Why all the hullabaloo about pumpkin pie? Also, while we’re on the subject, is there a cure for pumpkin spice madness?
If you’ve ever pondered such questions, you must feel like Scrooge this time of year. And if so, well, the rest of us say right back to you: Bah, humbug!
The fact is, Pumpkin Pie is the signature dessert of the annual holiday season, and its appeal far surpasses the patented spice blend that sweetens the dish.
And if you think the dessert is boring or bland, you obviously haven’t had the Whisked! By Jenna version. The Maryland-based bakery was founded by Jenna Huntsberger a dozen years ago to serve a need for high-quality gourmet pies far greater than the sum of their all-organic parts, featuring all “real and simple ingredients.”
Several years ago, Whisked! became the exclusive purveyor of “Slice of Life,” the popular annual pie sale that serves as an annual fundraiser for Food & Friends, which dubs the event “the sweetest and easiest way to give back this holiday season.”
Proceeds of each pie purchased through the event, now in its 18th year, provide a full day’s worth of freshly prepared, home-delivered, and medically tailored meals, provided free of charge, to a client of the organization.
Food & Friends serves more than 1.9 million meals annually to approximately 5,000 area residents who find themselves struggling with long-term and life-challenging illnesses, from HIV/AIDS to cancer and diabetes.
“Slice of Life is a joyful tradition and a great way for the entire community to get involved,” says Carrie Stoltzfus, the organization’s executive director, in a press release. “The pies from Whisked Bakery are the best in D.C., and by purchasing your Thanksgiving pies through ‘Slice of Life,’ you can support the health and nutrition of adults and children trying to manage life-challenging illnesses.”
Last week, Food & Friends organized a special, invite-only tasting reception for journalists, bloggers, and social media influencers. The clear favorite of guests who voted on the offerings was Nutty Pecan, a variation on the quintessential Southern pie whose popularity grew almost a century ago as part of a marketing campaign by Karo-branded corn syrup.
The win for the pie — made by Whisked with sugar instead of corn syrup — was tantamount to a surprise upset, given that a variation on another pie with Southern roots, the Sea Salt Chocolate Chess Pie, was the reigning favorite from previous years. That delicious slice of decadence, billed as a cross between a fudge brownie and a flourless chocolate cake, couldn’t possibly be any richer. Other pies include the Apple Crumble, loaded with tart apples, and two custard-style varieties, Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Pie.
Orders of the five different varieties can be placed now through Wednesday, Nov. 15, with all purchases available for pickup two days before Thanksgiving on Tuesday, Nov. 21. For an additional donation of $30, Food & Friends will deliver two pies to a client along with their Thanksgiving Day meal.
An answer to the question about pumpkin pie’s widespread appeal and longevity seems rooted in its idiosyncratic taste and texture profiles, both of which distinguish it from other baked fruit-based concoctions popular this time of year.
Because the star ingredient is a vegetable-like fruit far more savory than sweet, the resulting dessert, even with the addition of sugar and sweetening spices, offers a distinctive taste.
Whipped to a fine puree and baked for just the right length of time, the pie offers a satisfyingly smooth and creamy texture that’s hard to beat. Only sweet potato pie comes close to matching pumpkin’s distinctive flavor and texture, by virtue of a similar earthy main ingredient that’s similarly pureed and baked with warm spices, along with brown sugar.
For her part, Huntsberger is thrilled to be the sole supplier of pies to “Slice of Life.” “[Food & Friends] approached us and asked, would you wanna supply thousands of pies?” she says. “And we were like, ‘Absolutely!’ We love the mission. They liked that we were small — but not too small — and local. So it’s a really good synergy.”
“Slice of Life” pies can be ordered through Wednesday, Nov. 15. Pies can be picked up at various locations on Tuesday, Nov. 21. Prices range from $30 to $45. To order or for more information, visit www.sliceoflifedc.org.
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