Last year, I was fortunate enough to be a judge at the American Pie Council‘s Crisco National Pie Championship in Florida. I got to taste dozens of pies and helped pick out the best in show. I would have done it again for their 2011 contest, but I was out of the country when the championship was held. I’m giving the pie contest a nod by baking one of their winning pies at home! The Engagement Ring Pie was the best-in-show winner in the professional category, baked by Bryan Ehrenholm of The Lunch Pail in Modesto, California. The pie was inspired by the royal engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton and is “is rich with history of English walnuts and dates, graced by a meringue crust and is topped the deep color of blueberries and encircled with the lightness of whip cream and diamond dust.”
Although the pie has some historic ingredients in it, it is hardly a traditional pie. The base of the pie is not a regular pie crust, but is a light meringue that is baked until it is crisp on the outside and chewy within. It is topped with a lightly sweetened and very shiny layer of glazed blueberries and garnished with whipped cream. It is striking to look at and very interesting – and tasty – to eat. The pie is sweet but not overly sweet, despite the meringue base, and has a very unique combination of flavors and textures to it. The topping is very flavorful thanks to bright, fresh blueberries, and has a little bit of richness to it from the glaze. The meringue is both crisp and chewy, but with a lightness that contrasts well with the topping. It is surprisingly flavorful from all of the nuts, dried fruit and vanilla wafers inside.
The pie base can be prepared a day in advance and kept, uncovered, at room temperature. Once the pie has been topped, it is best the day that it is made. The “diamond dust” in the original description is actually a type of edible glitter for cakes that can be found at craft and cake decorating stores. It adds a little extra “bling” to the pie, but isn’t necessary unless you are actually going to bring this out at an engagement party!
If you’re not celebrating the royal wedding, you can easily make variations on this pie to suit your own tastes. Other fruits would work well in the topping, such as raspberries or a combination of other berries. You could substitute pecans into the meringue for the walnuts – and you can use either toasted or untoasted nuts. As for the fruit, you can even change out the dates for other dried fruits, including plums (my top choice for a substitution here), apricots and even raisins. You can opt for a coarse or fine chop of your ingredients, but I found that I preferred a slightly finer chop of the dried fruits and nuts.
Royal Engagement Ring Pie
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup vanilla wafer cookies, coarsely chopped
1 cup dried dates, chopped
1 cup walnuts, chopped
2 pints fresh blueberries
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks or whipped topping, for garnish
edible diamond dust, for garnish (cake decorating product, available at craft stores)
Preheat oven to 300F. Lightly grease a pie plate.
In a large bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually beat in sugar until it has all been incorporated and meringue can form soft peaks. Beat in baking powder. Fold in chopped vanilla wafers, dates and walnuts. Pour into a greased pie pan.
Bake for 30 min. Cool completely on a wire rack. Center of the pie will sink slightly as it cools.
When the meringue has cooled, prepare the topping.
In medium saucepan, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of water, 1 cups of sugar and 1/3 cup of corn starch until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until thick, stirring frequently as the mixture boils. Transfer to another bowl and cook to room temperature, about 45 minutes.
Gently stir the cornstarch glaze to loosen it up after it has cooled, then fold in berries, coating them completely (you might not need all the glaze). Spoon blueberries on top of pie, leaving about 1/2 inch around the edge.
In a small bowl, beat whipped cream to stiff peaks and transfer to a piping bag fitted with a star tip (or a plain tip, if you prefer) and pipe a generous circle of whipped cream around the edge of the berries. Garnish with [edible] diamond or luster dust.