In the South, Tajin — a spicy seasoning made from peppers, sea salt, and lime zest — is commonly used to sprinkle on fruits or on the rim of a margarita glass. However, near the Canada border, Tajin is not as popular. Evan Andrist decided to take a chance and use Tajin as a pie spice in the semifinal round of the Home of Economy-Grand Forks Herald Pie Bake-off. His pie, titled “Not Your Nana’s Key Lime Pie,” received the highest score of the day and earned him a spot in the championship round. Andrist’s pie outscored Tammy Schmitz’s pie, and Deanna Shackelford outscored Renae Schanilec, with both Andrist and Shackelford advancing to the finals.
Andrist got the idea for his spicy key lime pie when he visited Florida and saw Tajin sprinkled on fruits. Despite being nervous about using Tajin, Andrist decided to trust his gut and go with the spicy flavor. The judges were initially perplexed by the pie’s ingredients but eventually warmed up to it as they tasted it. The combination of sweet, traditional key lime flavors and the low-grade heat of Tajin and cayenne pepper worked well together. The judges were impressed not only with the taste but also with the pie’s presentation, which included thinly-sliced limes, spice-infused whipped cream, and a candied red pepper.
Schmitz took a more traditional approach with her “Black Bottom Pecan Walnut Pie,” which featured a rich nutty filling with a layer of dark chocolate. She received the highest score for her crust, which consisted of flour, lard, salt, and cold water. Shackelford won with her “Autumn Spiced Festival Pie,” filled with apples, pears, raisins, and a splash of grappa. Although the use of grappa prompted some questions from the judges, they appreciated the cast-iron skillet crust and the fruit flavors of the pie.
Next, Andrist and Shackelford will compete in the championship round, where the winner will receive a $500 check from the Herald in the name of their sponsor. The second-place finisher will receive a $250 check. The judges commended all four bakers’ efforts and noted that the pies with regular crusts tended to coat the mouth too much. They also suggested that bakers using lard in the crust should do research to improve the taste and texture. The reigning champion from last year is Catilyn Olson, while Andrist made it to the semifinals before being eliminated.