Pie's ascendancy among food trends

Catching the trend as it crests, Williams Sonoma offers the Breville Pie Maker, which produces personal-size pies, four at a time, in eight minutes. Tasty - and kind of cute, too.
Catching the trend as it crests, Williams Sonoma offers the Breville Pie Maker, which produces personal-size pies, four at a time, in eight minutes. Tasty - and kind of cute, too.
Posted: December 30, 2010

Pie Poised to Surpass Cupcake!

Can it be? That's what many food-trend spotters are predicting for 2011.

There's no question 2010 was the year of the cupcake, and it is possible sales have peaked. But pie?

Will it be sold in slices or "personal pan" style like at Pizza Hut?

How can you eat pie when driving? It doesn't come with a triangular piece of paper or foil on the bottom to keep its innards in place.

And, of course, pie's primary drawback is that it doesn't lend itself to butter-cream frosting.

But Rachael Ray, who is among those taking credit for the pie prediction, foresees sweet and savory varieties at pie happy hours and in pie-only restaurants.

The pie trend is also claimed by trend spotter Marian Salzman, president of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR in North America. A few years back, Salzman accurately predicted metrosexuals - the term and the trend - and that has to be worth something.

Meanwhile, Andrew Freeman, who consults on marketing for restaurants nationally, made his pie prediction back in October, suggesting they might be bite-size. That would lend pie the cuteness factor so necessary for popularity. And as it happens, Williams Sonoma is just out with a countertop appliance that makes four individual-size two-crust pies in eight minutes.

Pie also tops the trends list at AllRecipes.com, says Essme Williams, vice president for brand marketing. She says the fresh fruit at local farmers' markets will drive us to make more pie at home. That and the premade crust. And Pennsylvania beats the rest of the nation, she says, in home pie-making.

You really can't fault pie for having cupcake envy. The cupcake trend did spawn cupcake-only bakeries and a slew of cookbooks. As a sweet with a savory side, pie would have an advantage.

But to achieve currency as a trend, a dish or ingredient must have some quality that relates to the yearning of the times we live in.

Cupcakes became popular in part because they were whimsical reminders of childhood birthday parties at a time when we all needed a bit of whimsy.

But Irving Berlin wrote, "Let's have another cup of coffee ... and let's have another piece of pie" for a 1932 musical comedy, set in a Horn & Hardart style Automat, about a group of once-wealthy citizens who were awaiting better times.

So maybe the time for pie has come.

Here's a look at some of the other food trends for 2011.

We're all apps. For many, laptops have already replaced cookbooks in the kitchen, and soon smart-phone apps will be the technology of choice for busy home cooks, says trend spotter Robin Avni, who worked with Williams at AllRecipes.com to develop that company's trend report.

An app wins over a laptop in the portability department. Use it on the way home to find a recipe and a shopping list. Take that with you to the grocery store, and while there, if you find another, perhaps unexpected, ingredient, you can look up a recipe for that, too. Then keep the phone on you in the kitchen.

"This is why they make aprons with cell-phone pockets now," Avni says.

AllRecipes came out with its first app in 2008, called Dinner Spinner. It has a slew of apps now, and in November introduced an iPad app that is compatible with the AllRecipes website.

"I think the app will replace the traditional printed cookbook," Avni says. "And soon we'll see waterproof screens on smart phones to deal with spills."

Cookbooks have already become look-books, Avni says.

"Already we can see that cookbooks are one of the most popular self-published items," an indication that people are making them as memory collections - not nightly reference guides.

Williams said the stats speak for themselves: In Pennsylvania, 82 percent of home cooks with smart phones use them to choose recipes. That puts us 14 percent higher than the national average.

Veganomics. Economics, fear, and even anger will factor into our 2011 food choices, Salzman says.

"People feel a lack of control in their lives, and the extreme manifestation of that desire for control is growing your own food - being an urban farmer."

At the same time, Salzman says, people want to eat to stay healthy, to avoid illness, and to teach their children well. That's what will drive behavior.

So farmers' markets will continue to draw home cooks. A survey by Allrecipes.com found that 81 percent of Pennsylvanians go to farmers' markets at least a few times a year; 30 percent go monthly; and 19 percent make weekly trips.

Ann Mack, trend spotter for the marketing giant JWT, points to changes already happening in schools. Aimed at combating childhood obesity, a bill signed into law this month increases the federal reimbursement for free school lunches for the first time in 30 years (only by 6 cents, but . . . ), and it gives the U.S. Department of Agriculture control over what is served in the lunch lines as well as in vending machines.

Meanwhile, researchers in the Smarter Lunchrooms Initiative at Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab discover that product placement can be used to encourage healthier choices. Cooked vegetables sell better when they're at the start of a cafeteria line rather than behind the mystery meat, they found, and fresh fruit sells best at the cash register.

If it's all about positioning, Elizabeth Pivonka of the Produce for Better Health Foundation, which exists to get folks of all ages to eat more fruit and vegetables, knows all about it.

