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Fair's FINEST.

Byline: Randi Bjornstad The Register-Guard

CORRECTION (ran 8/31/05): The wrong instruction appeared in a recipe on Page E4 Aug. 24 for Rose Mary Allely's homemade graham crackers.

When making graham crackers, divide the dough into thirds and roll - don't fold - it to a thickness of about 1/8 inch.

The recipe for crisp pickles printed on the same day calls for lowering the canning rack with filled canning jars into already boiling water. Some cooks prefer to put the jars into the canner when the water is hot but not yet boiling, to avoid any chance that the jars might break from the sudden heat.

Some people, including Eugene resident Brad Iles with his picture-perfect pies, enter their creations in the Lane County Fair just for fun.

Others, like Rose Mary Allely and Rose Katz, also find fun in their efforts, but they have another, loftier goal: garnering enough points for their blue, red and white ribbons - worth five, three and one point apiece - to take home the sweepstakes prize.

This year, Allely baked her way to the top spot with 59 points - seven first-place ribbons, six seconds and six thirds - for her breads, candies, cookies, even graham crackers. It's the seventh time she's taken the sweepstakes, for which she receives a prize of 25 pounds of flour courtesy of Ray's Food Place supermarkets.

"I won the very first sweepstakes (competition) at the Lane County Fair in 1975,' 78-year-old Allely says. "Back then, they gave big prizes - that year, I won an Amana microwave oven, a really big old thing. I still have it in my kitchen, and I'm still using it. It works fine."

Most of her cooking and canning prowess came after her marriage, when she and her husband, Richard, lived with his parents on their Iowa farm.

"My mother didn't teach me much while I was growing up - she was too busy," Allely says. "But I learned a lot from my mother-in-law, and I made sure to teach my daughter."

Besides entering the maximum of 25 items in the baking division, Allely also submitted 50 jars of her canned goods - ranging from goosemeat to tomato preserves - and 75 floral entries. She also won the sweepstakes prize in the canning division.

Like Allely, Katz entered the maximum allowed in the baking division, coming away with four blue ribbons, six reds and seven whites, for 45 points. For an 18-year-old in the adult division for the first time - she won the sweepstakes award of $100 last year in the junior division - Katz felt pretty good about her showing.

"The judging's a lot tougher in the adult categories," Katz says. "But I love it. I practice all year round and then bake 25 things right before the fair."

Katz, who graduated from South Eugene High School in June, has been entering the fair since age 11.

"I went to the fair in fourth grade and saw all the entries, and I thought, 'I want to do that.' ' she says. With her mother's help, she began baking, and the next year she submitted nine entries.

"I got three blue ribbons, three reds and a couple of whites that time," Katz says. "I've been doing it ever since."

This year, her top-rated entries included a golden brown loaf of braided challah bread, pound cake, carrot cake and almond crunch cookies.

Several more cake and cookie recipes - including her stained-glass cookies with their shortbread "frames" and melted Jolly Rancher candy "glass" - took second-place ribbons, while her cheesecake, brownies, muffins and still more cookies came in third.

However, her apple pie, biscuits, scones, Russian teacakes and shortbread fared less well, not placing at all.

"I'll either work on them more or drop them for next year's fair," Katz says cheerfully.

Allely, too, changes her competitive lineup from year to year; one year, because some of her relatives enjoy Civil War re-enactments, she learned to make hardtack and entered that in the fair.

While neither of the women claims fame for her pies - Allely prides herself on yeast breads, and Katz excels at cakes and cookies - for Iles, it's pie crust all the way.

People don't expect men to be adept at pie-making, "so this is kind of a joke with me," Iles says. "Last year, I entered one pie and won a blue ribbon, so this year I entered again."

All three of his pies - apple crumb, mixed berry and rhubarb - took first prize. His cherry might have, too - "It was the best-looking thing I ever saw in my life," Iles says - if he'd ended up entering it.

Unfortunately, he neglected to lower the oven temperature after the first 10 minutes at 450 degrees.

"It was only in at that temperature for an extra 10 minutes, but it was too much," he says. "The crust looked overdone."

He believes it's not the filling that makes a great pie, it's the crust.

"Anybody can make a filling, but the crust has to be perfect," Iles says. "I use half butter and half Crisco, and I refrigerate the dough before I roll it out. But I found the real secret on a hokey old (instructional) video at the Eugene Public Library - it's using a pastry blender to mix the dough and a canvas pastry cloth and a cloth 'sock' for the rolling pin to roll it out."

