Can you bake a cherry pie, with a twinkle in your eye?
In that case, you’d be looking for the Pillsbury Pie Baking Championship at the Puyallup Fair. The deadline to register is coming up — it’s August 30, and the pies will be judged on Sept. 5.
Roller coasters and 4H-ers are great, but for me the annual fair is all about winning recipes and blue ribbons — or at least the attempt to win them. I was able to trail a contestant from her home kitchen to the judging stand several years back, and I’ve been on the other side of the table as a judge. This year, I’ll be judging the Ghiardelli Chocolate Championship (winners are chosen based on appearance, taste, creativity, and ease of preparation — and there are formal guidelines for how points are allotted, making it hard to get completely swept away by a particularly pretty entry or unusual idea.)
One thing I can tell you for sure: If you’ve got a recipe that family and friends love, give the contests a try. There *is* a formula to winning, and tasting really good is the biggest part of it.
For cross-nation inspiration, here’s a recipe from the southern U.S. fairs — it’s for Cinnamon Streusel Sweet Potato Pie, winner of last year’s Pillsbury Pet-Ritz (Frozen) Pie Crusts Pie Baking contest (pictured above), after the jump.
For information on all this year’s contests, go to the fair’s entry booklet here. There are categories for jams and jellies, pickles of all sorts, decorated cakes, and a few more newfangled items.
Looking for more than a ribbon and bragging rights? Here are a few name-brand contests of interest, with descriptions provided by the fair folks. Check out the entry booklet for full entry details:
The Fleischmann’s Yeast “Sensational Sandwich Bread Contest” gives out $400 in prizes to home bakers, plus $2,000 in national grand prizes. Flavor variety is encouraged, plus sandwich breads can be any shape or style.
King Arthur Flour’s “Great Cake Contest” awards prizes valued at $450 to the top three winners, plus the first place winner has a shot at the grand prize valued at $500. Bake your cake using any type of King Arthur Flour, but no cake mixes. Any theme is welcome and use any frosting, topping or delightful decoration you desire.
Pillsbury Pie Baking Championship. ($350 in cash prizes): Design a dessert “pie” in any shape or form: from classic pies to mini pies, from pie poppers to stuffed crust pies. Just make your entry sweet (not savory) and use a Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust.
Ghirardelli Chocolate Championship: Focus on flavor, creativity and an easy-to-follow recipe. Feature any Ghirardelli premium baking product to create any type of dessert. First and second place finishers win $150 and $50 each. Plus, the top three winners and a random contestant each take home a Ghirardelli gift basket.
Great American SPAM Championship. Focus on taste, originality and presentation and use 10 ingredients or less (including, natch, SPAM). The national winner came from the Puyallup competition last year. Entrants compete for prizes (up to $150 for first place), blue ribbons and a shot at the grand prize. Two categories welcome both adults and youth.
Cinnamon Streusel Sweet Potato Pie
1-1/2 cups mashed cooked dark orange sweet potatoes (about 1 lb uncooked)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 Pillsbury Pet-Ritz frozen deep dish pie crust
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup sweetened whipped cream, if desired
Place cookie sheet on oven rack. Heat oven to 425 degree F. Place sweet potatoes in food processor; cover and process until smooth. In large bowl, mix sweet potatoes and remaining filling ingredients with wire whisk until smooth; pour into frozen pie crust. Bake on cookie sheet 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degree F; bake 20 minutes longer. Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix streusel ingredients. Carefully sprinkle streusel over filling. Bake 10 to 15 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out clean and streusel is golden brown. Cool completely, about 3 hours. Serve pie with sweetened whipped cream. Store covered in refrigerator. 8 servings.
Photo courtesy of Pillsbury Pie Crusts