"Instead of guilting people into eating well or telling them what to eat, we want to position products in the right way. That means making fruit and vegetables more available, especially in low-income neighborhoods."

"We're into nudging instead of nannying," Pivonka says.

Matcha, matcha, man.Matcha, a powdered green tea that originated in Japan, will be the next big thing in functional ingredients - foods rich in antioxidants, says Ann Mack, trend spotter for another industry giant, the JWT group.

Matcha's strong flavor, disliked by some, can be easily hidden in foods (ice cream and pastries) and beverages (lattes and cocktails), she says, to boost your intake of the good stuff.

Tastes great, more filling.The lowly sweet potato will crawl to a comeback in 2011, in part because it tastes great and is actually filling, Salzman says.

"The sweet potato trend emanates from our quest for overall health," Salzman says. "It's part of our desire for simplicity, economy, and value. It fits in with Meatless Mondays, and it is not a processed food."

Unlike russetts, sweet potatoes don't cry out for butter and/or sour cream. All they want is a little sea salt (emphasis on little).

"You can microwave it," Salzman says, "without it tasting like microwaved food."

If all this sounds too healthy and good-for-you note that as pork-belly prices rise, we can expect to see goat and lamb belly showing up on menus.


Peanut Butter Cupcakes With Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache Frosting

Makes 24 cupcakes

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of kosher or fine-

   grained sea salt

3 tablespoon unsalted butter,

   softened

1/3 cup smooth peanut butter

1/3 cup firmly packed light

   brown sugar

1 extra-large egg, at room

   temperature

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla

   extract

1/2 cup half-and-half

4 ounces bittersweet choco-         late (66 to 72 percent

   cacao content), finely

   chopped

1/2 cup heavy whipping

   cream

1/4 cup salted peanuts

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350. Place the mini-muffin pans on a baking sheet.

2. Over a medium-size bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the salt and toss together to blend.

3. Beat the butter in the bowl of an electric stand mixer with the flat beater attachment or in a large mixing bowl using a hand-held mixer on medium speed until it's fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the peanut butter and blend together until smooth. Add the brown sugar and beat until creamy, about 1 minute.

4. In a small bowl, use a form to lightly beat the egg and vanilla together. Beat this mixture into the peanut butter mixture. Stop frequently and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. The mixture may look curdled as the egg is added, but as you stop and scrape down the bowl, the mixture will smooth out. Add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture in 3 stages, alternating with the half-and-half, and blending well after each addition.

5. Use a 11/2-inch round ice cream scoop to divide the batter evenly among the cavities of the mini-muffin pans. Bake the cupcakes for 15 minutes, until light golden and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and cool the mini-muffin pans on racks.

6. To make the bittersweet chocolate ganache frosting, begin by placing the chopped chocolate in a medium-size bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour the cream over the chopped chocolate and let stand for 30 seconds. Use a heat-resistant spatula to stir the mixture together until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill until thick but not stiff, 30 minutes to an hour.

7. Whip the ganache in the bowl of an electric stand mixer with the flat beater attachment or in a large mixing bowl using a hand-held mixer on medium speed until it holds soft peaks, about 1 minutes.

8. Use a small offset spatula, a rubber spatula, or a spoon to spread the top of each cupcake with the ganache frosting. Or fit a 12- or 14-inch pastry bag with a large open star tip and fill it partway with the ganache. Pipe the ganache onto the cupcakes in rosettes, covering the tops. For an optional garnish, sprinkle each cupcake with peanuts. Serve the cupcakes at room temperature.

- From Bite-Size Desserts by Carole Bloom (Wiley, 2009)

Note: Use two 12-cavity, 2-inch round silicone mini-muffin pans. Store the unfrosted cupcakes between layers of waxed paper in a single layer in an airtight plastic container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Per cupcake: 121 calories, 3 grams protein, 10 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams sugar, 8 grams fat, 24 milligrams cholesterol, 97 milligrams sodium, 0.8 gram dietary fiber.


Cousin Eunice's Grated Carrot Pie

Makes 6-8 servings

One 9-inch single pie crust

   rolled out, fitted

   into a pie plate, edge

   trimmed and crimped

11/4 cups peeled and grated

   carrots

3/4 cup sugar

11/2 cups evaporated milk

3 large eggs, well beaten

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cinna-         mon

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon lemon extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the pie crust and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine the carrots, sugar, and milk. Add the eggs and mix thoroughly. Add the nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and lemon extract and blend well. Pour the filling into the pie crust, place in the oven, and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.

3. Let cool on a wire rack completely before serving.

- From Sweety Pies by Patty Pinner (Taunton, 2007)

Per serving (based on 8): 288 calories, 7 grams protein, 35 grams carbohydrates, 24 grams sugar, 13 grams fat, 93 milligrams cholesterol, 247 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.


Contact Inquirer staff writer Dianna Marder at 215-854-4211 or dmarder@phillynews.com. Read her recent work at http://go.philly.com/diannamarder

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