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Pie Party with Asheville Cookbook Author Barbara Swell

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In our humble opinion few things can beat a great slice of pie. It’s almost a cliche to view home baked pies as the ultimate Southern dessert. Despite being the home state for Krispy Kreme doughnuts – a good “pie party” or pie contest is still beloved by many local WNC bakers and cooks.

One such baker is well-known cookbook author and teacher Barbara Swell.

According to the cover story about Barbara and her Pie Parties published in the “WNC Magazine”…

Each August, a group of friends parade up the gravel drive to Barbara Swell and Wayne Erbsen’s home in Asheville bearing pies of all flavors, savory and sweet, with wacky names like Lazy Wife, Hungry Hobo, and Doggone Good Apple. A delicious frenzy of tasting and judging ensues and by sundown, nary a slice remains. Follow Barbara’s lead for summer fun with recipes and tips for hosting a yummy gathering.

Photographs by Christopher Shane

Tips on a creating your own Pie Party by Barbara Swell

Plan the contest at least a month in advance.Before the event, offer a crust workshop, because that’s the most important part of an expertly crafted pie.

Choose categories, so many people can be recognized for their efforts. The contest has first-pie-made, youth, fruit, chocolate, veggie, meat, heirloom, tart, cream, gluten-free, and nut divisions.

Pick a theme and offer prizes. Our contest is retro and bakers come dressed accordingly. The prizes—most donated by participants—include vintage aprons and bakeware, rolling pins, dishes, and cookbooks. We offer prizes for bakers as well as best costume, person who looks most like their pie, and best rolled crust.

Register the pies on the day of the party. Include the baker’s name, pie name, and category. Each baker is given a number that corresponds with the name card displayed with the pie, so the bakers remain anonymous. Group the pies on tables by category. Each pie has a knife and spoon so people can serve themselves a small taste. Pies are not cut until the hostess gives the signal.

Make everyone a judge.If your contest is large, have each participant choose a category to judge. Be sure to provide pencils and paper for voting, after which people may taste as many pies as they like. Provide an activity for the guests while votes are being tallied. We have live Appalachian string band music.

Keep things light and fun.From the start, we tell people our pie party isn’t fair. We have reserve prizes for people who don’t win a category, but are still proud of their creations.

~ [Source: WNC Magazine]


If you want to explore the lost art of pie making and baking then we highly recommend Barb’s book.

You can pick up a copy from our online store.

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