Bakers Journal

Callander, Ont., to host pie contest for bakeries

June 5, 2023
By David Briggs, BayToday.ca

Callander, Ont. – The annual pie baking contest returns to this year’s FunFest in Callander, Ont., on Saturday, June 24, and local bakers are encouraged to hone their recipes and break out the heirloom wooden spoon, as any advantage will help in this epic pie competition.

Note that bakers must pre-register this year, and that entry form can be found on the town’s website. The deadline to register is June 16 – two Fridays before FunFest. Previously, bakers could drop off their pies without registering. However, they had so many entries last year, organizers decided to go the registration route to better prepare for the parade of pastries.

See: Fire those ovens Callander, FunFest wants your best pie
Seventeen pies were entered last year, up significantly from the year before. This year, organizers are unsure what to expect number wise, but they anticipate a good showing. Plus, this year they have created a new category for the kids 12 and under – a chocolate chip cookie contest.

Cindy Susut is helming the organizing committee for this year’s baking competition. It’s her first year, and she’s excited for the big day.  She outlined the rules for Callander’s bakers, and also a few tips for inspiration.

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Perhaps most important, is that all pies must be apple. “It’s best to keep it at one kind of pie, and then they can all be judged fairly,” Susut explained. Moreso, the filling must solely consist of apple, so those thinking they might sneak a peach or pear slice in there to improve their odds, rest assured, the judges will taste your deceit.

However, spices are allowed. Susut prefers some cinnamon and nutmeg but kept the measurements to herself, although her skills put her pie in second place at the Burk’s Falls Fall Fair.

Also key is the pie must have two crusts, although the top crust can be decorative.

This year’s judges are Raf Cornwell, chef at Lulu’s Restaurant, Rhonda Bean, the co-owner of Field of Dreams food truck, and Sam Gauthier, the head chef at The Block Pub, in North Bay. Susut explained they are judging on presentation, the flakiness of the crust, and taste.

As for the kid’s baking competition, each must submit six cookies. They must be chocolate chip cookies, although chocolate chunks are allowed. Also remember that any kind of chips can be used “dark, white, milk, rainbow, as long as it’s a chocolate chip.”  No nuts, coconut, sprinkles or similar cookie flair is permitted.

However, the shape of the cookie can be anything the child can pull off. This means the cookies can be round, heart, or dinosaur shaped, but there must be six of them, and they must be uniform in size. Uniformity is a judging criterion, as is taste and creativity.

Parents and guardians are asked to pre-register their young bakers as well.

Last year’s contest was one the biggest yet, and Anna Mashford took first prize in the junior category, and Ivy Cross took the top prize in the youth division. Nicole Fox was tops in the senior’s league, and Carrie Arra took first place in the adult category, and was deemed the overall winner by the judges.

It is uncertain whether those winners will return to compete in this year’s contest. Also, on the mind of many Callander bakers is whether Robin Benard will enter another pie this time around. Benard is a four-time champion, a great run until Arra’s apple pie ended her reign.

The contest has been going since 2017, with some time off for the pandemic, and Benard’s winning streak began in the pre-apple only period. Her sugar pie, peach blueberry bourbon, and salted caramel apple pie all took home blue ribbons. As did her classic apple, two years ago.

Armed with a crust recipe handed down from her grandmother and an artist’s eye for creating detailed top-crusts, Benard is a force to be reckoned with in the Callander pie scene. She usually begins preparing for competition in January, baking pies for friends and tweaking ingredients until the perfect pastry emerges in time for competition day.

“All of my friends are so sick of trying my pies by June,” she joked, but she loves the process of perfecting a recipe, so her friends must deal with the pastry.

Benard informed BayToday that odds are high she will not be able to enter this year, as she’ll be busy with other FunFest activities. However, there is a small chance, if time allows, that she might give it another shot.

However, her daughter Sophia plans to enter the cookie contest with a recipe she’s been working on for some time.

Benard is a fan of the contest, “and I was really excited to see how many came last year” with pies in hand. “I think it’s really fun and sweet and everything about it is so charming.”

The community that bakes together, stays together, and all bakers are encouraged to enter, regardless of skill level. Any pie has a chance, and there’s still plenty of time to perfect your recipe before registration closes.

On June 24, all registered bakers can submit their pies at Callander’s Community Centre. Pies must be on the table by 9 a.m. and late entries will not be accepted.


David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.


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