$1,000 winner: Caitlin Olson's recipe for Blue Bird Pie, which won the Home of Economy-Herald Pie Bake-off

Nov. 23—GRAND FORKS — When judges in the Home of Economy-Grand Forks Herald Pie Bake-off were first shown Caitlin Olson's championship-round entry, they hesitated before cutting and serving it.

It didn't seem right, the judges said, to slice into such a decorative creation.

But they did, and they loved it — shown by their reaction upon tasting it as well as the scores they gave it. Olson accumulated 138 points from the four judges to earn her fourth consecutive win in the month-long tournament and earn the overall first prize.

For her victory, Olson earned a $500 gift card from Home of Economy and a $500 check from the Herald, on behalf of her business sponsor, Hope Church.

The blueberry-based pie offered hints of white chocolate. It had a shortbread crust, highlighted by an ornate bird with wings that spread nearly the entire width of the pie. The bird wasn't just decorative — judges enjoyed tasting it as much as they enjoyed the pie's crust.

"That crust melts in your mouth," said Marsha Johnson, one of the four judges in the contest.

Oh, and one more thing: This pie is vegan, as were all four pies entered by Olson during the tournament.

Following is Olson's recipe for her "Blue Bird Pie." During the holiday season, the Herald will be publishing the recipes of all 30 pies entered in this year's Home of Economy-Grand Forks Herald Pie Bake-off.

Baker: Caitlin Olson

Town: East Grand Forks

Business sponsor: Hope Church

White Chocolate Decorations

42 grams cacao butter (food-grade), chopped small

16 grams coconut butter

30 grams powdered sugar

10 grams soy/rice/coconut milk powder

Pinch of salt

Optional: 1/4 tsp vanilla extract (oil-based only)

1. Add cacao butter to double boiler and heat over medium until it starts to melt, then stir gently until fully melted.

2. Add coconut butter to cacao butter and stir until fully melted.

3. Sift in powdered sugar, plant milk powder and salt, and stir gently to combine. Add vanilla, if desired.

4. Once mixture is homogeneous, take off heat and pour into silicone muffin cups, about 1/4 " deep.

5. Move to fridge to cool. When hardened, chop into small bits and set aside for decorating top of pie.

Shortbread Crust

(Makes enough for one bottom crust. For cutout decorations, multiply 1.5-2x, and cut out shapes in step 3).

190 grams vegan butter sticks, divided (142 grams and 48 grams)

45 grams powdered sugar

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

157 grams flour

Pinch of salt

25 grams sugar, plus more for decorating cutouts

14 grams macadamia nuts — to press into crust — chopped into bits

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Cut 142 grams vegan butter into 1/4 " slabs and add to a large bowl. Use mixer to mix until creamy. Sift in powdered sugar and cream together with the vegan butter. Add vanilla and mix until homogeneous.

2. Sift in flour and salt, using wooden spoon to combine; may work in ~ 1/4 cup batches. Continue to stir until a soft dough forms.

3. Divide dough in half and pat one half into a smooth ball. Place ball onto a large, well-floured sheet of parchment paper, and use a rolling pin to roll out to 1/8 " thick. Slide parchment and dough onto a large baking sheet, and bake for ~15 minutes, or until slightly golden. Cool on sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack. Repeat for remaining dough, cutting out shapes for decorations, if desired. Cover decorations and place in fridge while you bake the crust and prepare the pie filling.

4. After the cookie sheets have cooled, crush them to make crumbs, and place into a large bowl. Add sugar, and stir to mix.

5. In a small glass, microwave the remaining 48 grams vegan butter to melt, about 20 seconds. Pour over crumbs and stir until mixture resembles wet sand. Press into a 8-9" pie pan, top with macadamia bits and press in, and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven to cool while you prepare the filling.

Blueberry Filling

660 grams frozen blueberries (mix of large and small/wild)

82 grams sugar

16 grams corn starch, sifted

15 grams flour, sifted

1/8 tsp salt

14 grams vegan butter

14 ml lemon juice

1/2 tsp lemon zest

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1- 1/2 tsp blueberry juice concentrate (100% juice, no sugar)

1. To a large pot add frozen berries, sugar, starch, flour and salt, and place over medium-high heat. As soon as the berries start to melt and simmer, turn down heat to medium/medium-low and stir to distribute ingredients. Keep at a light simmer, stirring frequently.

2. After mixture has been on heat for 10 minutes, it should appear homogeneous and will have thickened slightly. Add all other ingredients, and turn down heat to low. Stir constantly, scraping down sides, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until mixture has thickened significantly. Remove from heat to cool slightly before you assemble the pie.


1. Preheat oven to 350°, and remove dough decorations from fridge, if using.

2. Pour blueberry filling into prepared crust, and top with dough decorations, if using. Place on top of larger pan, and bake up to one hour, checking for doneness after 30 minutes.

3. Remove from oven to cool, then top with white chocolate bits and more macadamias, if desired. May store on counter for 1 to 2 days or in fridge up to one week.