Crowds gathered on Saturday, Sept. 17, as 10 local bakers presented their best pies for judging at the 5th annual Oak Park Farmers Market bake-off. The competitors were chosen via lottery from a pool of 20 and judged by two randomly selected volunteers and Monica Fiala, the baker of 2021’s winning pie.
“It was a perfect day for the bake off,” said Dina Ross, farmers market commissioner and pie bake off organizer. “It felt fantastic to see people staying to watch the whole competition.”
After tasting the bevy of homemade offerings, judges named Adam Petrzelka’s “Pearadise Pie” as the first-place finisher. The winner received an etched glass pie plate featuring the farmers market new logo.
Petrzelka’s pie, handmade from filling to crust, featured fresh pears from Barry’s berries, eggs and blueberries from Hardin Farm and made use of a dash of Stover’s honey. The winning pear pie took top honors because it of its surprising use of almond paste and supremely flaky crust — judges also noted the pie was still warm when they tasted it.
Petrzelka, an avid cook and hobby baker, began making pies two years ago as a means to relieve some of the stress he felt after his five-year-old son, Owen, was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor in 2020.
“Our friends started a meal train for us, so I didn’t need to cook as much and turned to baking pies to thank people for the meals they provided for us,” said Petrzelka whose son died in October 2020 after six months of treatment. “But I found rolling the dough to be therapeutic and making pies became a good way to get out some of my feelings during that time.”
Petrzelka thinks he has crafted somewhere between 200 and 300 pies in the past two years making them for friends, neighbors, and teachers. Though baking has provided an emotional outlet, Petrzelka has worked to perfect his crust one pie at time. Ross, noted the flakey crust on the winning pie was a deciding factor and declared Petrzelka’s entry to be “a clear winner.”
“It became kind of a running joke in our house, my wife would ask my son where I was and he would always guess I was making pies,” said Petrzelka who shops the farmers market weekly.
Now that he has won the Oak Park Farmers Market Pie Bake off, Petrzelka’s daughter Sydney is encouraging him to enter other pie competitions.
Get the recipe for his Pearadise Pie on oakpark.com.
Enjoy the winning pie:
At the 2022 Oak Park Farmers Market bake off, the Goodness Grape-cious pie, made by Ashima Gupta and her son Alvie Gilbert, earned second place while the Harvest Apple, Walnut and Custard galette made by Nicole Gucciardo and Nick Young, placed third. Adam Petrzelka whipped up a pear and blueberry pie worthy of the win.
Recipe provided by Adam Petrzelka and the Oak Park Farmers Market Commission
2 1/2 Cup Flour
2 sticks unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon salt
6-7 tablespoons ice cold water
2 pounds of pears peeled cored cut 1/3″ thick
8-ounces of blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ½ tablespoons flour
6-ounces almond paste
¼ cup slivered almonds
½ tablespoon honey
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1. Quarter each stick of butter lengthwise and cut each stick into 10 pieces. Place butter in freezer for 15 minutes.
3. Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt.
4. Combine the butter and dry ingredients and place on clean countertop.
5. Using a rocks glass flatten each piece of butter, using a pastry knife to scrape it off the counter.
6. Take your flour/butter mixture and form it into a 10″x10″ pile on your counter. Using your pastry knife make about 15-20 cuts into your pile in each direction. Return your mixture to a bowl and place in freezer for ten minutes.
9. Spread your dough back out on counter in a 12″x12″ pile.
10. Pour two tablespoons of water across the dough and use a pastry knife to toss the mixture on top of itself. Repeat a few times until most of the flour is incorporated with your butter.
12. Flatten out the mixture with the palm of your hand. Using your pastry knife, start to fold the mixture on top of itself and press down with your palm. Do this 10-15 times until your dough forms. Chop in half and shape into two disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and stick in fridge for 4-24 hours
1. Peel and core your pears. Cut into 1/3″ pieces and place in bowl.
2. Wash and remove stems from your blueberries; add to bowl.
3. Combine sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, flour in a separate bowl.
4. Sprinkle half sugar mixture onto fruit and toss. Add remaining sugar mixture and toss again.
5. Add slivered almonds to a frying pan and cook on medium heat, continuing to stir and toss. Once almonds start to toast, add the honey, and continue stirring until toasted. Let cool and toss with rest of filling.
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and place a baking sheet on bottom rack.
2. Roll out both pie disks and your almond paste.
3. Place your bottom crust in your pie pan and add the almond paste on top. Add your filling and top pie crust
5. Crimp edges to seal and place back in the fridge for 20 minutes.
6. Mix your egg yolk and whipping cream together. Remove pie from fridge and brush with egg/cream mixture.
8. Place on top of baking sheet and lower oven to 375 degrees.
9. Bake for about 45-55 minutes until golden brown. Check pie halfway through as you may need to place foil around edges if browning too fast.
11. Remove from oven and cool for one hour or more on a cooling rack.