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Pie Bake-a-Thon


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The 10-year anniversary of my mom's death is coming up (at the beginning of January) and I've been looking for creative ways to honor her memory. I'm thinking about raising money to support an organization that helps low-income folks get cancer treatments.

Does a Thanksgiving pie bake-a-thon sound possible? I imagine asking people to sponsor me by the hour of baking and/or buy one of the pies I make for their Thanksgiving table. There are probably more efficient ways of raising money, but I want to be creative and have fun doing it. My mom loved to make pie, and she had a big sweet tooth.

I'm not a professional baker and the most pies I've ever made in one day was three (for national pi day March 14!) I did spend a weekend baking for the Katrina refugees my dad's church was feeding; I managed to send down three huge boxes of baked goods. In my little circle of friends and family, my pies are known for being especially good.

Questions:

1)Am I crazy?

2)How many pies do you think one person with a normal home oven and kitchen can make in one 24-hour period? (I am a freelance writer, so I could clear my schedule for a day or two to get this done.)

3)I was thinking of making pumpkin pie, because the filling can be made relatively quickly in bulk quantities. Any other ideas that are Thanksgiving appropriate?

4)How much would you pay for a homemade pie that raises money to support a good cause? (homemade crust, homemade or store-bought filling, delivered to your home)

5)Does it make sense to make the pies on Monday and Tuesday, and deliver them on Wednesday? Would a pie made on Monday still be good on Thursday? (I only ever make pies for the same day I eat them. I like things fresh.)

5)What pitfalls and other considerations am I not thinking about?

Thanks so much for any advice you can give!

The Kitchn

Nina Callaway

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1)Am I crazy?

If you are - you're my type of crazy

2)How many pies do you think one person with a normal home oven and kitchen can make in one 24-hour period? (I am a freelance writer, so I could clear my schedule for a day or two to get this done.)

I would think 90 minute cycles if you pre do a bunch of crusts. 2 in the oven at a time (although 4 or 6 if you're able - would require lots of diligence and rotating).

3)I was thinking of making pumpkin pie, because the filling can be made relatively quickly in bulk quantities. Any other ideas that are Thanksgiving appropriate?

Sweet potato, pecan, cream pies - although crusts might get soggy, and my favorite which is easy to store - sugar cream.

4)How much would you pay for a homemade pie that raises money to support a good cause? (homemade crust, homemade or store-bought filling, delivered to your home)

Wow, delivery even. I would think $20 would be your low end, up to $35...but it depends who you think will buy them. You may want to partner with the non-profit that is going to receive the gift to see how they can help in making, delivering and marketing.

5)Does it make sense to make the pies on Monday and Tuesday, and deliver them on Wednesday? Would a pie made on Monday still be good on Thursday? (I only ever make pies for the same day I eat them. I like things fresh.)

Depends on the pies - Sugar cream is better then next day - I think pecan is as well.

5)What pitfalls and other considerations am I not thinking about?

Watch out for your success. Can you do this with pre-orders? Are you interested in making it bigger - partnering with a local culinary program. The Episcopal Church of Albuquerque makes something like 10,000 pies during our state fair (right now) and have it down to a science. This can be as big as you want it to be.

Have fun and keep us posted.

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If you are - you're my type of crazy

I like your type of crazy!

I would think 90 minute cycles if you pre do a bunch of crusts.  2 in the oven at a time (although 4 or 6 if you're able - would require lots of diligence and rotating).
Okay so maybe I should shoot for making 35 pies. I have to figure out if I can fit 4 pies in my oven.
Sweet potato, pecan, cream pies - although crusts might get soggy, and my favorite which is easy to store - sugar cream.
Pecan! Of course. Do you have a favorite recipe for sugar cream pie? I didn't see one in recipe gullet.
Wow, delivery even.  I would think $20 would be your low end, up to $35...but it depends who you think will buy them.  You may want to partner with the non-profit that is going to receive the gift to see how they can help in making, delivering and marketing.
Okay good, that's about what I was thinking too. I might do $25 for pumpkin and $35 for pecan. I bet through my network of friends and family I can sell 35 pies in the NYC area. Thinking about this, I wouldn't want to have to go to Brooklyn to pick up a pie the day before Thanksgiving. There's enough else going on around the holiday.
Watch out for your success.  Can you do this with pre-orders?  Are you interested in making it bigger - partnering with a local culinary program.  The Episcopal Church of Albuquerque makes something like 10,000 pies during our state fair (right now) and have it down to a science.  This can be as big as you want it to be. 
I was thinking of making it a group effort - that if other people I know wanted to join in the pie baking fun, they could get a t-shirt or something for making a minimum number of pies. But my priority is probably my individual effort.
Have fun and keep us posted.
Thanks for all of your advice!

The Kitchn

Nina Callaway

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The difference between 2 & 4 pies in the oven at once might be as simple as 8" vs 9" pans.

I used to make a brandied pumpkin pie recipe, from McCalls I think, that was a nice switch from traditional.

Its funny of all the discussion so far, the only part that leaves me in doubt is .... making all those crusts. :bowdowninawe:

I'm in wonder at the entire concept. What a great undertaking of love.

Good luck, have fun, sleep late the next day!

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Sounds like fun! You might be able to borrow a church or synagogue kitchen for a day or two, and they may have a larger oven, and perhaps more counter space. Then you could bring in some of your friends to help you.

Or maybe a local school. A private school would be the better bet, as a public school would have a lot of issues about allowing someone in their kitchen. You might also enlist some of the students to help you. It could be a great community outreach program for the school.

Good luck!

Eileen

Eileen Talanian

HowThe Cookie Crumbles.com

HomemadeGourmetMarshmallows.com

As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists. ~Joan Gussow

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A great idea!

I am doing something similar right now--but with the NYT bread.

We have a Civil War reenactment going on this weekend, and as a fund raiser for our friends of animals group, I am baking 4 loaves a night. They are going into the freezer til Saturday, when we will peddle them to the "soldiers".

We are also going to take some of my pretty eggs, put them on a little straw in a basket, and sell those as well--the soldiers camp out all weekend, and all their food is cooked over open fires in front of their tents.

sparrowgrass
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I think this is an absolutely beautiful idea, and after being completely outraged by this http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB118...4289705455.html article about how, in 21 states, women with breast or cervical cancer are denied Medicaid coverage if they weren't diagnosed at the "right" clinic, I couldn't be more supportive of your goal.

Clearly you are not a person daunted by logistical complexities; nevertheless I think you might be glad if you stuck with just pumpkin and pecan pies for this first year at least (already I'm thinking this will be an annual thing!). Some few little things are bound to go wrong and at least this way you'd be dealing with fewer variables.

I wish I lived in New York--I would love to do this with you.

Edited by Dianabanana (log)
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All I can say is to try and make ahead as much as possible. Some pies, like apple, can be made ahead and frozen raw, then baked from the frozen state. Heck, maybe you could even sell them frozen and provide baking instructions.

For pumpkin pie, the crusts can be rolled out, fitted in tins, and then frozen. Then filled on the day you bake them.

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I'm a pie girl living in Brooklyn, too. I'm starting to face the realities of a low-income mother as she faces greater medical care, so I can identify with the charity.

I'd stick with two or three kinds of pie, the ones that are bound to be the most pleasing -- pumpkin, pecan, apple.

For me, the difficult part would be not spending so much on the ingredients (all organic, for instance) to keep costs down.

You can make the dough 24 hours ahead of time. Make disks of one pie each and wrap them in cellophane. You can easily freeze unbaked apple pies, I don't know about the pumpkin or pecan. You have time to experiment.

To maximize the income, I would advise not selling the pies, but selling raffle tickets for them or auctioning them. Another alternative would be to sell them by the slice.

A story from my mother, who was a wonderful pie baker: When we were kids, they wanted mothers to donate baked goods for a bake sale. So she made one of her specialties, a pecan pie. This involved the labor of a handmade lard crust and the expense of pecans. Then she cut a little display box for it and fixed it up with a doily and wrapped it in cellophane. Very beautiful, perfect flutes, the whole nine yards.

The school sold her pie for 25 cents and she never baked for the bake sale again.

A story that reminds us to keep control of the actual sale!

I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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If you have not baked two or more pies side by side in your oven, I would give it a trial run to make sure you can do that successfully. I found that I cannot bake two custard pies (e.g., pumpkin pie, chess pie, pecan pie, or sweet-potato pie) on the same rack in my oven; the filling at the edge that is next to the other pie buckles, maybe because of the heat given off by the other pie. To get a smooth, evenly baked custard, I have to bake one at a time.

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BrownieBaker - Thanks for the tips. I think I'm going to try baking two different recipes of Sugar Cream Pie side by side this weekend. I've never made it, but it sounds wonderful, and I found a similar recipe in my family's handwritten cookbook (I think the handwriting in question is my mom's but even if it's not, no matter.)

Lindacakes - Sorry to hear about your mother's health care problems. I'm guessing we're both facing the age of being our parent's parents. (Fortunately my dad's partner is 12 years younger, so I've got backup! Have you thought of marrying her off to someone younger? LOL. )

Since most of my mom's friends and family live outside of the area, I'm thinking it will be easier to get pledges than it will be to actually sell the pie. (Similiar to a walkathon, I'll ask people to sponsor me for each hour of baking.)

However, I did do a complicated spreadsheet today showing how much ingredients/kitchen rental (to have a bigger oven)/etc. would cost compared to potential income. I was concerned about the too little money raised for money and time spent. But fortunately, it looks like I can raise over $500 on selling the pies alone, and hopefully with the sponsorships make more than $3600. Not too shabby for 24 hours work.

Dianabanana - I'm already thinking it will be an annual thing too! But first things first - I have to see if I can make this year work! And stay tuned, I'm brainstorming on how bakers in other parts of the country can be involved.

