KCRW 4th Annual Pie Contest

My Maple Dark Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie won 3rd place in the nut pie category at KCRW's 4th Annual Good Food Pie Contest!

With over 200 pies entered I feel great about placing, especially since several of the winners were professional bakers. Although it felt great to place, I was having fun at the event even before they called my name. The contest was held this past Saturday at Hancock Park at LACMA. It was open to the public who could come and taste three pies at the event for free. It was nice to hang out on the lawn talking to the public as they approached me to taste my pie, chatting with fellow bakers, and listening to Anne Litt DJ. Also, I did feel special to have an impressive panel of judges taste my pie.

I've been practicing my pies recently. I made eight test pies with varying crusts and fillings until I landed on two that I liked: an apple, pear and cranberry pie and the winning maple chocolate pecan. We were required to bake a pie for the public and another pie for the judges, which means I made an additional four pies, bringing me up to a grand total of a dozen pies in the past two weeks.

Roy and I have been joking that we're on a pie diet, but it really isn't that far from the truth. And Miles has been in on the pie action too. He helped me press the pulse button on the food processor which he thought was hilarious. As I was baking one day Miles kept pointing to me and saying "pie." Great, he rarely says "mama" and now he thinks my name is "pie." I can only blame myself though and it was pretty cute.

I landed on the winning pie pretty easily. One of my first thoughts was to make was a pumpkin mascarpone pie with ground pecans in the crust. The filling did not work at all but the crust was delicious. I kept the crust and began focusing on what I really wanted in a pie. I thought of some of my favorite things: chocolate and nuts. I decided to make a pecan pie even though I had never made one before.

As I thought about the pie I knew that I did not want it to be overly sweet as most pecan pies, in my opinion, are.  I remembered that my uncle, who is an avid pie baker, once told me that the trick to pecan pie was to use maple syrup instead of corn syrup (sorry all you southerners out there). I wrote out everything I thought should be in the filling, including some sea salt and a bit of lemon juice to balance the sweetness. And you know what? I loved it the first time I made it. Now, for research sake I decided to alter the filling ratios slightly and melt the chocolate instead of keeping it in whole chips. I didn't like the second pie nearly as much as the first, so for the contest I went back to the original filling. And I was happy that I did.

As always, I've included the recipe at the bottom of the page. Enjoy!

Thank you KCRW and especially Evan Kleiman and the Good Eats crew for a wonderful event!

Apple, Pear, Cranberry

Maple Dark Chocolate Chip Pecan

My pie was one of the first to be gobbled up.

The judges' pie awaiting the final vote.

Evan Kleiman and me

Celebrating with my boys

Maple Dark Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie

3 tablespoons chopped, toasted pecans
5 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
5 tablespoons cold butter
3 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
3-4 tablespoons ice water

3 large eggs
1 cup grade B maple syrup
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 1/2 cups chopped, toasted pecans
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips, frozen

Make the crust: Cut the butter and shortening into 1/2 inch cubes and place in the freezer while you work with the other ingredients. Pulse the nuts and sugar in food processor until nuts are ground to the texture of sand. Add flour and salt and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until the pieces of butter and shortening are large pea to walnut size. Add 3 tablespoons of ice water and pulse until the dough begins to come together but does not form a ball. You should be able to pinch the dough together with your fingers and it should stick together. If it is still too dry to do this add the other tablespoon of water so that it does. Transfer the dough to plastic wrap, flatten into 6 inch disk and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.

Once the dough has rested pull it from the refrigerator and allow to soften enough to roll out (how long this takes will depend on the temperature of your kitchen). On a lightly floured surface roll the dough into a 13 inch round.

Gently wrap the dough around the rolling pin and carefully transfer it to a 9.5 inch pie pan. Fit the dough into the pan and trim the overhang so you only have 3/4 inch overhang. Tuck the dough edges under to create a clean border and then crimp into fluted pattern. Freeze dough 30 minutes.

Place one rack at lowest position and another rack at the middle position in the oven. Preheat to 400 degrees for at least 20 minutes. Remove pie shell from freezer and line with foil. Fill halfway with pie weights or dried beans. Bake on lowest rack for 15 minutes. Peel away foil - if it comes away easily, continue to remove all foil and pie weights from pie. If it sticks, return to the oven in 2 minute increments until the foil doesn't stick to the dough anymore. Keeping the pie on the bottom rack, reduce oven to 350 degrees and continue to bake for another 5 minutes until crust is very lightly golden.

Filling: Meanwhile, whisk together first 9 ingredients until smooth. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips. When the pie shell is done baking, remove from oven and pour the filling into the hot shell. Return to middle rack of oven and continue baking for 40-45 minutes more, rotating once halfway through baking. Let cool completely before serving.

Makes 1 pie. 

Notes: Be careful not to overwork the dough. The easiest way I found to do this is to roll from the center toward you, then rotate the dough a quarter turn and roll toward you again. By continually moving the dough it should be less likely to stick and you should only have to add a small amount of flour during the rolling process. If it is still sticking, it may have gotten too warm and you may need to return it to the refrigerator to chill again. If it cracks as you roll it then it may still be too cold and you may need to wait for it to warm up for a few more minutes.  

The pie is actually better the next day, making it the perfect recipe for holiday entertaining. 


  1. Sara!!! I am SUPER impressed. Just reading this post and hearing your passion for pies makes me love you that much more. You are the real deal. What an exciting day for you. Love that Miles called you "pie" and am wishing we lived a whole lot closer so I could sample one of those yummy yummy treats!

  2. Congrats Sara! That is so awesome. I wanted to say that I am really enjoying the blog. Even though I've done almost zero baking from scratch, I was inspired to try to make this pie & the strawberry cake for Chuck's birthday, they both turned out great & everyone really liked them :) so thank you for the inspiration & great recipes.
    Karen Minear

  3. so glad to have found your new blog!! i'm back to blogging myself...well a little. need to catch up very soon!