Kathy Kinard loves crafting pie by hand. The volunteer with the Olympia Bakers Guild – yes, there is such a thing – has made countless pies for the guild’s annual Pie Fest. This year’s will be held this Saturday Feb. 23 at The Olympia Center.
Every serious pie baker has a ritual and Kinard’s involves a garage sale find.
“I love finding my favorite bowl to mix the flour and salt, cut in the butter, sprinkling ice water over the pea-like crumble, forming a soft dough. I’m never without my reliable ceramic pie plate and bake directly on top of an old garage sale pizza stone,” described Kinard. She always looks forward to hearing the stories behind the pies at Pie Fest.
This year’s pie fest serves many purposes: It raises money and collects food for the Thurston County Food Bank. It’s a place for bakers to convene and share tips for making pie, or have one judged by a panel of bakers who will give awards in three categories (see accompanying information). Pie Fest’s most utilitarian purpose is to feed pie to anyone with $3 or three cans of food to donate. For big spenders, there’s also a pie auction with whole pies for sale, with proceeds going to the food bank.
What Pie Fest needs most, though, is pie – that’s how they raise money. Entering a homemade pie in the contest can raise as much as $50 for each pie entered.
Because crust seems to be the part of a pie so many bakers belabor, I asked Kinard for her best pie crust tips, which she shared graciously via email. I also asked her a few questions about running the pie fest every year.
Q: What are your best tips for making a great crust?
A: Most everyone agrees you need to work with very cold butter, shortening or lard. In fact, if you can freeze it for a few minutes or even overnight (cut into chunks first) it makes for a very flaky crust.
Q: Have you ever heard of anyone adding vodka to their pie crust? Or is that made up by one of those wacky food bloggers?
A: It’s been done! I think it just may be more fun to talk about though as I have never been able to taste a real difference. I am sure the bakers who use this have a good time.
Q: Lard versus butter – which would win in a smackdown?
A: Actually, I think the combo is the real winner.
Q: Are there any members in the guild who swear by lard?
A: Most of our members use all butter or the combo, not 100 percent lard. I think this is why Crisco started making butter colored lard years ago – so people would still use their product.
Q: What’s your best tip for par-baking crusts – and what kind of pies should have a par-baked crust?
A: Ah – blind baking! You want to par-bake when the filling isn’t going to take as long to cook (usually an hour for fruit pies) or doesn’t need cooking at all (creams). Also important for tarts. Some people always par-bake though just to ensure the crust has a head start, especially if the filling is very moist.
Q: If you hate fruit pies, can you bring a savory pie to enter the contest?
A: Yes, savory are welcome.
Q: What are your favorite pies from past Pie Fests?
A: We have had some amazing creative entries – pear cardamon – and some good old-fashioned traditional ones too. They both do well.
Q: Anyone make a pie that was so over-the-top, it still gets talked about?
A: One year the judges actually ate the entire grand prize pie and when it came time to auction it, we couldn’t figure out what happened – it had disappeared!
Q: What are the pies that go first and fast?
A: Apple and cherry
Q: Tell readers a little more about Pie Fest
A: It is a fundraiser for the Food Bank – simply entering a pie in the contest raises $50, which can feed a family through their program for a week. What a sweet way to support your community, by baking a pie.
Olympia Pie Fest
When: 1-3:30 p.m. Saturday Feb. 23
Where: The Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. NW
What: Eat pie. A slice will cost you $3 or 3 cans of food. Or buy whole pies at auction.
Benefiting: Thurston County Food Bank
Info: For pie contest rules and other information, go to olybakers.com
Pie Fest contest
Entry fee: $5 or 5 cans of high quality food for the food bank
Three categories: Juniors 12 and younger, teens 13-18, and adults 19 and older
Contest drop-off: Drop pies off between 10-11:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Overview of rules: No prepared pie crusts, they must be homemade. No dairy allowed in the filling. Pies must not need refrigeration. Disposable pie pans only.
More rules here: olybakers.com
Judges: Dani Cone from Seattle’s High 5 Pies, Kenny Pugh from Old School Pizzeria, Leanne Willard from Bayview School of Cooking, Adam Adrian from Ramblin’ Jacks, Jordan Marsicek from the Bearded Lady, and Michelle Heistand from New Market Skills Center.