be Hanson vs. Andrist and Olson vs. Proulx.