When my kids were little, I had a mad wicked addiction to Good Morning America. I could catch a bit of it while I was Momming Around (sung to the tune of “Hanging Around” by Counting Crows) and feed the part of my brain that was not dedicated to Momming. Maybe not the best brain food, but Diane, Charlie and Robin’s company made the coffee a little hotter, the sun a little brighter, and the morning a lighter. Emeril Lagasse would cook something exciting and we were all the better for it.

In October of 2000, Good Morning America launched its first ever pie contest. The Pie of Emeril’s eye. The winner would be featured on the-very-important-to-viewers Day Before Thanksgiving Day Show. In true GMA style it was a three part series. We can call it GMA can’t we…we’re all friends here, just chatting! Back to you, Charlie!

Pie baking did not enter my collective baking consciousness until that series. I woke up to the fact that I was now a Mom, which in my mind made me a grownup. Real Grownups cook Thanksgiving dinner. Real Grownups bake pies. Real Grownups bake pies on Thanksgiving. Good pies.

The GMA crew chatted about it every day. Pie Entries, Pie ingredients, Pie crusts, Pies of Thanksgiving Past. Martha Stewart chimed in with a visit and two full pages of crust edging and finishing techniques in her magazine, including how to cut out decorative crust leaves for garnish. Could we garnish a pie? Should we garnish a pie?

Beth Ann Woodward from Spring, Texas won the contest with her Praline Pumpkin Pie. It got announced on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The pie was so damn good that Emeril Lagasse went to her HOUSE for brunch and she made him a brunch casserole. After some staged begging, Emeril convinced Beth Ann Woodward of Spring, Texas to share that brunch recipe. Oh…to live the life of Beth Ann Woodward of Spring, Texas! Emeril likely even used her guest bathroom! That alone is reason enough to have guest towels and fancy soaps.

Let me stop you right here. This was BGWAV. Before Google Was a Verb. Actually before Google was a word. We either grabbed a pen and wrote this stuff down, or we looked it up on the cutting edge search engine, Ask Jeeves. Jeeves may or may not provide it, so the pen was the sure thing. I wrote.

I went right out and bought the ingredients and set to pie baking. The most critical part of the recipe kept it at the “I Can Do This” level for me. This was crust instruction:

Ingredients for crust: Either homemade* (see below) or store-bought. (Beth prefers Pillsbury).

Beth prefers Pillsbury! If Beth Ann Woodward of Spring, Texas, Winner of the First Annual Emeril’s “Pie in the Sky Pie Contest” prefers Pillsbury, I did too. The likelihood of me successfully making a pie crust was equal to the likelihood of me becoming a professional cage fighter. And I had a sweet spot for the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

I baked that pie. I baked the hell out of it. And it was great. The secret of this pie is a thin layer of praline right there between the crust and the filling.

If you don’t know the magnitude of praline goodness, please stop reading and combine equal parts of butter, pecans, and brown sugar and bake them together. I will wait. Magic, right?

I love pumpkin pie just on its own, but this little layer put Beth Ann Woodward from Spring, Texas right there at the top of the pile of recipes that were lovingly sent to the crew at GMA. Did I mention that Emeril came to her house for brunch?

I enter my 15th year of Praline Pumpkin Pie by Beth Ann Woodward of Spring, Texas. Some years I go all Martha on it and add some leaves, some years the praline filling bubbles up out of the filling and catches the oven on fire. Some years it cracks and some years it stays smooth. I double up the filling and go deep dish. Every year that pie knocks my socks off.

I thank Diane, Charlie, Robin, and the crew at GMA for keeping me company all those years. Those were the tough ones when my daughters were both in diapers and my husband traveled 50 weeks of the year.

I thank Emeril for being such a goofball that he landed himself a sweet gig on GMA. And thanks for the day Emeril made a chive and brie omelet. My relationship with brie has never been the same and adding water to the eggs for fluffiness was an invaluable tip.

I thank Beth Ann Woodward of Spring, Texas for having the mad game to put a praline layer in a pie. Total Genius.

I thank my family for loving me and loving the pie.

And I thank you for reading and pass the gift of the gift of the Pumpkin Praline Pie recipe on to you.

In part two of our pie series, I reveal that letting one daughter mix the filling without supervision while your other daughter makes the crust is the ultimate exercise in releasing control. Plus, I introduce you to my own family tradition…THE SHOW PIE!

Back to you Charlie, Diane & Robin!

Viewers weigh in! What’s your pie tradition?

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