The Super Bowl of Baking Contests

Absolutely nothing could keep Krystin Bigley from competing in the Blue Ribbon Apple Pie contest at the 97th Pennsylvania State Farm Show.

Sitting in a wheelchair, her left leg outstretched in an orthopedic brace to stabilize her dislocated kneecap, the McKean County woman proudly delivered her “Grammie’s Apple Pie” for judging on Saturday morning.

“I delayed surgery so I could be here,” said Bigley of Port Allegheny. “I just love the Farm Show. I wouldn’t miss it.”

She’s not alone.

The love of the Farm Show and the competitions known as the Super Bowl of Pennsylvania baking contests brought out more than 200 bakers for the apple pie, chocolate cake and chocolate cookies on Saturday.

Sunday baking competitions include angel food cake and thumbprint cookies.

Bigley, whose pie took first place in the McKean County Fair, said she uses Cortland apples with cinnamon, sugar, water and flour. She said a flaky crust is essential.

Mark Schweikart, her fiancé and pie taster, brought her to the Farm Show to deliver the pie.

“We met at the McKean County fairgrounds,” Bigley said. “We’re getting married at the fairgrounds racetrack on August 3rd and will have our reception in the pig barn.”

Other apple pie bakers overcame their own challenges to make it to the contest that was only open to certified first-place winners from Pennsylvania’s 2012 agricultural fairs.

Seventy-three bakers brought apple pies to the Farm Show, then watched intently as five judges evaluated the pies for appearance, creativity, color, flavor and texture of crust, and consistency, doneness, moistness and flavor of filling. The bakers passed the time by exchanging cooking tips.

Cecelia Harmer of Tioga said a good apple needs Granny Smith apples, cinnamon, a little allspice and lemon and “a lot of love. I make a good old-fashioned American pie. My husband, Raymond, says it’s the best. I hope it is today.”

Sue Mattis of Harbor Creek said she likes to add a pie filling enhancer to thicken the filling of her caramel apple pecan pie.

As the contest ended, the coveted blue ribbon, $500 check and bragging rights went to Lorrie Rauch of New Tripoli for her Peachy Apple Pie made of Cortland apples, canned peaches and a creamy base.

Other apple pie winners were: RoseAnn Scheurer of Northhampton County, second; Jennifer Shawver of Mifflin County, third; Stacie Hart of Montour County, fourth; and Tara Cloud of Lancaster County, fifth.

“I’m so happy. It’s like I won the super bowl,” said Rauch, who also won the contest in 2009. “I’ve been in apple pie contests since 2001 and started winning at the local fairs in 2005. I practice making my pie and worked hard on my lattice top so it looks like a woven basket.”

She grinned when asked how she plans to spend the $500.

“My daughter, Jade, is getting married in June,” Rauch said. “This money will go toward the wedding.” Scheurer said she will use her $250 prize toward a guitar and lessons.

The chocolate baking contests dominated the afternoon. Sponsored by the Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs and state Department of Agriculture PA Preferred program, the chocolate cake competition drew 67 entries. One was the chocolate crunch layer cake made by Judy DeLuca of Wallopen.

“There are a lot of beautiful cakes out there,” she said, checking out tall layer cakes with light brown, dark brown and white icing and decorated with everything from cherries to chocolate kisses. “My cake has six layers, six PA Preferred ingredients and more than a pound of chocolate in the frosting.”

Rachel Logue of Hampden Twp. made a chocolate caramel cake despite a migraine, dizziness and flickering lights.

“The secret to a good cake is to put parchment paper on the edges so the caramel doesn’t stick to the sides,” she said. “When you ice it, put the icing on wax paper and move that around with a spatula to smooth it.”

Judges named Kelley Madey of Bucks County as first place winner of the blue ribbon and $500 cash award for her Chocolate Cake with Caramel Buttercream and Salty Pretzel Crunch entry.  Prior to submitting her cake in this competition, she won first place at the Middletown Grange Fair.

Other winners were Sharon Kurtz of Lehigh County, second, RoseAnn Scheurer of Northampton County, third; Susan Nunan, fourth; and Michelle Gardner of Perry County, fifth.

Younger bakers entered 70 cookies, bars and brownies in their own contest, sponsored by PA Preferred. Miranda Getz of Lititz won first place, $250 and tickets to see Luke Bryan perform at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College.  Other prizes went to Cecelia Weiss  of Berks County, second place; Jon Kerschner of Berks County, third;  Adrianne Jackson of Northampton County, fourth; and Merritt Leidy of Huntingdon County, fifth place.

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