The Kitchn

Nina Callaway

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Sparrowgrass - I hope you are taking pictures! Think of all the great yeasts that will be in your kitchen air after letting all that bread rise for so long.

Eileen - Great idea! I asked my friend who is a caterer, and he suggested a pro kitchen run by a non-profit nearby. They charge about half the rate of other pro kitchens, so then I could bake more pies at a time, and also have friends come to help. Only downside is they are only open during "normal" working hours, so I'd have to do half the work at home, and half there.

Kouign Aman - I know! It's the crusts which are most daunting, but I'm also hoping to gain a lot of new skills from this process. Hopefully I won't be too tired at the end to remember them!

Gfron - thanks for the recipe! It sounds delicious, and the ingredients are relatively affordable. I'll make some this weekend to try it out.

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Nina Callaway

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks again to everyone for your advice! I'm excited to announce that I am going ahead with this project.

Check out Pieathon.blogspot.com

I found a recipe for sugar cream pie in one of my family's cookbooks, and it is delicious! I'm so glad to have found this pie, pieathon not withstanding. It will definitely become a permanent part of my repertoire.

Tomorrow is the Brooklyn Pie Social; I'll be there with a t-shirt that says "Eat Pies, Save Lives" and flyers with my website on them. And, of course, pies: Pumpkin, Strawberry, and Sugar Cream!

Edited by Nina C. (log)

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Nina Callaway

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Hi Nina! I just wanted to let you know I had tears in my eyes as I read this thread the other day. You are doing a wonderful thing. Having recently gone through breast cancer and treatment while being pregnant and already of mom of two 5-year olds. I had the opportunity to be on the receiving end of a lot of fundraising. A friend decided that our family would need a nanny and she was right. One of the fundraising events was hosted by a bunch of wonderful people on the Vancouver forum and a couple P&B people contributed as well. I wouldn't have thought of this before having cancer but there are huge financial needs for people going through treatment. We always hear about fundraising for research which is awesome but those of us in the middle of it can really use the help as well. Best wishes on your event!

Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Orison Swett Marden

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks again to everyone for the support of my project.

My 24 hour bakeathon starts tonight. I got a little headstart this morning, and I'm just about to go lie down for a long nap.

In my fridge right now:

18 homemade graham cracker crusts

14 lbs of butter

8 quarts of heavy cream

In my living room.

Enough flour and sugar to make 38 pie crusts, with above butter.

44 cups of pumpkin puree

30 cups of pecans

Many other ingredients

Check out Pieathon.blogspot.com for updates on my progress!

The Kitchn

Nina Callaway

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Hey, Nina, what a wonderful project! I did something similar over the summer, with a weekly bake sale to raise money for research for polycystic kidney disease, which has affected 3 generations of my family. This is a lovely tribute to your mother.

I don't have a lot of intelligence to offer re: pies per se, but in terms of doing production style baking in a home kitchen, I found that organization is key. My project spanned 2 months, and I did a huge bulk purchase of ingredients and pantry items at the beginning, which was really helpful. And you always wish for more counter space, so anything you can do to maximize that will be key (clearing under-used countertop appliances and the like). Splurge a little and buy yourself whatever small tool will be helpful -- a Roul'pat for rolling out crusts quickly, a few reuseable dough-shield-thingies so that the edges of your crusts don't burn, that kind of thing. Equipment makes a real difference when you are baking in such quantity.

My family raised $800 from the 8 weeks of bake sales, another $1000 from 2 yard sales, $2,200 from a benefit cabaret performance, and about $5,000 in direct donations for a whopping total in the $9,000 range. It was an inspiring and humbling experience, and I hope you have the same kind of experience!

Edited: Oops, I see I'm late to the party. The good wishes still stand!

(The baking and fundraising is chronicled at www.cookiesforacure.blogspot.com, for those interested.)

Edited by RuthWells (log)
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we did a pie fundraiser last year to help pay for my husband's cancer treatment (we didn't have insurance and the chemo bills were HUGE!). Anyway, we started promoting the sale about 1-1/2 weeks before thanksgiving and ended up selling 800 pies, plus got tons of volunteers to help bake them. It was absolutely beautiful, and I'm happy to say it paid for his cancer treatment. Of course what they don't tell you when you're in remission is you have like $1000/month of tests, so we're still in trouble financially. But my husband is doing very well on his one year anniversary of his treatment ending.

Stephanie Crocker

Sugar Bakery + Cafe

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Nina, how did it go? It's a mind-blower moving from only doing 3 pies at once before to trying to master a production quota during the hectic days before Thanksgiving.

As a cancer patient, I salute this effort. And just to put the problem in perspective, I just got a bill from my oncologist stating that they've billed my insurance for about $50,000 so far. And that's just for 75% of my chemo treatments and my visits to the oncologist herself. I have no idea what the real cost of surgery and radiation will be when those events transpire. I can't imagine the financial devastation this would represent to my family if we didn't have excellent health coverage, particularly since with palate changes and low energy levels I've been mostly unable to work since beginning treatment.

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