The world may love pie in all its many forms, but for one weekend Central Florida is ground zero for great things cradled in a circle of flaky pastry.
The Great American Pie Festival returns for the 12th year to Celebration, bringing thousands of bakers as well as those who are on a culinary pilgrimage for a good slice of pie. More than 39,000 pie lovers are expected to attend the event April 27-28 at Lakeside Park.
There will be a pie-eating contest, the Never Ending Pie Buffet, the Pie Creation Station and the Pietopia Demonstration Stage featuring entertainment and baking demonstrations by chefs from across the country.
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631 Sycamore Street, Celebration, FL 34747, USA
8101 World Center Drive, Orlando, FL 32821, USA
But there's a serious side, too: The winners of the American Pie Council/Crisco National Pie Championships will be announced (amateurs 7 p.m. Saturday, April 27, professionals 5 p.m. Sunday, April 28).
The nearby Caribe Royale Resort will host the contest, which last year resulted in 801 pies. New this year is a Bake Learning Center, which will offer pie-baking tips and instruction from skilled pastry chefs.
"Every year brings new surprises and new recipes from the best bakers in all categories, from our amateurs to our professional and commercial bakers," says Linda Hoskins, executive director of the American Pie Council.
The pie-baking contest "is highly recommended" by one Central Florida chef who participated in the early stages of her food blogging and culinary career.
"The festival offers a little something for everyone," says Dawn Viola, executive chef and kitchen director of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. "Whether you're craving an old-fashioned apple pie, or something new and exotic like a green tea custard pie, it's a great way to spend the weekend.
"There is a lot of camaraderie and support. Many of us have become good friends and keep in touch," she says. In the 2009 Great American Pie Festival, Viola's Vanilla-Vanilla Bean Roasted Apple Pie won first place in the apple category – Professional Division; and in 2011 her Toasted Coconut Pie won second place in the cream category – Professional Division.
Research by the American Pie Council shows that shoppers buy about 186 million pies each year, accounting for $700 million of revenue for supermarkets annually.
Perhaps that explains why participants in last year's endless pie buffet ate 90,000 slices of pie in addition to ice cream, toppings and beverages.
Great American Pie Festival
Where: Lakeside Park, 631 Sycamore St., Celebration
When: 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday, April 27; noon-5 p.m., Sunday, April 28
How much: Admission to the festival is free; pie buffet is $10 for adults, $5 for seniors age 65 and older and children younger than 5.
Valarie Enters of Sanford, who won best of show in 2006 for her Crisco Classic Cherry Pie, offers these tips for competitive pie-baking:
•Work with ingredients that work for you. "For example, I'm best with fruit pies."