Apples bring the flavor to baking contest

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published August 13, 2013

ROCHESTER — Nothing says fall in Michigan like apples. Bakers who believe they make the best apple pie, or any other apple dessert, are invited to submit their creations for the seventh annual baking contest during the 48th Art & Apples Festival Sept. 6-8 in Rochester’s Municipal Park.

Anna Biliti, who runs the contest for the Paint Creek Center for the Arts, said the contest began back in 2007 in an effort to get more of the apple into the Art & Apples Festival.

“We thought it would be fun to do a bakeoff, so the first two years, we just had pies. … But a lot of people were asking about apple desserts, so in 2009, we decided to do two separate contests — one for apple pies and one for apple desserts. As long as apples are the main ingredient in your dessert, then you can enter it into the contest for judging,” Biliti explained.

This year’s contest begins at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 7. Six judges will be onsite to sample each pie or dessert and award first, second and third place in each category. This year’s panel of judges includes Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett, FOX 2 news personalities Jason Carr and Taryn Asher, and Royal Park Hotel pastry chef Mark Slessor.

“Literally, it’s one of the calls I look forward to the most throughout the year,” said Barnett, who has been a judge for a number of years.

Over the years, pie contest judges have sampled just about every kind of apple pie and dessert imaginable.

“When I first started, I wondered how many ways people could do an apple pie, but over the years, we’ve had chocolate, we’ve had caramel, we’ve had everything right up to jalapeño used as a side ingredient. You get different consistencies and different tastes, even different apples, so all of them taste very distinct and different. It’s a nice testament to the creativity of the people who enter the contest,” Barnett said.

While Biliti said a lot of people like pies that have caramel or nuts in them, she said the “more traditional” apple pies almost always win.

“The crust makes a big difference,” she said.

But the most unique entries, according to Biliti, tend to show up in the dessert contest, which has included everything from apple ice cream and cheesecake to apple coffeecake, cupcakes and more.

“In the dessert category, you can go all over the board,” she said. “There has just been a big variety on that side.”

Winners in each category, announced at approximately 12:30 p.m. on the main stage, will receive a handmade dessert or pie dish created by an exhibiting artist. First-place winners will also have their recipe featured in the 2014 Art & Apples Festival event guide.

After the winners are announced, festival-goers have the opportunity to sample pieces of the pies and desserts for $1 each.

“Everybody always wants to sample the first- and second-place winners,” Biliti said.

Those interested in participating in the contest can download an application at Registration is $5 per baker, and applications must be submitted by Sept. 3. All proceeds benefit Paint Creek Center for the Arts.