Pie bakers shouldn't be afraid to try something different with their pie filling, he says.

"I sometimes put some of the big yellow raisins in my apple pie filling, and they give it an interesting flavor. Or, put a little almond extract in the cherry pie filling. Sometimes the brain doesn't tell you what it is, but you can tell it's something special."

He looks at his pie-baking as "kind of a whimsical thing."

"Pies just became my thing - when I go to the fair, I don't even look at the other stuff," Iles says. "It's kind of like throwing a Frisbee - once you start doing it, you just want to do it better."

FAIR WINNERS IN FOOD DIVISIONS

Exhibitors win 5 points for each blue (first-place) ribbon, 3 for each red ribbon and 1 for each white ribbon; the highest point totals determine the overall winners in each division.

Baking and Candy Division, Adults

First Place: Rose Mary Allely, 59 points

Second Place: Pearl Lewman, 49 points

Third Place: Darlene Martin, 46 points

Baking and Candy Division, Junior (17 years and younger)

First Place: Stacey Heikes, 87 points

Second Place: Amanda Martin, 32 points

Third Place: Sarah Martin, 31 points

Foods and Canning Division, Adults

First Place: Rose Mary Allely, 147 points

Second Place: Beth and Brian Rands, 123 points

Third Place: Dorothy Sofge, 120 points

Foods and Canning Division, Juniors

First Place: Sebastian Sofge, 69 points

Second Place: Toryahna Sofge, 52 points

Third Place: Derek Hogate, 38 points

- Lane County Fair Board

Brad's Pie Crust

3 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

9 tablespoons cold water

Place flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and shortening; mix thoroughly with a hand-held pastry blender until the mixture is the consistency of cornmeal.

Add 5 tablespoons of the cold water and mix quickly and lightly with a large spoon. Put the remaining water into the bottom of the bowl to pick up unmoistened particles. Mix quickly and gently, then pick up the dough and place it on a large sheet of plastic wrap, forming two equal balls. Flatten each ball, wrap them completely in the plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour before rolling out on a floured surface and assembling the pie with the desired filling.

Makes enough dough for a double-crust 10-inch pie.

Source: Brad Iles.

Graham Crackers

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter or other shortening

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup white flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup water

Cream sugar and shortening until fluffy. Add vanilla. Sift together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the shortening mixture alternately with water, mixing well.

Chill dough until stiff.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Divide the dough into three equal parts. On a lightly floured surface, fold each part into a 1/8 -inch-thick rectangle, trimming to a 5-by-15-inch piece.

Cut the dough into six 2 1/2 -by-5-inch rectangles. Make a line down the center in each direction with the back edge of a knife. Place on a greased baking sheet. Mark each section with the tines of a fork.

Bake for about 10 minutes until crisp. Cool on wire racks.

(If desired, sprinkle with a cinnamon-sugar mixture before baking.)

Source: Rose Mary Allely.

Wisconsin Bread

1 tablespoon dry yeast (1 package)

1/2 cup warm water

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 can beer with additional water to make 2 cups

8 ounces Velveeta cheese-melt, or 8 slices American cheese singles, or 1/2 pound grated Cheddar

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons butter or other shortening

2 tablespoons sugar

4 to 6 cups flour

4 ounces Swiss cheese, cut in 1/2 -inch cubes (optional)

Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water and 1/2 teaspoon sugar in a measuring cup.

Heat the beer and additional water and the yellow cheese until the cheese melts and pour into a bowl. Add the salt, shortening and remaining sugar, and stir to dissolve. Add the yeast mixture.

Gradually add enough flour to make a soft dough that is not sticky. Add the Swiss cheese, if desired. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Let rise in a large buttered mixing bowl until double in bulk. Punch down, and let rest 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Form the dough into two loaves and put in two greased 9-by-5-inch bread pans. Let rise again until nearly double in bulk. Bake for 35 minutes.

Turn out of pans and cool on a wire rack, covered with a towel.

Source: Rose Mary Allely.

Civil War Hardtack

4 cups flour

1/3 cup shortening

1 cup water

2 teaspoons salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in shortening until well blended. Gradually add water to make a stiff dough similar to biscuit dough. Knead slightly.

Roll the dough out to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Cut in squares and place on a greased cookie sheet. Punch holes in the dough.

