Eleven participants of varying experience attended the first “Pies, Pies, Pies!” class taught by Brenda Johnson (standing left) through Luverne Community Education.Luverne’s Brenda Johnson dishes out a slice of pumpkin pie at the Tuesday night, Nov. 17, Community Education pie-making class. For the first time, Johnson shared her more than 30 years of experience making the homemade creations in a classroom setting.As participants make homemade piecrusts, instructor Brenda Johnson (left) shows student Colette Hansen of Luverne a tip to gauge how large to roll out the dough using the pie pan.Pie-making student Mary Mulldorfer of Adrian (right) holds the apple peel as instructor Brenda Johnson shows her how to use the device.

Nothing says Thanksgiving better than homemade Pie!

Johnson shares experience baking 3,000+ pies with community members

Homemade pumpkin and apple pies will grace the tables of 11 area residents, thanks to a Luverne woman sharing her pie baking secrets for the first time.

On Nov. 17 Brenda Johnson instructed a Community Education class creating their own pumpkin and apple pies with a special twist on the pumpkin pie.

“I don’t use pumpkin,” she told the class. “I use butternut squash.”

The squash’s rich color and flavor are more to her liking. The squash also has a consistent texture and not likely to be stringy as some pumpkins can be after cooking the fruit for freezing, she said.

Besides the secret ingredient in pumpkin pies, participants learned how to make crust from scratch and a few more tips that Johnson has gained through 30 years of pie making and experimenting.

The self-taught pie maker made two pies for participants to taste before sending them to work stations in the home economics room of Luverne High School.

With the pleasant taste of pie on their tongues, participants started blending butter, salt, flour and ice water together for two piecrusts.

“It’s just as easy to make two,” Johnson said, divulging another tip.

She estimates her pie making skills began 30 years ago when, instead of making birthday cakes, she made pies for her husband, Paul, and their three children.

Soon pies were made for holidays, family dinners and other get-togethers including her day care children.

Johnson estimates she has constructed from scratch more than 3,000 pies varying from mocha Bavarian chocolate to the pumpkin and apple pies she helped with on Tuesday.

The 1980 Luverne High School graduate said she doesn’t have a favorite.

“It depends on the time of the year,” Johnson admitted.

While she doesn’t have a favorite, she does have a least favorite. However, the use of a new apple peeler at Thursday’s class had Johnson commenting that if peeling had been this easy years ago, she might have baked more apple pies.

Participants’ expertise prior to taking Johnson’s class ranged from beginner to seasoned bakers. Each was looking to Johnson for help.

“I am not sure if I can teach you to make pie, but I can walk through the steps,” she said.

One important step is not to overwork the crust. Due to its inexpensive ingredients, Johnson said it’s easier to mix and roll out a crust again versus using an over-worked dough which leads to a tough piecrust.

Getting the crust right takes time and a few failures.

“The more pies you make, the better you get,” she said.

The course cost was $10 with Johnson foregoing an instructor fee, choosing instead to donate to the community education’s Opportunity Fund.

Cindy Arends, community education secretary, said it’s a scholarship fund intended to keep course offerings affordable to everyone. 

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