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October 7, 2016

8th Annual Good Food Pie Contest & My Sweet Potato Cheesecake-Stuffed Pie Recipe

My fifth time participating in KCRW's annual Good Food Pie Contest was on October 2nd.  As usual, the event was filled with fanfare and a ton of friendly bakers.  Out of 372 entries in eight categories, the list of winners are distinguished, having quite an achievement!

In past years, I brought my Grandma Walker's Impossible Pie, Peanut Butter Custard with Apricot Glaze, Blackberry-Rosemary Pie with Cheddar Crust, and my mom's Chocolate Cheesecake with Graham Cracker Crust

This year, I entered the special "Sweet Potato category" that was sponsored by a holiday movie being released soon.  I used my dad's pumpkin pie recipe, subbing the pumpkin for sweet potato puree.  I stuffed the pie with the filling from the Black-bottom Cupcakes that were a birthday favorite of my childhood.  The competition was held at UCLA, on the green area near Royce Hall, where the background included a beautiful fountain.  There were (of course) pies, but also a demonstration stage, a cookbook exchange, games and activities for kids, food trucks, and a vendor area that included hula hooping.  The atmosphere was festive and family-friendly, with lots of aprons in view.  Bakers brought one pie for the judges to taste, and one for public sampling on the green area.

KCRW's official photo of my judges' entry
at the check-in table
My pie on the public sampling table
My neighbors on the public sampling table

My reason for entering is not the competition but the fun day of meeting other bakers and bloggers.  Next to me at the sampling table was a young girl who had very obviously made her pie entry.  She kept carefully rearranging the lime slices on the top of her pie.

I didn't get to stay for the sampling this year, as I am going through a painful time at home.  My first dog, now ten years old, is declining due to kidney disease, and I had just gotten news of some very poor lab results that morning before coming to UCLA.  I walked around the entire event, chatting and taking pictures, and had a fabulous sandwich from one of the vendors.  But once I'd seen everything, I was at loose ends, waiting for the events to start.  Unfortunately, I couldn't hold it together at my sadness over Chance.  I confided in baker Malinda Miller, who was unbelievably kind, understanding, and comforting.  Still, I ended up going home soon after to be with my little pup.

Since all of my pictures were taken prior to the beginning of the events, I had time to talk with several bakers.  Megan Paonessa baked five separate pies for different categories!  I really enjoyed how elaborately detailed she'd decorated each one, with different textures.  She had lovely golden malted milk balls for her banana pie, and a pretty granola topping on another.  

Stacey Clipp taught me about the spice "masala."  I knew it had a kick, but had somehow always associated the word with saffron or curry, which was incorrect.  Stacey's pie was beautifully decorated with tomatoes.

A good amount of bakers kept their pies covered prior to the start of the tasting event, so I was unable to get photos.  This one below caught my eye anyway, as it was made by "Aunt Elisa & Lily Rose."  I would have loved to meet them to see their creation, but they must have been wandering the event themselves.  I always love to see generations baking together, even more when it's an aunt and niece. 

So many bakers took the time and forethought regarding presentation.  From tablecloths and dishes, to props like photos which helped to tell their story, the bakers inventiveness did not stop at their pie.  Whether the angle was comfort or modern, historical or genealogical, there was a little something for everyone under the two pie tents at the event.


When it came to the pies themselves, I took inspiration from textures and crusts, to filling ingredients and decorating.  The range of flavor profiles and combos you see at the contest is truly amazing.

Sweet Potato Cheesecake-Stuffed Pie
(makes two pies)

Cream Cheese Filling

8 oz. cream cheese

1 egg

1/3 cup sugar
1 cup chocolate chip 

Sweet Potato Pie Filling
3 cups fresh or canned pureed sweet potato
2 cups evaporated milk
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp nutmeg 
2 tsp cinnamon 

4 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 tbsp butter or margarine melted 

2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp flour

1) Cream the cheese, sugar and egg well.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Set this filling aside.

2) Combine Sweet Potato Filling ingredients together; mix thoroughly.

3) Divide cream cheese filling in half; layer each half into two pastry lined nine inch pie pans.  Pat down so that the cream cheese forms an even bottom layer.  Pour the sweet potato filling on top of the cream cheese layer till quite full.

Alternately, you can fill the pies first with some of the sweet potato filling, then dab spoonfuls of the cheesecake into the center of the pie and top off with more sweet potato mix.  This will lead to a less uniform layer of the cream cheese filling when cut, and some may be visible on top.

For a "Snickerdoodle" touch dust the top well with cinnamon sugar.

4) Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 350 degrees; bake for 30 minutes or until knife inserted in the pie comes out clean.  Depending on the consistency of the pureed sweet potato, this could take quite some time.  (For high altitude - extend second bake time to 55-60 minutes.)

5) Cool on wire rack for 1 1/2 hours.  Serve immediately or refrigerate.
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