Oak Park hosts bake-off for community, businesses

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 24, 2012

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — It was a sweet day for Oak Park Retirement Community.
Community members and businesses baked 16 pies for the Oak Park Retirement Community Pie Bake-Off on Tuesday afternoon.
Residents got to sample the tantalizing assortment of pecan pies, apple pies and strawberry and peach cobblers — but only after the winners were declared.
Serving as judges were Salisbury Mayor Paul Woodson, Rufty-Holmes Senior Center Director Rick Eldridge, pastry chef Sara Lee Bowles and Oak Park resident Ella Freeman.
“I hope you brought your appetite,” said General Manager Danny Smith, as the judges began their hard work of taste testing the desserts.
The awards for Best Pecan Pie and Best In Show went to Salisbury Fire Station No. 4, C shift. Mike Baker, Stephen Carter, Brian Sebastian and Michael Spry said they baked their entry together at the fire station.
“I was surprised,” Spry said. “It was my wife’s recipe — the one she uses — so maybe that was what did it.”
Martha Hopkins, an Oak Park resident, said she was “amazed and surprised” to bring home the award for Best Apple Pie.
“I didn’t expect to get that at all,” she said with a grin.
Hopkins said she used to bake “all the time,” but she hadn’t gotten the chance since she moved to Oak Park almost two years ago. She mixed the ingredients in her apartment and baked her pie in the community oven.
“I don’t have any cookbooks, so I had to do it from memory,” Hopkins said.
The pie was still warm when it got to the judges’ table.
Candy Keith, teller manager with First Bank, called her own win for Best Cobbler the “shake-up of the century.”
“I’m not much of a cook, but I gave it my best shot,” Keith said. “I think it was the fresh strawberries from Patterson Farms.”
Karen Leonard, Oak Park activities coordinator, said Tuesday’s Pie Bake-Off is one of many food-related events the community has hosted recently.
“We had a Chili Cook-Off and an Irish Stew Cook-Off, and the residents had such a good time,” Leonard said. “We figured everybody likes to bake, so we decided to do one with pies.”
Freeman won the top award for her chili in January, so she was asked to be a judge for the pie contest.
“I’m all excited about it,” she said before the event. “I’ve never been asked to judge anything.”
The judges sampled each entry from a small bowl marked only with the type of pie and a number. They then gave ratings to the pies based on their own tastes.
Freeman, who said she has a lot of experience baking pies, cookies and more, seemed to think carefully about each bite she took.
Bowles, who worked as a pastry chef in upstate New York for 10 years, said she paid special attention to the quality of the crust.
Woodson took frequent sips of water to clear his palette, and Eldridge said he looked up pie tasting tips online to make sure he knew how to properly judge the desserts.
Leftovers from the event, along with more pies baked by Oak Park chefs, will be sent out as part of today’s Meals on Wheels deliveries.
Participants in the Oak Park Retirement Community Bake-Off were:
• Salisbury Fire Station No.
4 (two different shifts)
• First Bank
• Martha Hopkins
• Elaine Burin
• Juanita Johnson
• Karen Leonard
• Martha Smith
• Pete Townsend
• Salisbury-Rowan AARP
• Carillon
• Comfort Keepers
• Interim
• Meals on Wheels
• Moose Pharmacy
• Tender Hearted Health
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.