Greenpoint Gazette

Brooklyn Bakes: The First-Ever Borough-Wide Bakeoff

BY Talisa Chang

Pie dreams were realized at Spacecraft last Sunday at the 1st Annual Brooklyn Pie Bake-Off Benefit—both for the twenty-eight hopeful bakers and the over one hundred attendants, who helped raise over $1000 for Bags for the People and left with happy, pie-filled stomachs. The event was organized by Glenn Robinson of Bags for the People, and Leslie Henkel of STC Craft.

“We do [craft] events with Glenn all the time, but he also has a lot of background in food making.” Spacecraft Owner Cristina Dodd said. “We’ve always wanted to do something with food because we have this beautiful table, as well as a kitchen. We also like to eat, and any way we can support Bags for the People is great. Spacecraft is all about making things, so it’s definitely up our alley.”

“Glenn was tired of making bags,” said Leslie Henkel, who also does press for Bags for the People. “We wanted to just do something where we could have fun and relax without having to worry about sewing machines breaking, just for a day.”

Delicious smells of pies both sweet and savory tantalized hungry on-lookers as the judges, Tracy Candido of Sweet Tooth of the Tiger; Julie Shneider, director of Etsy Labs; Chysanthe Tenentes, managing editor at Brooklyn Based; and Heather Ross, author of Weekend Sewing, made their way through each pie.

“I haven’t eaten this morning, so I’m ready to taste some yummy pies,” judge Tracy Candido said. Her organization, Sweet Tooth of the Tiger, helps provide funding to arts projects through bake sales. “I’m mostly interested in the crust—it’s always something that takes awhile to perfect but is relatively easy to do. Also, the complexity of pie filling is really important and sometimes people don’t think about that.”

The pies were judged on crust, the harmony of ingredients, and overall execution. Each pie had to have a homemade crust and one local ingredient.

“We didn’t want to restrict it to being all local because people might not be able to find everything they wanted, so we felt having at least one local ingredient was the best option,” Robinson said. “We wanted to get people to think about going to farmer’s markets. A lot of people actually did go and were really conscious of getting local ingredients, which was one of our goals.”

After the judging, bakers and attendants feasted on over forty pies (some bakers made multiple pies), which ranged from several classic apple pies to a Concord Grape Pie by Star Black, S’more Pie by Allison Kave, Kelso Cream Pie by Dahlia Thompson, Sweet Potato Pecan Pie by Robin Douthit, Persimmon Pie by Lisa Kelley, and Apple Gruyere Pie Erin Hopkins Weber. Savory pies provided a hearty, salty flavor to the day, and included Baked Potato Pie by Karol Lu, Savory Goat Cheese and Eggplant Pie by Amy Strauss and James Dooley, and Pumpkin Carrot Goat Cheese Pie by Sarah Haas. Pies were washed down with coffee, tea, milk, wine, and homemade beer by Brooklyn Brews’ Matt Miller.

“I think it’s so cute,” contestant Mira David said. “I just moved to the city from Maine and this feels really small town and lovely.” David submitted an Apple Muerbeteig, a German apple pie that has been in her family for generations, though it was her first attempt at making it.

Kat Selvocki of Clinton Hill submitted a custard-based Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar Pie. Vinegar pies are a traditional Midwestern pie, made by substituting vinegar for citrus fruit when it was unavailable. She is in the process of starting her own pie company, piety.

“Walking in, everything smelled so good, so I can’t wait to try some of the other pies that are here,” Slovaki said. “It looks like an awesome assortment. It’s exciting to see so many home baked and creative ideas.”

Another contestant, Hannah Vaughan, hoped her intricate lattice work would add to her classic apple pie. “I made three practice pies. I have nothing to do right now,” she joked.

Tyshawn Henry also submitted an apple pie. “I enjoy baking more than anything. I’m competitive, but this is really just an opportunity to bake and share,” she said. “This is a great day for the community. The turnout is amazing.”

After careful deliberation on the judges’ part, Best Sweet and Overall Pies went to the power-pie couple Jay Horton and Allison Kave, who made Apple Cider Cream Pie and Bourbon Ginger Pecan Pie, respectively. Best Savory Pie went to Danielle Sucher and David Turner, with their individual Saffron Duck Pot Pies. The Crowd Favorite Pie was a tie between Kristy Reichert, who made Sour Cream Apple with Oatmeal Crumble Topping Pie, and Attack of the Pork Pies by David and Alex Mellor-Hayes.

“[The judging] wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, because I just took a small bite of each of them,” judge Tenentes said. “There were some good pies—I think it’s hard to get a great crust. We saw some people doing things with local Mast Brothers chocolate, although I thought it was a little too overpowering. It’s not necessarily a baking chocolate.”

“It was really fun to see the inspired combinations that people came up with using the local ingredients,” she continued. “There were a good number of cream and meringue pies, which was interesting. There was a good bunch of savory and squash pies too. I really liked the Goat Cheese pie, and was also really impressed with the Tamarind pie. The Baked Potato Pie was also really well done.”

The winners took home Bags for the People bags, as well as the Baked cookbook by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) and Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross (STC Craft).

Robinson hopes to make the Brooklyn Pie Bake-Off an annual event that will help raise money for different underfunded organizations. To find out more about his organization, visit BagsforthePeople.org. And to pie bakers everywhere—it’s never too early to start practicing for next year. Savory winners Sucher and Turner are already dreaming up new concoctions—perhaps a sour cherries and ribs pie? Brooklyn is drooling in anticipation.

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