Food & Drink

‘As easy as pie?’ Lacey library contest will show the finesse needed to bake the best

Fruit pie entries await the judges’ knives at the Lacey Timberland Library’s 2018 Pie in the Library event.
Fruit pie entries await the judges’ knives at the Lacey Timberland Library’s 2018 Pie in the Library event. Courtesy of Lacey Timberland Library

Behold the power of pie.

No mere baked goods, these crusted concoctions bring people together, and Pie in the Library, set for Saturday, proves it.

Last year, the Lacey Timberland Library’s annual baking competition attracted 26 pies in flavors ranging from basic (peach, pecan) to bold (heirloom tomato, blackberry five spice). Many, many more showed up to consume the competing confections.

“We typically get between 75 and 100 people coming after our judging concludes to find out who won and eat the remainder of the pies entered in the contest,” librarian Kelsey Smith told The Olympian. “This was a real surprise our first year. I clearly underestimated the power of a free slice of pie and some coffee.”

She gets it, though. “In the pie versus cake competition, I’m 100 percent Team Pie,” she said.

If you’re also on team pie, head to the library Saturday at 3 p.m., when winners are announced and slices are served.

You might find yourself digging into a classic apple, cherry or rhubarb pie. Or you might wind up trying something completely different.

Among the more intriguing entries Smith recalls from recent years were a poblano corn pie; a pear, red wine and rosemary pie; and one called “Everything Is on Fire, but It’s OK Because There Is Pie.”

“That one had blackberries, Bartlett pears, candied ginger, lime juice and vanilla, among other things,” she said.

Classic pies are just as likely as creative ones to win, Smith said.

Amy Shephard, a past competitor who’ll be among the judges this year, has a fondness for quirky combos. She baked the pear, red wine and rosemary pie, and took home a prize in 2017 for a Hawaiian Delight Pie, a macadamia and coconut variation on pecan pie.

“I’m not your typical pie judge who wants just your basic apple pie,” she told The Olympian. “I really enjoy things that are unique and different.”

However, those planning to compete should know that filling is not the most important part of a prize-winning pie.

“Number one is the crust,” said Shephard, well known as a local performer and playwright. “Pie crust is a really finicky and difficult thing to master. Number one is the crust.”

Let’s say a baker decided to cheat by using the kind of store-bought crust that you just unroll and press into the pan. Could the team of judges tell? Judges that include pros such as Jordan Marsicek, who works in the culinary arts program at South Puget Sound Community College and co-owned The Bearded Lady, and Summer Schief-Compean, who bakes the pies served at King Solomon’s Reef in Olympia?

“Oh, yeah, absolutely,” Shephard said. “In a heartbeat. The store-bought ones are made by a machine, so the look is just too perfect.”

Baking, she adds, is not as simple as it seems either.

“There’s that phrase ‘as easy as pie,’ ” she said, “but making a good pie is actually really complex. … You have to give yourself time. You can’t rush making a pie.”

That said, the deadline for dropping off entries is noon Saturday, so if you’re inspired, you’d better get baking.

Pie in the Library

  • What: The Lacey Timberland Library’s sixth annual pie contest welcomes bakers — amateurs only — and eaters alike.
  • When: Pies can be dropped off between 10 a.m. and noon Saturday, Aug. 10. Judging results will be announced at 3 p.m., followed by pie and coffee for all.
  • Where: Lacey Timberland Library, 500 College St. SE, Lacey
  • Admission: Free
  • More information: 360-491-3860,
  • Rules: Bakers may submit one pie per category: fruit, other, children (ages 5-11) and teens (ages 12-17). Crusts must be homemade, and pies must not contain dairy products other than butter in the crust. Also, pies must be in disposable plates, and submissions must include a complete list of ingredients.