Monthly Archives: January 2010

Pie Palooza

I used to pride myself on my pie making abilities. My family credited my talent to genes inherited from my grandmother, whose uncanny knack for pastry (which my Mom claims skipped a generation!) delivered many a delicious pie onto our table. Whether or not it was a genetic trait or simply the pastry gods smiling down on my attempts, baking pies came easily to me. In elementary school, I was responsible for all of my friend Annabella’s pastry projects in home economics while she took care of my math homework. Satisfaction with our arrangement was mutual. But it has been years since I’ve made a pie, my later attempts resulting only in tears and lost patience. My garbage became home to numerous batches of broken pastry tossed angrily away.

I decided to take an official sabbatical from pastry.

Then along with kids came a new appreciation for the convenience of ready-made pie crusts, so needless to say my rolling pin has remained dormant for a long time. But in the back of my mind I always knew there was something missing; that special satisfaction achieved only by home baking. So when I discovered the fact that January 23rd is National Pie Day, I decided that this would be an opportune time to dust off my pie making skills and give pastry from scratch another chance. My pastry coming out party? CookThatBook’s inaugrual pie making competition!

I challenged a group of my nearest and dearest to get their rolling pins out, dust off the ol’ apron, and cast aside the new years diet resolutions and come out to compete! The response was fantastic, and I was completely blown away by the number of entries we received as well as the level of competition. We’re talking about people deligently testing and refinning recipes weeks prior to the big day of reckoning. Hours of research online and in libraries and bookstores being dedicated to finding the perfect pie recipe. Sabotage, bribery, copious amounts of trash talk…it all made me come to one conclusion: people take their pie VERY seriously!

Once the votes were tallied the results shook out as follows:

First Prize – Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie
Now let it be said that my friend Jacqui ran a ruthless campaign during the lead up to the competition, instilling panic and fear into the hearts of the other contestants. She was going to win. There was no question. It just came down to which pie of hers would take home the coveted first prize (“Chocolate Bourbon Pecan” vs. “Ricotta Pine Nut”). So when the votes were tallied and it appeared she was indeed the winner, I was secretly happy (not to mention relieved as she would have definintely taken me outside and beaten me senseless with a pie plate). The amount of effort she put into her entries was almost freakish! She traveled across the Lower Mainland seeking out the best shop in town to purchase the highest quality chocolate she could find, made treks out to local dairy farms in search of fresh, double churrened butter, and because she can’t eat dairy she relied completely on her hubby to be her official taste tester. Jax, I will never forget the image of you holding the first place prize above your head singing “We are the Champions” as you left my house. Priceless. 

Second Prize – Pecan Custard Pie
This pie was one of my favourites and was made by Mr. Spock’s mom (no sucking up to my mother-in-law intended…it truly was one of my favourites!) I should also mention that Laurie was hardcore enough to make not one, not two, but THREE pies the day of the competition. All of them were delicious, including a gorgeous mile high “Lemon Meringue” and classic “Tarte Tatin”. Not only were her pies delicious, they looked fabulous and you could tell she put just as much effort into their presentation as she did into their assemblage. Such a well rounded competitor!   

Third Prize – East Van Vegan and Double Chocolate Pudding Pie
We ended up having a tie for third place, with my mother’s “Double Chocolate Pudding Pie” (couldn’t believe it was low-fat!) sharing honours with the “East Van Vegan Pie” which was my friend Chela’s first attempt at making a raw vegan dessert. Both pies couldn’t have been more different. The chocolaty goodness of my mom’s pie would be delicious on its own as a pudding, and Chela’s combination of banana, avocado, and cocoa captured within a nut crust was…well…interesting! Seriously though, it was my first experience with a raw vegan recipe and it made me curious to test a new raw foods cookbook that I received recently as a gift. (As a side note, Chela and her husband were so inspired by her efforts that they have since committed to 30 days of raw food and Bikram Yoga. Yes, they are my crazy friends).

To view the winning recipe click here

To view photos of some of the entries, click here

Established by the American Pie Council, National Pie Day is meant to celebrate everything about pies. Whether sweet, savoury, lattice style, open or double crust, the Council encourages people to bake and share pies on this day in order to draw attention to the love and enjoyment of pie making and eating. Often considered to be the ultimate comfort food, pies have a fascinating history that dates back to the time of the ancient Egyptians. The first pie recipe is credited to the Romans, and consisted of rye-crusted goat cheese and honey. Meat filling dominated early pies, which are said to have been made with more crust than innards (now that’s my kind of pie!) But google “pie recipes” today and you will find unlimited concoctions, styles and methods.

For more information please visit

Interview – Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks

Whenever I feel the need to escape from life for a few hours and truly unwind, I don’t head to the nearest spa or sit by the beach with a novel. Nope. Instead I head over to what has become my own personal utopia: Barbara-Jo’s Books To Cooks. Located in Vancouver, this store houses everything and anything to do with cookbooks including books for professionals and beginners, rare and out-of-print books, and culinary periodicals from around the world. The store’s owner, Barbara-Jo McIntosh, designed the store to be an epicurean’s delight where food lovers and cooks of all abilities would find inspiration. An award-winning food professional with over 25 years experience in the food and hospitality industry, Barbara-Jo served on the prestigious James Beard Awards cookbook selection committee for six years. In 2003, Vancouver Magazine honoured her with a lifetime achievement award for her many contributions to the local culinary scene.

From the moment I step through the doors of this cookbook lover’s domain, I start to relax. The welcoming vibe of the store allows me to temporarily forget all of my stresses, and languidly browse books while enjoying a cup of complimentary tea. The focal point of the shop is the fully-equipped kitchen, where cooking classes and demonstrations feature recipes from new and notable books. I have yet to sign-up for a cooking class, but am determined to make it happen this year.

Recently I had an opportunity to chat with Barbara-Jo.

Our topic? Cookbooks. Duh.

To read the entire interview with Barbara-Jo McIntosh, click here.