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Novice pie baker wins Tennessee State Fair contest

Sam Hatcher • Updated Sep 21, 2016 at 5:00 PM

She’d only been baking pies since the beginning of the summer, but that didn’t keep Colleen Krause from entering one of the state’s most high-profile baking contests.

And to beat all odds, or at least 35 other entries competing in the Tennessee State Fair’s annual Apple Pie Contest, she won.

But, as if this win wasn’t enough, the amateur baker, wife and mother of five who oversees contracts for a Nashville health care distribution company, also placed second in the Dole dessert contest at the fair and was named the State Fair’s Baker of the Year after placing 10 separate entries in various fair baking competitions.

That’s right. Krause, who lives in Hermitage, put her limited baking experience up against some of Tennessee’s finest and came out a huge winner.

“I’m new to pie baking, but I’ve made a bazillion of them, practicing to get the crust perfected and best filling,” she said.

Explaining her affection for baking, Krause said her incentive was to be able to make a rhubarb custard pie just like her mother did when she was growing up in Montana. Her mother died some five years and “I wanted to make it for Dad, as he also enjoys it,” she said.

In another state fair baking competition this year, Krause entered her rhubarb pie and won a second-place red ribbon. 

Not that that the Tennessee State Fair champion doesn’t have plenty of other ways to pass time. She said baking is her main hobby, although she admitted she’s also starting to get into canning and is taking a class on beekeeping later this year. 

“We have a small property on the Cumberland Plateau and are going to build an earth bag house there next spring. I’m interested in getting back to the basics,” she said. 

Emily Drucker, of Murfreesboro, finished second in the apple pie contest, and third went to Theresa Fleetwood, of Franklin.

Addressing Krause’s winning submission, Kinsey Emery, who chaired the event, said “The competition was stiff as generally it always is in this contest that has become a tradition of the state fair.”

She said a panel of judges selected and monitored by Tammy Algood, a renowned food specialist, author and presenter with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, tasted, observed and calculated their findings for some two hours before determining eight finalists from the three-dozen entries. 

“From the final eight,” Emery said, “a first-, second- and third-place finisher was selected.”

Emery said the apple pie competition, sponsored each year by the Tennessee Farmers Cooperative, “is seemingly the one contest of the Fair that attracts both men and women and young and old.

“It’s really interesting to see who enters each year. Many of the contestants have been entering for years. Some are husbands and wives competing against each other.
Some, like this year’s winner, are novices who are just beginning to hone their baking talents. And some are winners from past years or maybe they’ve won pie baking honors at other county fairs.”

Picking a winner, Emery said, is not always an easy task.

“While we always have a lot of folks volunteering to be a judge for the apple pie contest,” she said. “They often find, that once they get in to the actual judging, their commitment can be challenging,”

According to Emery, many of the pies have the same ingredients. For sure all are going to have apples and sugar in the filling and some amount of flour in the crust. 

She said it’s up to the judges to sift through all entries and come up with a champion that tops all others.

Judges are instructed to award 25 percent of their points for creativity or originality, 25 percent for appearance, and 50 percent for taste. Only residents from Tennessee are allowed to enter the contest.

Finding a winner each year, Emery confesses can be difficult and complicated.

“The contest,” she said, “involves much more than just finding a pie that tastes good.

“For that matter, they all taste good. But only one can have the right stuff to make it a Tennessee State Fair champion.”

Winning apple pie recipe

By Colleen Krause

Special to The Democrat

Ingredients for crust

3 cups flour

1 ½-cup lard

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon white vinegar

5 tablespoons ice water

1 egg

 

Directions for crust

Mix flour and salt in large bowl. Cut lard into flour mixture. (Some people use a food processor, I like to do it by hand with a pastry cutte.) Add egg, water and vinegar, knead by hand until combined. Divide dough into three equal balls. Wrap in plastic wrap, flatten into disks, place in fridge. (This recipe makes three crusts, not two, which I like in case I really mess one up. Pie dough can be very challenging to work with. It can tear or get too dry from too much flour while rolling out. If I don’t need the extra crust for my apple pie, I leave it in the fridge and use it later for a one-crust pie.)

Ingredients for filling:

2-pounds Granny Smith apples

1-pound Honeycrisp apples

2/3-cup brown sugar

1/3-cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

11/2-teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

 

Directions for filling

Core and peel apples, cut in half lengthwise, then cut into ¼-inch slices. Place in large bowl. In separate bowl, use 2/3-cup brown sugar, 1/3-cup granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1 ½-teaspoons cinnamon, ½-teaspoon nutmeg. Stir to combine, place in bowl with apples and mix well, ensuring all slices are covered. 

I find the Granny Smith apples to be tart enough, I don’t like using lemon to keep the apples from browning. Using a brown sugar based mix means it doesn’t matter if they brown or not!  You won’t notice.

By now, dough is cold enough to handle. Grease pie pan with butter, roll out bottom crust, place in pan, place apple mixture in pan, roll out top crust, lay over apples in pan. Roll out top crust to be a little thicker than the bottom. Trim edges to about an inch beyond pan edge all around, fold under and crimp or otherwise shape (fork, etc). Cut vent slots in top crust. I cut my vents in arch shape to look like flower stems, and used leftover crust to make flowers and leaves to decorate it. Brush the top of the entire crust and edges with an egg white/water mix and sprinkled about 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar over that. 

Place in oven preheated to 425 degrees, bake 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake an additional 60-70 minutes. 

I use a glass dish so I can check the bottom of the crust to ensure it’s done properly. Many recipes recommend that you cover the edges with foil until the last 15 minutes of baking, but I do the reverse...I bake the pie until the edge is as dark as I want it, then I cover it with foil until it’s done baking. This will give you a yummy, crunchy, sugary, flakey crust. I use a long toothpick to stab apples through the vent to ensure I don’t feel any “crunch” as well.

 

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