A Pie A Day Isn't Enough; Chef Wants Your Pie, Too

Chef Evan Kleiman has a lot on her plate: a successful restaurant, an award-winning public radio program, a series of cookbooks and now, pie. A lot of pie. More than a hundred pies and counting. First on her blog, and now a contest that has Southern California rolling in dough. Host Scott Simon talks with Kleiman, host of member station KCRW's award-winning program, Good Food, about her summer experiment baking a pie a day, and the current pie contest the show is sponsoring.

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Coming up, Sting talks about his latest CD, �If on a Winters Night.� First, Chef Evan Kleiman has a lot on her plate - that successful Los Angeles restaurant she runs, Angeli Caffe, an award-winning public radio program, a series of cookbooks, and now a whole lot of pie, more than 100 pies and counting. First on her blog and now a contest that has Southern California rolling in dough. She joins us now from member station KCRW in Santa Monica. Evan, thanks very much for being with us.

Ms. EVAN KLEIMAN (Chef): Thank you.

SIMON: So what's the thing about you and pie?

Ms. KLEIMAN: Well, first of all, I love pie, and pie has sort of receded in the last few years. You know, I couldn't remember the last time I'd really made a beautiful double crust pie. So I thought at the beginning of the summer, why don't I make a pie a day? And so I figured the only way to actually do it was if I made a public announcement via the GOOD FOOD blog at KCRW, where my radio show is, and the next thing I know, it just blossomed into this sort of hidden community of pie hogs.

SIMON: So what are some of the interesting things that you've come across?

Ms. KLEIMAN: During this quest?

SIMON: Yeah, exactly. What recipe has come in on the blog or through the contest that just has made you go, gee, I never thought about that?

Ms. KLEIMAN: I guess for me the most interesting part of this journey is how much there is to learn and how fiddly the little differences are. My best success happened with Alton Brown, the man behind the show �Good Eats,� who's known so much for his food science that he shares with everybody but also just the way he fiddles with recipes until he gets it exactly how he wants it. And I learned, first of all, to use a sprayer to add my water to the dough instead of just drizzling it in. If you add too much liquid to a pie dough, you'll get a lot of toughness, and you don't want that. And then the other thing he does with substitute fruit juice for part of the water. So for example, if I'm making an apple pie, I will use apple juice concentrate, and it just lifts the flavor.

SIMON: And now, how does this contest work?

Ms. KLEIMAN: Several weeks ago we put up a form on our Web site and any listener could decide what pie they wanted to enter and how told us what they're going to bring. And we have 142 pies. Hopefully we're going to have a lot of eaters as well as contestants.

SIMON: So what makes a good pie?

Ms. KLEIMAN: Hmm. You know, that is such a personal thing. For me it's all about excellent, beautiful farmer's market fruit that has a ton of flavor, tucked into the perfect crust that has enough of the flakiness to just really want me to fork in mouthful after mouthful.

SIMON: You haven't been eating so much pie that it's - let me put this nicely -it's altered your appearance notably.

Ms. KLEIMAN: Well, I have to say that I'm not a lightweight. Let's just put it that way.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Ms. KLEIMAN: And I was afraid�

SIMON: You're clearly a very thoughtful person.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KLEIMAN: I was afraid of what this pie would do to my appearance. But in fact it turns out that if you have a slice of pie for breakfast, that you are good for the day and you are so satisfied that you don't feel you need to be bad. I mean, I don't like using that word, but you know what I mean.

SIMON: You making anything special - a special pie for Thanksgiving? I mean, if you just say pumpkin�

Ms. KLEIMAN: No, no, no. Well, I'm getting to the Alton Brown double-crusted apple pie, which I just love so much. But I'm also doing an espresso chocolate pecan pie.

SIMON: Oh, mercy. Well, I like that espresso part.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KLEIMAN: It just has a tiny bit of chunks of Belgian chocolate in it.

SIMON: Oh, my word. Tiny chunk of Belgian chocolate could sink the Titanic. Well, good luck to you. Good eating.

Ms. KLEIMAN: Thank you so much.

SIMON: Evan Kleiman, host of GOOD FOOD on member station KCRW in Santa Monica, and you can find out more about the pie contest in our blog, npr.org/soapbox.

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