Bake for 20 minutes; take out of the oven and turn the pieces over, baking until the second side is lightly browned. Turn the oven off and leave the hardtack in the oven for 24 hours to harden completely.

Store indefinitely.

Source: Rose Mary Allely.

Eight-Day Crisp Pickles

15 pickling cucumbers, about 4 inches long

Boiling water

1 quart cider vinegar

8 cups sugar

2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons pickling spice

First four days:

On the first day, pour 1 quart of boiling water over whole cucumbers and let stand. On the second, third and fourth days, drain the pickles and repeat the process.

Second four days:

On the fifth day, slice the cucumbers into disks about 1/4 -inch thick. Bring the vinegar, sugar, salt and pickling spice to a boil. Pour over the cut cucumber chips.

Sixth and seventh days:

Reboil the syrup and pour over the chips again.

Eighth day:

Divide the pickles among four sterilized pint-size canning jars. Boil the syrup again and pour equally into the jars.

Fit the jars with new vacuum lids and clean rust-free jar rings and place in a water bath for 10 minutes. To do a water bath, fill a large stock pot or canning kettle with enough water to cover the tops of the jars by 2 inches. Bring the water to a boil. Put the jars in a canning rack so they can be lowered into the boiling water; the jars should be far enough apart for water to circulate freely between them. Once the jars have been put in the water and it comes to a rolling boil, cover the canner and begin timing the bath. After 10 minutes, remove the hot jars and place in a draft-free place on a towel or rack to cool. Do not turn the jars upside down.

After the jars have cooled, use one of several ways to make sure they have sealed properly:

A "plinking" sound during cooling means the lid has sealed.

Tap the lid of a cooled jar with a spoon; if it yields a clear ringing sound, it has sealed.

If the lid curves noticeably downward toward the jar, it has sealed.

After the jars have completely cooled, press the center of the lid firmly. If it does not move, the jar has sealed.

Remove the jar rings and store the pickles in a cool, dark place.

Note: If a jar has not sealed within 24 hours, repeat the water bath process with a new lid, or refrigerate and use the pickles within 48 hours. Never eat - or even taste - food taken from a jar with an unsealed lid or one that appears swollen upward.

Source: Rose Mary Allely.

Stained Glass Cookies

1 cup ( 1/2 pound) butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 large egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth and light. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla extract. Stir or beat in the flour until well blended. The dough will be very stiff, like shortbread.

Divide the dough in half. Flatten each to a 1-inch thickness, usually in the shape of a circle. Then, on a lightly floured board with a floured rolling pin, roll one dough portion to a 1/4 -inch thickness. Carefully move the sheet of dough to a cookie sheet that has been covered with a sheet of parchment paper.

Using two cookie cutters, one larger than the other (the shapes may be the same or different, as you choose), first cut shapes close together with the larger cutter, then cut another shape with the smaller cutter inside each larger shape, to create the "frame" for the "stained glass."

Lift the excess dough away, leaving the "frames" on the parchment paper-covered cookie sheet.

In the empty center area of each cookie, lay two Jolly Rancher candies of the same color and flavor close together.

Bake 15 to 18 minutes; the candies will melt and spread to fill the frame created by the dough.

Let the cookies cool, then slide carefully off the parchment paper.

Source: Rose Katz, from the "Best of Sunset Cookies."

Rose Katz's Carrot Cake

4 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 cups loosely packed, shredded carrots (about 6 medium carrots)

1 cup walnuts, chopped

3/4 cup dark seedless raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch cake pan, lining the bottom with waxed paper; or grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.

With a rotary mixer on medium speed, cream the eggs and sugars until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the oil, milk and vanilla extract; beat well.

Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a bowl. Add to the egg mixture, using a mixer on low speed, until well blended.

Add the carrots, walnuts and raisins, mixing well.

Pour the mixture into the baking pan, and bake 55 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool. Turn out on a platter, and remove the waxed paper.

Source: Rose Katz.

Cream-Cheese Frosting

2 packages (1 pound) cream cheese, at room temperature

6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

3 cups confectioners' sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Put all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and beat at low speed until just blended. Increase the speed to medium, and continue beating 1 minute more, or until smooth and well blended.

When the cake is cool, frost the sides and top.

Source: Rose Katz.
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Title Annotation:Food; From braided bread to stained-glass cookies to graham crackers, Lane County chefs cook up winners
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Aug 24, 2005
Words:2738
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