Which pie is the best?
Wed, 18 Jul 2012 5:00a.m.
By Dan Satherley
Seventeen judges, 4500 pies and one day to decide which is New Zealand's best.
Tomorrow morning judging in the annual Supreme Pie Awards gets underway, with a record number of entries from nearly 450 bakeries and cafes across the country.
Last year the supreme award was taken out by a spiced plum, port and apple pie, which organisers Bakels say "caused a frisson in the tight-knit bakers' community".
"There was a very healthy debate last year about a dessert pie winning the supreme prize," says Duncan Loney, Bakels executive chairman.
The chances of dessert pie winning two years in a row are slim, however.
"It varies an awful lot," says Mr Loney. "We've had a real mixture – we've had a chicken one win, we've had fruit, we've had steak, mince and cheese has won about three times, we've had a couple of gourmet meat, we've had a couple of gourmet fruit ones – as was last year's – we've had a bacon and egg one, and we've had a vegetarian one take it out."
Four-and-a-half-thousand pies is a lot, but luckily the 17 judges aren't required to eat every single one.
"What we do is we judge all the physical appearances – baking, how well the pastry is baked, the overall colour of the pie, evenness of bake, the lift on the pastry – particularly on the top, the appearance of the filling… we cut the pie in half and make sure it's full," says Mr Loney.
"In reality it's got to look good as well as delicious. We don't want ugly stuff on the plate, do we?"
And it's just as well they don't have to taste every pie, since only those that pass that first round of judging get heated up – in a proper oven, not a microwave, which Mr Loney says would be "sacrilege".
"You can microwave some pies, but pastry acts best to standard baking. Microwaving tends to make them soft and chewy."
Teams of three judge each pie, of which they may only take a bite or two from before moving onto the next one.
"Just enough to get the texture of the pastry and the flavour of the filling," says Mr Loney. "The flavour through the filling should be reasonably consistent anyway, and the texture of the pastry should be the same.
"Judges make an individual call – if [a pie] happens to be uneven, one might score it high, one might score it low – or they may both judge it low because one's got too much cheese and one's got too little. But then that's how it deserves to be because they should be able to get the cheese consistent through the pie anyway."
Forty-nine awards in total are up for grabs, in a range of categories like mince and gravy; steak, vegetables and gravy; steak and cheese; chicken and vegetables; gourmet meat; vegetarian; bacon and egg; mince and cheese; gourmet fruit; seafood; commercial wholesale; and café boutique.
The café boutique category makes its debut at this year's competition. Entries aren't eligible for the supreme award however, as the bakers aren't required to make their own pastry.
"We've left it fairly wide in the specifications, and I guess we're taking a bit of a trial in this one to see what we get out of it," says Mr Loney. They've received 48 entries in the café boutique category, a number he's "quite pleased" about.
The most popular category though is steak and cheese, followed by mince and cheese and plain mince. That's not to say some bakers don't get a little adventurous.
"A few years ago we had a roadkill [pie] from the south, Westland somewhere," says Mr Loney. "It was believe a possum pie – that was just the name, and I believe the meat in it was possum.
"It didn't feature in the final."
The winners will be announced in Auckland on Tuesday next week, at the Rendezvous Hotel. Comedian Dai Henwood will be MC.
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