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Anna Maria woman is Crisco's national pie champ

MANATEE — A raisin and walnut pie brimming with milk chocolate and finished with a hint of cinnamon has helped an Anna Maria restaurant owner become a 2010 national pie champion.

Andrea Spring, co-owner with her husband, Ed, of Sign of the Mermaid Restaurant on Gulf Drive, entered a chocolate raisin walnut pie that took Best in Show in the professional division of the 2010 Crisco American Pie Council Pie Challenge in Celebration, near Orlando, on Sunday.

“That raisin pie was to die for,” Ed Spring said. “When they announced she had won, she screamed.”

Spring captured first place in two of the contest’s eight categories for pies this year, winning the raisin category and the cream category for her Hula Hula Pineapple Pie with fried pie crust.

“I am a 2010 national pie champion,” said Andrea Spring on Sunday from Celebration, her voice a mixture of exhaustion and excitement.

When judges looked at all eight 2010 category winners, the chocolate raisin walnut creation was judged best of all eight.

There were 170 entries in the professional division, Andrea Spring said.

“I just burst into tears,” Spring said. “It’s three emotional days with round- the-clock baking.”

Crisco has hosted this pie festival where national pie champions are crowned in April in Celebration for several years, Spring said.

This is not the first time that Spring has been named a national pie champion by Crisco.

In 2007, Spring won Best in Show for her Gold Coast Key Lime pie. That year, like this one, she had two first places.

She got firsts in 2007 for the key lime pie and for her chocolate espresso explosion pie.

This year, the two-time national pie champ finished baking at 4 a.m. Sunday and then had to sweat it out until the judging was over at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Categories included raisin, cream, nut, fruit, citrus and three others.

Spring felt motivated to try the raisin category since “everyone is not a raisin lover,” she said.

After much thought, she decided to put the raisins on the bottom of the pie. The top part of the pie has the look and feel of a pecan pie, but the taste of walnuts and chocolate.

“I wanted a raisin pie that would be accessible to everyone, even people who don’t like raisins,” Spring said. “That’s why I used milk chocolate and walnuts, two things that most people enjoy. It tastes rich, with a hint of cinnamon and the raisins come on the bottom in a chewy layer.”

It will take about a week but like the 2007 champion key lime pie, the chocolate raisin pie will go on the menu at Sign of the Mermaid, Spring said.

More than 400 judges picked pies in amateur, commercial and professional divisions in Celebration, Andrea Spring said.

Ed Spring said his wife won because she pays attention to detail.

“She’s a perfectionist,” he said.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686