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Happy Pie Day! National baking champion and pie entreprenuer Michele Stuart’s Turtle Pecan Pie is perfect for a party — or any time. National Pie Day is Thursday.

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  • Crisco pie crust

    Makes one single 9-inch crust


    1 1/3 cups flour

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    1/2 cup well-chilled Crisco all-vegetable shortening

    3 to 6 tablespoons ice cold water


    Blend flour and salt in medium mixing bowl.

    Cut chilled shortening into flour mixture, using a pastry blender, in an up and down chopping motion, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some small pea-sized pieces remaining.

    Sprinkle 3 tablespoons ice cold water over the flour mixture. Using a fork, stir and draw flour from bottom of bowl to the top, distributing moisture evenly into flour. Press chunks down to bottom of bowl with fork. Add more water by the tablespoon, until dough is moist enough to hold together when pressed together.

    Tip: Test dough for proper moistness by squeezing a marble-sized ball of dough in your hand. If it holds together firmly, do not add any additional water. If the dough crumbles, add more water by the tablespoonful, until dough is moist enough to form a smooth ball when pressed together.

    Shape dough into a ball for single pie crust. Flatten ball into 1/2-inch thick round disk.

    Tip: For ease in rolling, wrap dough in plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

    Roll dough from center outward with steady pressure on a lightly floured work surface (or between two sheets of wax or parchment paper) into a circle 2-inches wider than pie plate for the bottom crust. Transfer dough to pie plate by loosely rolling dough around rolling pin. Center the rolling pin over the pie plate, and then unroll, easing dough into pie plate.

    For a single pie crust, trim edges of dough, leaving a 3/4-inch overhang. Fold edge under. Flute dough as desired. Bake according to specific recipe directions.

    Recipe adapted from

  • Turtle Pecan Pie

    Michele Stuart, a professional baker and 27-time national pie champion, offered this recipe suggestion for National Pie Day. Author of “Perfect Pies & More,” Stuart also supplies pie baking tips for Crisco’s Pie Hotline.


    Classic Crisco Pie Crust for single 9-inch crust

    1/4 cup heavy cream (to glaze the crimped pie edges)


    3 large eggs

    1 cup sugar

    1 cup light corn syrup

    2 tablespoons salted butter, melted

    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

    2 cups pecans

    1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

    1/2 cup Caramel Sauce


    1/4 cup Hot Fudge Sauce

    1/4 cup Caramel Sauce


    Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

    To prepare pie shell, on clean, lightly floured work surface, roll out dough with rolling pin until it forms a 10-inch circle. Fold circle in half, place it in 9-inch pie plate so that edges of circle drop over rim, unfold dough to completely cover pie plate. Using thumb and index finger, crimp edges of pie shell. Brush edges of pie shell with heavy cream to create a perfect, golden brown finish.

    To prepare filling, using electric mixer on medium speed, mix eggs, sugar, corn syrup, melted butter and vanilla together until they achieve a cream color. Remove 1 cup of mixture and set aside. Stir pecans into remaining mixture until they are combined evenly throughout.

    To assemble pie, sprinkle chocolate chips across bottom of pie shell. Pour pecan filling over chocolate chips, spreading evenly across. Stir 1/2 cup Caramel Sauce into cup of reserved filling, making sure to blend well. Pour caramel mixture over pecan filling, spreading it evenly across.

    To bake, place pie plate on prepared baking sheet and bake about 50 minutes, or until middle of the pie is firm to the touch. Transfer pie plate to wire cooling rack and allow pie to cool and set for 1-1/2 hours before serving. To serve, drizzle top of pie with Hot Fudge Sauce and Caramel Sauce.

    For hot fudge sauce: In medium saucepan, combine 1/4 cup sugar, 3/4 cup heavy cream, 1 tablespoon light corn syrup, 1 ounce unsweetend chocolate (finely chopped) and 1 tablespoon butter. Over medium heat, bring mixture to boil, stirring constantly. Let cook about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the sauce nearly separates. Remove from heat; whisk in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Chill sauce in refrigerator for five hours to thicken. Keeps in refrigerator at least two weeks. Makes 1 cup sauce.

