Sweet Taste of Success

CityBeat intern Michela Tindera spent the past two weeks preparing recipes for the Hamilton County Fair's pie-baking contests. This is Part II of her story. —-

Have you ever experienced that sensation when every time you close your eyes all you can see are outlines of pie on the back of your eyelids?

Well, I have.

Because I spend my days doing other Laura Ingalls Wilder things like smoking fresh venison and playing catch with a pig’s bladder, I had to do all of my baking at night, which not only made me quite tired come morning but also a recent expert on late night television. (Gotta love Craig Ferguson’s 15-minute interviews with a robot.)

But along with my burgeoning expertise of The Late Late Show also came some talent for this whole pie-baking business.

So here I am, four pies and three days later, tired, slightly covered in flour and, oh, did I mention $33 richer?

Here’s how it all happened:

Like all great culinary stories, this one begins with a recipe. Mine? I won’t say exactly, but parts of it do reside in this tome of yummy wisdom — my family’s copyrighted 1979 Betty Crocker cookbook. From microwave pork chops to flaming pears, this cookbook knows the classics inside and out.

I decided to start with a blueberry pie because they don’t require the peeling, pitting or coring that an apple or cherry pie requires.

First, the filling. Most modern bakers don’t make their own filling, but like I always say, “Go hard or go home.”

Next the dough for the pastry.

I had some problems with the dough’s stickiness factor, so I had to re-roll and re-shape it a couple times before it was just right.

Almost ready!

Is it weird that as I live out my prairie girl fantasies I also always feel like Snow White when I’m detailing the pie crust?

And 35-45 minutes later … ta-da, pie glory. Nom nom.

While this pie may look fair-worthy, the taste was not on par. The filling was still too sour in some places way too liquid-y, so I knew more attempts would be in order.

I made another the next day and — success — it was much sweeter, as Chris Brown might say, “Nomx3.”

Unfortunately, I somehow found myself in my kitchen at 9:30 p.m. the night before the pie contest just beginning to tie up my apron strings. I blame it all on the procrastination skills I have honed so well in college.

After all my practice I again decided to start with the blueberry with a few teaspoons of cornstarch to thicken the filling. And it was smelling berry berry good. Ha…

And finally it was time for the head honcho, the big kahuna — the apple pie. I was especially anxious for this one because Apple Pie is its own category in the contest and I had only baked one other apple a few weeks before.

So I sliced.

And peeled.

And sliced some more.

And then as I went on to make the pie crust, it all seemed to fall apart — literally.

That’s the thing about pie crusts — they’re temperamental, and by 1:30 a.m. so was I. After four tries of rolling and re-rolling the top layer, watching as it went from fruit leather toughness levels to disintegrating at my very touch, I kept wondering how I had created a bipolar piece of pie dough.

And like any other seasoned baker would do, I said screw it and threw the damn piece of crust on the top of the pie and tossed the whole thing in the oven.

Again, 45 minutes later I pulled out the bubbling pastry and saw that the giant crack I had tried to mend with butter had come open again.

But by 2:30 a.m. my jersey cotton sheets were literally screaming out my name, so I threw in the towel and hit the sack.

Unfortunately I wasn’t available to drop my own pies off at the fair. Luckily I enlisted my dad for the job and around 3 p.m. Saturday I got the text message of a lifetime. Or maybe the summer?

“Apple got third. Fruit got fifth.”

Validation!! According to my dad even with a cracked crust I had beaten out over a dozen other entries in each category.

And as I sat at work on Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t help but think how proud Ma and Pa would be.

Oh and those other items I entered last week? I’d say they “faired” quite well.

Think you can beat me? Doubt it. But for those who dare, check www.hamiltoncountyfair.com for upcoming information on the 2012 Hamilton County Fair.

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