September 16, 2019

Local baker shares secrets for making pies - Daily Leader Extra : Local News

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Local baker shares secrets for making pies

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Posted: Thursday, August 1, 2019 3:04 pm

The kitchen island was stacked on Wednesday afternoon with ingredients and the tools necessary for pie making.

Wendy Hanson was making a practice pie. She had decided to enter the 7th Annual Pie Contest which is being held as part of Lake County Achievement Days.

"I thought it would be fun," she said. "It's a creative thing to do."

The pie contest will be held on Friday and is open to Lake County residents of all ages. Those who wish to enter are to bring pies -- the number of entries per person is not limited -- with complete recipes to the Lake County Extension Office between 9-11 a.m.

No preregistration or registration fee is required. Judges for this year's contest are County Commissioner Deb Reinicke, Sheriff's Deputy Steve Rowe and Madison Police Officer Rob Haug.

Winners will be announced before the pie auction at 6 p.m. The grand champion will win $50 and the reserved champion will win $25.

Hanson will be entering two pies. She chose from among her many recipes those which are most popular at holidays -- a cherry pie and a lemon tart.

While some may not consider baking to be a creative activity, Hanson has a penchant for adapting recipes she finds online or in magazines rather than simply following them. This is reflected in the way she preserves favorites. Each is preserved in a plastic sleeve in a binder with labeled dividers.

"I like when they have pictures so you can see what they're supposed to look like," she explained.

Most hold personal notations. For the lemon tart, Hanson has noted dollops of whipped cream with raspberries will be substituted for the topping shown.

"All her recipes have notes," her husband Robb observed.

Family contributes significantly to the pleasure Hanson derives from spending time in the kitchen.

"Robb likes to eat, so I like to cook," she said.

She even plans meals so that he will have leftovers to take to work at Avera McKennan, where he works as a respiratory therapist. Hanson works as a proofreader at The Madison Daily Leader.

However, Hanson also derives satisfaction from hearing her son purr with pleasure when he tastes something she has prepared. Of course, the same is true when others enjoy a meal or treat she has made.

"When everybody's enjoying it, it makes you feel like you've accomplished something and done something creative," she said.

While working on her practice pie, Hanson did share a couple of secrets. She found her crust recipe, which uses both butter and shortening, in a magazine.

"The first time I made it, it was too thick and the bottom didn't cook right," she said.

But after recognizing that problem and addressing it, she has been pleased with the way the crust turns out when she makes pies. She uses a pastry cutter to blend the ingredients, adding water a bit at a time as she cuts the shortening and butter into the flour.

"I think making pie crust is like playing with PlayDough when you're a kid," she commented as she worked, noting the texture is the same.

Her first secret is the way she rolls out the crust.

"You have to use parchment paper," Hanson explained. "You have to put it between two pieces of parchment paper."

This has a couple of advantages. First, the dough doesn't stick to the rolling pin. Second, the dough doesn't tear or break when it's being transferred to the pie plate.

Her second secret is the kind of cherries she uses -- tart frozen cherries.

"You put so much sugar in the filling, I think it would be too sweet if you used the sweet ones," she said.

Hanson cooks her filling so it has the same consistency as canned pie filling and cools it before assembling the pie.

She said she didn't become interested in cooking or baking until she was an adult.

"My mom didn't bake at all," she said. "We had Oreos and Nutter Butters."

Having discovered the joy of cooking, Hanson does like having a kitchen conducive to that activity. Consequently, as part of an ongoing home remodeling project, her kitchen was redesigned with a wide center island which provides ample room for her to work.

"It makes it more fun to work," she admitted.

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