    For caramel sauce: In medium saucepan over low heat, combine 1/3 cup water and 1-1/2 cups sugar. Cook until sugar is dissolved. Once the sugar is dissolved, increase the heat and bring mixture to a boil, then turn heat down a notch to let simmer until mixture starts to turn brown. (During this process, don’t stir the mixture.) Once the sugar mixture turns brown, add 1 tablespoon butter. Then, slowly add 1-1/2 cups heavy cream. Stir occasionally until the caramel thickens and looks smooth. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Chill sauce in refrigerator for five hours (or more). Sauce will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks. Makes 1-1/2 cups sauce.

    Adapted from Michele Stuart’s “Perfect Pies & More” (Ballantine).

Bake perfect crust for National Pie Day

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 - 12:32 pm

Michele Stuart makes perfect pies. Her reputation depends on it.

A 27-time national pie baking champion, Stuart has honed her technique to turn out thousand of memorable pastries. Author of “Perfect Pies & More” (Ballantine), Stuart of course is the perfect person to recommend tips for one more food-happy holiday — National Pie Day. That’s Thursday.

“I’ve been baking pies for as long as I can remember,” said Stuart, 37. “I grew up baking with my grandmother. It was one of our favorite things to do together. I just kind of took up the family tradition.”

Her destination bake shops in Connecticut attract customers from throughout the Northeast. The two shops sold almost 6,000 pies for Thanksgiving (the nation’s biggest pie-eating holiday), but turn out hundreds every day in at least 15 flavors.

“Pie baking is something I just absolutely love,” she said in a phone interview. “It’s kind of a lost art.”

Most people get stuck on the crust, Stuart noted. “Crust is definitely the most intimidating part of baking pies. Anybody can make a good filling, but not everybody makes a good crust.”

Stuart’s advice: Think cold. Chill your crust ingredients as well as your mixing bowl and rolling pin. “You want everything COLD,” she stressed. “Chill the flour, chill the shortening. Use ice cold water. Then, chill the dough before you roll it. It makes a big difference in how the dough handles.”

Stuart recommends chilling the dough for an hour or two before rolling. “You can make it the day before, then roll it when you’re ready to use it,” she added.

For her crusts, Stuart swears by Crisco shortening instead of butter, oil or lard. “I’ve always used Crisco,” she said. “It’s an old-fashioned way to make dough, but it’s the best one. You get the best flakiness and the crust will actually turn a golden brown.”

Stuart’s preference for Crisco led to a natural role as an expert for Crisco’s national pie hotline, 1-877-FOR PIE TIPS (877-367-7438). Stuart’s tips and techniques are now featured on the hotline as well as Crisco’s recipe-packed website,

For Pie Day, Stuart plans a celebration in her bake shops with pie tasting including this twist on an old favorite — Turtle Pecan Pie. This caramel- and chocolate-laced dessert is a sweet treat any time, but it could be a perfect match for another upcoming holiday — Valentine’s Day.

Call The Bee’s Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.

Read more articles by Debbie Arrington

About Appetizers

Chris Macias has served as The Sacramento Bee's Food & Wine writer since 2008. His writing adventures have ranged from the kitchen at French Laundry to helping pick 10 tons of zinfandel grapes with migrant farm workers in Lodi. Chris also judges regularly at food, wine and cocktail competitions around Northern California. His profile of a former gangbanger-turned-pastry-chef was included in Da Capo's "Best Food Writing 2012."

Read his Wine Buzz columns here
(916) 321-1253
Twitter: @chris_macias

Allen Pierleoni writes about casual lunchtime restaurants in The Sacramento Bee's weekly "Counter Culture" column. He covers a broad range of topics, including food, travel, books and authors. In addition to writing the weekly column "Between the Lines," he oversees the Sacramento Bee Book Club, in which well-known authors give free presentations to the public.

Read his Counter Culture reviews here
(916) 321-1128
Twitter: @apierleonisacbe

Blair Anthony Robertson is The Sacramento Bee's food critic.

Read his restaurant reviews here
(916) 321-1099
Twitter: @Blarob

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