'GMA' Voted This the Best Pie in America—Here Are the Ultimate Baker's Top 6 Tips

Make your most perfect pie yet, thanks to a little help from the best in the biz.

The set of Good Morning America "United States of Pie" contest.
Photo: ABC News

This week, just in time for Thanksgiving, ABC's Good Morning America set out to find the best pie in America. Throughout the week, the show toured across the country, sampling pies from bakery after bakery in search of one winner.

Today, the show's "United States of Pie" contest came to a head in a final showdown of four pies hailing from Tampa, Denver, Boston, and Chicago. The winning pie was chosen by judges including GMA's Lara Spencer, chef Richard Blais, and none other than Patti LaBelle, herself. That pie? A meringue-topped wonder from Chicago.

The $10,000-worthy winner of "United States of Pie" hails from Spinning J Bakery and Soda Fountain in Chicago, and is far from your traditional Thanksgiving pie. The Yuzu-Cranberry Meringue Pie features a brown butter shortbread crust, swirled yuzu and cranberry curds, whole cranberries, and a toasted Swiss meringue topping.

We spoke to the baker behind the winning pie, Dinah Grossman, who also happens to be the owner of Spinning J. She told us all about the inspiration behind this show-stopping dessert, and shared her top tips for making pie at Thanksgiving and beyond.

Baker Dinah Grossman holds her cranberry yuzu meringue pie from the Good Morning America pie contest.
ABC News

Pie Tips from the "United States of Pie" Winner

Think Outside the Pumpkin Box

When coming up with their dessert offerings for Thanksgiving, Grossman and her team knew they wanted to do something different. "So we were looking for [something] to bring that sort of sweet-tart element to the table. Pumpkin and pecan are such sweet flavors at the end of the meal." They were inspired by cranberry, then brought in yuzu—an Asian citrus fruit that has lemon-lime-orange flavor—to amp up the sweet and tart elements. If you're not a pumpkin or pecan person, don't be afraid to stray from traditional; if Spinning J's pie is any indication, the results might be pretty great.

Let the Appliances Do the Work

When approaching pie, Grossman theorizes most people get caught up on the crust, but it doesn't have to be complicated. The trick to a perfect crust? A food processor. That's what they use at Spinning J, making one batch of crust at a time. "If you have some frozen butter and a food processor, you can make pie crust in 30 seconds.

Don't Forget to Blind Bake The Crust

"A lot of people just pour the filling right in the raw dough and bake it. It's really hard to get a pie with a crispy bottom crust that way," says Grossman.

For pies like pumpkin and pecan, blind baking the crust before filling is the key to a crisp, fully-cooked crust. If you don't have pie weights, Grossman suggests using dried beans or rice as weights to keep the crust from ballooning before it's filled. "Getting your crust nice and crispy before you put the filling in is going to make a really awesome finished product."

Or, Avoid Traditional Pie Crust Altogether

Still intimidated by the idea of a pastry pie crust? Take a tip from Spinning J's winning pie and opt for a cookie crust. Their Yuzu-Cranberry Meringue Pie's crust is made by crumbling house-made brown butter shortbread cookies into a crust base, but Grossman says they have several cookie crusts on the menu at Spinning J. Making a cookie crust is as simple as picking a cookie with flavor that pairs well with your filling, then, "all you need is a little bit of melted butter to make it hold together into a crust."

Know When (and How) to Use Store-Bought Shortcuts

If the idea of a cookie crust is right up your alley, don't think that means you have to make the cookies from scratch. You can totally lean on store-bought cookies, but try doctoring them up to add a little homemade flavor. "Buying cookies and adding some dried spices to [them] is a great way to come up with something new," says Grossman.

For example, if you opt for graham crackers, Grossman suggests adding a little bit of cinnamon, ground nutmeg, or ginger to the crushed cookies to achieve a gingersnap-like flavor without having to make the cookies from scratch.

The Easiest Way To Make Your Pie Look Show-Stopping

There's no doubt that meringue is an eye-catching decoration for a pie, especially when torched to toasted perfection like Spinning J's. But Grossman knows that making meringue can be intimidating (though, if you do want to to try your hand at meringue, read up here). Luckily, Grossman shared a tip for a simpler swap.

Instead of passing around a bowl of whipped cream alongside your pie, top the whole pie with a big pile of whipped cream in the same style as Spinning J's meringue. "[You can] make some really cool swirls in it with the back of a spoon, sort of like we do with the meringue. You do not have to be exact with it, it can be imperfect, and it can make the pie look sort of dramatic." A little sprinkle of cinnamon or cocoa powder on top of the whipped cream, and you've got a picture perfect pie.

A cranberry yuzu meringue pie from the Good Morning America pie contest.
ABC News

If you're in the Chicago area, make a visit to Spinning J for a taste of their prize-winning pies. If you're not, check out our most popular pies or Good Morning America for the other "United States of Pie" finalists.

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