As I said two years ago when I helped judge the first Bake Bethesda a Pie Contest, it’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it.
Ditto for this year, when on Sunday, September 2, I got to sample 33 pies—sweet, savory and those made by kids—at the Bethesda Central Farm Market’s annual ode to local amateur bakers.
And what a lovely and varied array they prepared—ranging from butterscotch and fig to peach and prosciutto, with lots of berry pies in between.
In the blind tasting, judges Joseph Poupon of Patisserie Poupon, Catherine Gewertz of CurvyMama Pies and I rated each pie numerically on appearance, taste and overall impression.
It’s an interesting exercise—there were enormous variations in the flakiness and thickness of crusts, the consistency of fillings, and the relationship between appearance and taste (not all pretty pies tasted as good as they looked, and the opposite was also true).
A final note to the nine kid entrants: great job!
And the winners were….drum roll…
1st place: Maria Stechschulte, Tropical Fresh Coconut
2nd place: Anita Schweinfurth, Key Lime
1st place: Maria Stechschulte, Tomato Onion Goat Cheese
1st place: Michelle Dan, Peach & Blueberry
2nd place: Brett Fisher, Pecan
3rd place: Marxe Orbach, Butterscotch & Fig
When reached later at her home in Chevy Chase-DC, Maria Stechschulte, who took first place in both the sweet and savory categories, said that her family was tickled by her sweep of the pie contest.
The retired National Academy of Sciences accountant said that cooking is her hobby, and that she used to teach Asian cuisine classes at the Chevy Chase Community Center (egg rolls are her specialty).
Her winning Tropical Fresh Coconut Pie, a coconut cream filling flecked with fresh shredded coconut, had a coconut palm cut-out made from pate brisee decorating the top; the same crust lined the bottom and sides.
Stechschulte is originally from the Philippines, where a coconut palm tree stood beside her home. “I always remember it,” she said.
Remarkably, Sunday was the first day she had ever made what turned out to be the winning savory entry, a rectangular pie filled with caramelized onions and goat cheese and topped with fresh sliced tomatoes.
Both pies, which stood out both for their appearance and taste, were made from original recipes.
Stechschulte took home two prizes—a $100 gift certificate to Newton’s Table and a $75 gift certificate to Assaggi Mozzarella Bar.
Prizes were awarded to the other winners as well, but the event is also a fundraiser for the Manna Food Center, Montgomery County’s food bank. Participants paid $5 each to enter the contest.
After the judging, the public got to devour the leftovers, and were encouraged to make donations. Including the entry fees, a total of $600 was raised for Manna.
The winning recipes will be posted on the Central Farm Markets website later this week at www.centralfarmmarkets.com