Baking Memories; The Pursuit of Pie Perfection: Part 2

One of my goals in life is to be the Julia Child of Apple Pie. Now, I don’t want to say that I worship Apple Pie, but in all honesty, I’m a fanatic. Non-believers would claim that Apple Pie isn’t as exciting or dynamic as huckleberry or marionberry, but in my heart, it wears the crown. It’s America in a pie dish. It’s the season of Fall wrapped in pastry. It’s my bread and butter or rather a pie and ice cream. If you’ve followed my previous pie-centric article, you’d know that I entered the Apple Pie Contest at the Fall City Apple Festival in hopes of truly crossing ‘bake-off’ from my bucket list.

Now, to be clear, my motivation to enter the contest didn’t come from the desire to win 1st place – I wanted to eat some pie, raise some money for charity, improve my baking skills, and bring a delicious and presentable pie to the judges. Would it hurt if I won? Of course not, but it was never my motivating goal.

Initially, the competition was on Sunday, September 13th, but due to the oppressing smoke, the festival got pushed back to Sunday, September 20th, given as the festival is outdoors. Instead of choosing to do more practice bakes during the extra week, and consequently gain five more pounds, I decided to rest and pray to the pie Gods.

As the days neared the competition, my anxiety approached – would I be able to recreate the heavenly pie I had made during one of my many test bakes? Would the caramel flavor come through? Would the judges understand my caramel apple inspiration? Hoping to quell my doubts in my pie and pie baking abilities, I channeled my energy into my game plan for the competition.

Working out my time table, I came to the unfortunate realization that on the day of the competition, I had to be awake by 6 am, have the pie in the oven by 6:45 am, and leave the house by 8:20 am. For a split second, my excitement to participate in the bake-off wavered by the reality that I had to get up early. 6 am on a Sunday is inarguably and most definitely too early for any person to be up and at em’ especially when making a very important pie.

Aware of the inevitableness of my early morning wake up, I decided to make my crust, skin the apples, pre-measure all the ingredients, and create the lattice the night before to maximize my sleep in time. The one plus side of all this preparation is that I made sure that I missed no steps, and every ingredient was accounted for – incredibly helpful as forgetting the butter is something I’m notorious for.

On the morning of the competition, I gathered all my mental strength and rolled my tired body out of bed, noting the darkness of the sky. Somehow, barely awake and not at my sharpest, I managed to get everything done on time. Looking at my unbaked creation, I couldn’t help but feel accomplished, well aware that it was more attractive than my last test bake.

Taking the pie out of the oven, I knew it looked good. However, the adage that looks aren’t everything rings true in the pie world; in the end, it comes down to taste. Unfortunately, my guess was as good as anyone’s as to how it tasted – it could look great but taste horrible. Hence, the best I could do is pray and hope that it tasted out as delicious as it looked. From appearances, the strudel crumble topping looked perfectly caramel-soaked, and the lattice looked remarkably straight and even. It hands-down looked like the best-looking pie I had ever made – maybe keeping my fingers and toes crossed for the last week had worked.

My Caramel Apple Pie – Competition Bake

Arriving at the Apple Festival at the Northwest Natural Horsemanship Center in Fall City, I was struck with how perfectly rustic and very well organized the event was. The volunteers were more than friendly, and the atmosphere was incredibly joyful – it looked like something out of a Fall themed Hallmark movie. Perhaps it is the many months of quarantine speaking, but just the idea of being at a socially-distanced event made me happy beyond belief.

From interactive apple cider presses, a lasso station, horse rides, and the apple-based food section (filled with apple pies, apple cider, and other apple-themed delicacies), it was the perfect way to occupy a fall day. The best part was all the money raised going to support the NWNHC Family Fund, a local non-profit which raises money for equestrian scholarships for kids who would otherwise be unable to afford equestrian experiences and for healing retreats for those in the military. To learn more about the NWNHC Family Fund, visit http://nwnhcfamilyfund.org

Fall City Apple Festival

Dropping off my pie at 9 am, I knew the competition was stiff. Last year, around eight pies entered total, whereas this year, there were 10 in the adult division and 4 in the youth division. Partaking in the adult division, I knew I objectively had a 10% chance of getting 1st place or rather a 30% chance of placing at all. All the pies were judged anonymously; each pie randomly assigned a number by a non-judge volunteer.

My expectations of winning were low – I knew my pie was good, but it was tailored to my preferences, and I was unsure if the judges even shared my caramel loving tastebuds. Add that to the fact that everyone at the competition looked more than qualified and seemed well seasoned in the world of apple pie bake-offs, and I just knew my chances were slim. Just looking at my competitor’s pies, most definitely as delicious as they were attractive, I knew my pie had to bring it if it even wanted to place.

Coming back to the festival around 2 pm, I sat waiting on a bench with my family. Whoever said waiting is the worst part was right – I couldn’t help but look around at others who had entered a pie, knowing each and every person had poured their heart into their pie, just like me.

Slice Of My Pie

When a volunteer finally came to announce the winning names for the adult division, I immediately started wringing my hands. Even if I didn’t speak out a placement when I signed up, but rather fun experience, I still found myself slightly worried and anxious about the results. When 3rd place was awarded, I became stressed. But when 2nd place was called, I knew thought I’d lost. When 1st place was called, I was shocked—shocked that my name was called. Shocked that the judges had chosen my pie to occupy the title of ‘first place.’

I was beyond surprised that my pie had turned out better than ever anticipated. My astonishment was magnified by the knowledge that every other contestant had put in their effort, time, and love into their pies. Walking, as if in a dream, up to receive my award, I immediately knew that my ten plus hours of practice pie bakes, early morning wake up, and constant refining of my recipe was worth it.

My 1st Place Ribbon

Not only did this experience make my week, or even month, it helped raise money for the nonprofit. Even though the ribbon is lovely, it isn’t really what puts a smile on my face. I couldn’t be happier that my pie made a real impact. From my entry fee to the added crowd the pie competition may have drawn to the selling of the slices of my winning pie, I was satisfied knowing that a little apple, sugar, and cinnamon had helped others.

Overall, the Fall City Apple Festival was a great experience – from the friendly volunteers, fun activity stations, to yummy apple treats; it was excellent from start to end. I want to thank my fellow competitors for partaking and showing their mutual love of pie while raising money for the nonprofit. The sugar-filled experience did show me that one slice really can make a difference in the lives of others.

Speak Your Mind

*

%d bloggers like this: