Caitlin Olson’s ‘Strata Pie’ pleasing to the palette as well as the eye

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Dec. 26—A rich, chocolatey and creamy pie without any sort of animal-based products — not even so much as a pat of butter?

Caitlin Olson figured out how to do it, and what a pie it was.

Olson entered her “Strata Pie” in the second round of the Home of Economy-Grand Forks Herald Pie Bake-off, where it earned a win and sent her into the semifinals. She later won the four-weeks-long, 16-baker tournament, which was judged in a room at Home of Economy in Grand Forks.

All of her pies were entirely vegan, but anyone who tastes one probably wouldn’t know it. They were pleasing to the palette as well as to the eye. This one, for instance, scored the best in presentation in Week 2, which included eight pies overall.

Following is Olson’s recipe for “Strata Pie.” During the holiday season, the Herald published the recipes of all 30 pies entered in this year’s Home of Economy-Grand Forks Herald Pie Bake-off. This is the last of the 30.

Recipes were published in print, e-editions and online and remain compiled on the Herald’s website.

Baker: Caitlin Olson

Hometown: East Grand Forks

Business sponsor: Hope Church


125 grams flour

20 grams cocoa powder, natural preferred

1/8 tsp baking soda

Pinch of salt

125 grams powdered sugar

185 grams vegan butter sticks (divided into 140 grams and 45 grams)

5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract

25 grams granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and powdered sugar. Stir to combine.

2. Measure 140 grams vegan butter and cut into 1/4 ” slices. Add to bowl with dry ingredients and work together with a wooden spoon. Continue mixing until it is uniform and the dough is soft. It may take some time to come together. Add vanilla and stir to incorporate.

3. Break off an orange-sized piece of dough and place on top of a large sheet of plastic wrap. Top with another sheet, and use a rolling pin to roll out to about 1/8 ” thick — shape isn’t important; it just needs to fit on the baking sheet.

4. Use the plastic wrap to move the dough to a large, parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat, rolling out more pieces, until the baking sheet(s) are full.

5. Bake in preheated, 350° oven for 10 to 14 minutes, depending on dough thickness and number of baking sheets.

6. Remove from oven and transfer cookie sheets/slabs to cooling rack immediately.

7. Leave cookie sheets on cooling rack until they have cooled completely (and firmed up), at least 30 minutes. Reduce oven to 325°.

8. Place cookie sheets into a large bowl, and crush/break them up into crumbs. Pour 25 grams granulated sugar on top.

9. Place 45 grams vegan butter in small glass and microwave in 15 second increments until melted. Pour into sugar/crumb mixture and stir to combine. Texture should be like wet sand.

10. Pour crumb mix into pie pan and press up sides and into the bottom, to form an even crust.

11. Blind-bake crust in 325° oven for 10 minutes, sitting on top of a larger cookie sheet. Remove and set aside while you prepare the rest of the pie/ingredients. Return oven to 350°.

Brownie layer ingredients

14 grams ground flax seed

64 ml hot water

60 grams vegan butter sticks

100 grams sugar

8 ml (1- 1/2 tsp) vanilla extract

62 grams flour

43 grams natural cocoa powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

104 grams vegan chocolate chips (oat milk preferred)

1. In a small glass, stir together flax and hot water and set aside to thicken.

2. Add vegan butter to another small glass and microwave in 15-second increments until melted.

3. In a large bowl, combine melted butter and sugar, stirring with a wooden spoon to form a paste.

4. To same bowl, sift in flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder. Stir together until just combined, then fold in chocolate chips.

5. Pour brownie batter into pie crust, place on baking sheet, and bake at 350° for 25 to 27 minutes or until set. Move to cooling rack while you prepare the next layer (you can turn the oven off now).

Chocolate Custard

25 grams corn starch

144 grams granulated sugar

336 ml plain, unsweetened soy milk

8 ml (1- 1/2 tsp) vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

10 grams vegan butter

255 grams vegan dark chocolate, chopped fine

1. In medium saucepan, sift and whisk starch and sugar into soy milk. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally until mixture begins to bubble.

2. Cook on medium, stirring constantly, for 8 minutes. Add vanilla, salt and butter, then turn heat down to low (almost off). After 2 minutes of cooking on low, turn heat off, but leave pan on burner. Whisk in chocolate, one third at a time, then remove from heat.

3. When mixture is uniform, use large silicone spatula to scrape custard onto pie crust and brownie. Depending on pie size and custard thickness, you may have a little extra (~ 1/4 cup).

4. Cover top of pie with plastic wrap, and move it to the fridge as soon as it has cooled slightly, about 15 minutes. Cool for about 4 hours in fridge before decorating or serving.

* I decorated with vegan cream, whipped with powdered sugar, vanilla and xanthan gum and dark chocolate curls.

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