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Boonsboro woman shares some secrets of her prize-winning pastry

August 07, 2012|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE |
  • Janet Rohrer holds her grand champion-prize winning bumbleberry pie.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff photographer

Janet Rohrer of Boonsboro doesn't know exactly know how her bumbleberry pie got its name.

"I think it's just made up," she said, suggesting that the collection of berries and fruit in the pie might have something to do with it.

But judges at the Washington County Ag Expo & Fair have another name for Rohrer's pie: champion.

Rohrer, 64, won champion in the pie division and took home grand champion in overall baked goods and candy category during the Ag Expo last month.

Cooking since she was 9 years old, Rohrer said she has only been baking pies the last 10 years. She credits her mother, Katherine Rohrer, 92, for teaching her about baking.

Family is the reason Rohrer started to bake pies for more than a hobby. Rohrer's brother, Danny, has a stand at Shepherdstown (W.Va.) Farmers Market for his business, Rohrer's Meats. Janet Rohrer said the baker left and her brother asked his mother and three sisters for help because they were already known for their pie baking.

But when Katherine couldn't roll out the dough, Janet Rohrer said, "I inherited the job."

It was her family again who made her think that she should enter the pie in a contest.

"I baked a strawberry-rhubarb pie for my brother-in-law to take to this family reunion," Rohrer recalls. "There was a chef or baker there who tasted that pie and thought it was outstanding."

That was all the encouragement Rohrer needed to enter her pie in the Ag Expo. That one, however, didn't win a blue ribbon.

The secret to her bumbleberry pie, Rohrer said, is "to keep the ingredients cold" before beginning the process. Especially, she said, the shortening because as it melts in the oven the dough forms layers and the crust becomes flakier.

Most pie aficionados would say that the secret to a good pie is the crust. Rohrer said she makes her crust from scratch. Her recipe is pretty basic: flour, butter and Butter-flavored Crisco.

"To me, the hardest part is mixing the pastry correctly," she said.

That means not overmixing the pastry, or making it too dry or too wet — all that could lead to a less than stellar pie crust.

And when it comes to the fruit, bigger isn't always better. For instance, she said, strawberries should be sweet, but not huge.

"You want an average-sized berry," she said.

Rohrer's other secret, she said, is that she uses all local produce. In the summer she'll make sure to get her fruits fresh and freeze them so when it comes time to make her pies she can go to her freezer.

Those looking for Rohrer's pies can spot them without even taking a bite. Rohrer said she likes to be creative when it comes to the top crust. Rarely does she leave a pie naked without a top crust, or at least a lattice top.

"Sometimes I cut out hearts for Valentine's Day or rabbits for Easter," she said.

Rohrer spent more than 40 years as a teacher for fourth- and fifth-grade students in Washington County Public Schools. She retired in July 2011 from Boonsboro Elementary School.

 This fall will be only her second school year out of the classroom.

"I miss interacting with the school and the teachers," she said.

Rohrer doesn't bake for the farmers market on a regular basis anymore. Instead she bakes only for special orders.

But she won't be idle this fall. In addition to taking care of her mother, she'll be getting ready for her big baking season for the holidays. She said for Thanksgiving alone she'll have 60 orders to fill.

Rohrer said she takes pride in her grand champion win. She also racked up awards in three other categories at the Ag Expo — champion for her red beets in the canned vegetable group; champion for her apple jelly in the soft spread group; and champion for her blueberries in the canned fruit group.

"People know I'm doing OK," she said.

Bumbleberry pie

For crust:

2 cups flour       

1 teaspoon salt   

3/4 cup shortening

5 tablespoons water

For filling:

1 medium apple, diced

1 cup blueberries   

1 cup red raspberries   

1 cup strawberries   

1 cup rhubarb, diced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup Instant Clear Jel

For crust, stir together flour and salt. Using pastry blender, cut in shortening. Sprinkle with water, a tablespoon at a time, mixing lightly with fork until all flour is moistened. Press into  ball. Divide dough in half. Use half as pie crust. Chill for an hour and a half.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.    

Roll out pie dough and form bottom crust in 9-inch pie pan. Set aside. Carefully mix fruit together with the lemon juice and cinnamon. Combine the sugar and Clear Jel. Toss with the fruit. Let set at least 15 minutes. Spoon the mixture into unbaked pie shell. Using remaining dough, cover pie with a lattice-top design.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. 

— Courtesy of Janet  Rohrer

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