Robin Mann continues to cook up winning formulas

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2010 Kentucky State Fair

By Stephen Thomas

    CEDAR GROVE - A Bullitt Countian may have the recipe for a $5,000 pie.

    Robin Mann, a homemaker from Cedar Grove, won a blue ribbon during the Kentucky State Fair for her Harvest Pie. Mann created the recipe including Pillsbury baking products as part of the Pillsbury Pie Baking Championship.

    Mann’s Harvest Pie is one of 21 state fair winners to earn a spot in Pillsbury’s national contest, with a $5,000 prize to the winner.

    This year’s blue ribbon comes 10 years after Mann’s first of two grand champion titles at the Bullitt County Fair in 2000, which she entered strictly for fun.

    “I was so shocked when I entered my cake and pie,” she said. “Once I won I was hooked.”

    After a follow-up grand champion title in 2001, Mann moved up to the State Fair competitions.

    “I wanted to gauge myself,” she said. “I decorated a wedding cake and got a blue ribbon. I was so excited, I couldn’t believe it.”

    A decade of blue ribbons and overall sweepstakes awards helped Mann’s confidence, though she admitted to still getting chills during judging.

    In her most recent State Fair cooking competition, Mann said contestants made entries at home that day and entered them for an evening judging/tasting consisting of community experts.

    According to Mann, each judge had a number of desserts on their table. They then selected their favorites and moved them to a bigger table where all judges would try them.

    “It was very exciting,” said Mann. “The judges all had good poker faces. My first judge was very complimentary. She asked me later for the recipe herself.”

    Mann first created her Harvest Pie based on a pumpkin pie recipe. She liked the filling but made a few changes.

    “I like to use fresh ingredients,” she added. “I use fresh pumpkin, not canned.”

    For something different in the recipe, Mann substituted sweet potato filling for pumpkin.

    “Baking is a science,” she said. “You have to be accurate, but you can substitute. With competitions I like to challenge myself and take something different to each one.”

    The pie features ginger snap crumbles in a cookie crust layer, as well as a streusel cover made of brown sugar, flour, pecans and dried cranberries.

    Sweet potato custard and various spices still offered a hint of both sweet potato and pumpkin flavor.

    The Harvest Pie recipe is featured online at the Pillsbury Web site, but it’s not Mann’s first online dish: Her “East Meets West Spam Rolls” recipe earned a place on the national Spam Web site.

    “It included egg rolls with reuben filling,” said Mann. “I used Spam in place of corned beef.”

    In another competition sponsored by Malt-O-Meal, Mann created “Confetti Pork Sliders,” consisting of coarsely chopped Tootie Fruities mixed with pork.

    Ten years of State Fair success led Mann to further competitions. Last year she won a contest through the chocolate manufacturer Ghiradelli.

    “I’m starting to seek more competitions,” she said. “I’ve gained confidence and I’m going to start creating more.”

    Mann’s future competitions include the Martha White Cornbread Festival, with a top prize of $5,000.

    Mann recalled creating her first baking project, a lemon meringue pie, at age 10. She learned baking from her Grandma, who sold donuts during the Great Depression and covered the kitchen table with cookies from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

    Her husband, Kevin, and 18-month-old daughter, Josie, don’t mind their roles as taste testers. Mann also has a large extended family to test her many experiments.

    “It’s my way of showing love to my family,” said Mann. “My sister and mom both paint. (Baking) is my creative outlet. This is my art.”

    Mann’s Harvest Pie recipe will be included with other award-winning recipes at Pillbury’s Web site. The winning recipe will receive a $5,000 grand prize.

    Everyone is invited to vote for their favorite recipe in an online competition. The online winner receives a year’s worth of Pillsbury pie crust.

    The online competition begins in November. To view recipes and to vote go to www.pillsbury.com/pie.


Harvest Pie




1/2 package Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust


1 cup crushed gingersnaps (about 20)


1/2 cup pecans, coarsely ground


1/4 cup powdered sugar


2 tablespoons butter, melted


Sweet Potato Filling:


2/3 cup brown sugar, packed


1/2 cup sugar


2 tablespoons all-purpose flour


1/2 teaspoon salt


1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1/8 teaspoon ground allspice


1/8 teaspoon ground cloves


1/8 teaspoon ground ginger


1-1/2 cups sweet potatoes, mashed & roasted, (about 2 large)


2 tablespoons dark molasses


3 large eggs


1 cup whipping cream


Cranberry Pecan Streusel:


1/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries


1/3 cup hot water


1/4 cup all-purpose flour


1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar    2 tablespoons butter, melted


3/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped




Step 1: To roast the sweet potatoes, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and pierce the sweet potatoes and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.


Step 2: Combine the dried cranberries and the hot water. Set aside until ready to put into the streusel.


Step 3: Turn oven temperature down to 350 degrees.   


Step 4: Prepare the crust. Remove half the package of the Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust from the package and bring to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Unroll and place into a deep dish 9-inch pie plate. Crimp edges. Combine the crushed gingersnaps, pecans, powdered sugar, and the butter. Press mixture on the bottom and about 1/2-inch up the sides of the prepared pie crust. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack, about 30 minutes.


Step 5: Prepare the filling. Whisk the first 8 ingredients together in a large bowl to blend. Whisk in the mashed sweet potatoes, molasses and eggs. Add the cream, whisking it in. Pour mixture into the cooled crust. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.


Step 6: Prepare the streusel topping. Pour off the water of the rehydrated cranberries. Add the flour, dark brown sugar, melted butter, and pecans. Stir to combine.


Step 7: Remove pie from oven and gently sprinkle the streusel around the edge of the crust. Bake for an additional 40 to 45 minutes or until set, shielding edges with aluminum foil during last 25 to 30 minutes of baking.


Step 8: Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack. Yields: 8 to 10 servings.