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Dawson County women bake up favorite pies for contest
Baked goods range from Vidalia onion pie to pear cranberry pie
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Nancy King’s pear cranberry pie won second place in the inaugural Mrs. Santa Pie Contest in Dawsonville. The home cook recommends using fresh fruit for pies. - photo by Erin O. Smith

For the Vidalia onion pie, click here.

For the pear cranberry pie recipes, click here.

It’s a tale as old as time, as far as baking is concerned: whether classic sweet concoctions such as apple pie or traditional savory offerings such as quiches are truly superior as far as taste buds are concerned.

During the holidays, the inaugural Mrs. Santa Pie Contest and Tasting at Dawsonville’s Bowen Center for the Arts delved into this classic conundrum, with delicious results.

Cooks of all tastes and experience levels participated, showing how anyone can enjoy the art of baking, no matter his or her schedule or preferences. 

“My pie-baking is based more on what I think is tasty but being busy, I don’t have a lot of time for baking, even though I really enjoy cooking,” pie contest participant Pat Cavanaugh said.

Cavanaugh, 2014 board president of the Bowen Center for the Arts, won third place in the sweet category for her caramel chocolate pecan pie. But as a cook with a busy schedule, savory pies tend to find their way to her table more often.

She entered her Vidalia onion pie into the savory category. And while it didn’t take home a prize, Cavanaugh maintains it’s still her favorite.

“I’ve had the recipe for a while and I’ve served (Vidalia onion pie) many times,” Cavanaugh said. “It’s one of those things that everyone always enjoys.”

Cavanaugh’s Vidalia onion pie comes complete with a Ritz cracker crust and is perfect for cooks who don’t have ample time to prepare for company.

“It has ingredients most kitchens have,” Cavanaugh said of the dish that can be served warm or at room temperature. “So if you’re having family or guests, it’s a great side dish.”

In the sweet category, Nancy King won second place for a pie with a combination the judges probably hadn’t heard of before — pear cranberry pie.

“It’s just so different,” the 69-year-old Dawsonville resident said of the recipe she found while on a trip to Toronto to visit her daughter. “I have served this one (before the contest) and everybody just loves it.”

While King’s mother, a home economics teacher, always made her own crust, King and Cavanaugh insist using a store-bought crust is just fine.

“I have a tendency just to use the Pillsbury (pie crust) that’s refrigerated,” King said. “It’s much easier and it always makes the perfect pie crust. I just like them.”

King recommends fellow pie-makers use fresh fruit when possible. The fruit for her pear cranberry pie came from a 100-year-old heirloom pear tree in Dahlonega.

“I will tell you these pears were the best pears I’ve ever had in a pie,” King said. “They were fantastic, because they held their consistency.”

A prolific baker, King said fans of sweet or savory pies shouldn’t hesitate when it comes to venturing outside the traditional realm dominated by apple or cherry pies. During the Christmas season, King made a pecan bourbon pumpkin pie, and her personal favorite is a strawberry rhubarb pie.

“Definitely branch out, especially with a plain old pumpkin pie — those to me are boring and I don’t like it,” King said.  “But if I add like a cheesecake kind of pumpkin to it, or it had bourbon, pumpkin pie filling and pecans, what can be better?”

Regardless of whether someone enjoys sweet or savory, homemade or store-bought crust, pie-making is just as much about the baker as those appreciating the result.

“It all depends on what you enjoy making,” Cavanaugh said.

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