ASHLAND — For pastry chef Tiffany Christy, baking a flaky-crusted, fruit-filled dessert in Larks kitchen is easy as pie.
Baking one at a farmers market with limited ingredients and an unfamiliar oven constitutes nothing less than a challenge. Add a stopwatch and references to Food Network's "Iron Chef," and the task takes on competition status.
D & L Acres, 525 Fern Valley Road, Phoenix. U-pick price is 95 cents per pound. Open 7 a.m. to noon every day. Call 535-2901.
Blackberries and Bartlett pears
Vaughn Farm and Orchard, 1014 Old Stage Road, Central Point. U-pick price for blackberries is $1.50 per quart. U-pick price for pears (picking to start Aug. 10) is 20 cents per pound. Call 218-3821 for hours.
Wild Bee Honey Farm & Gardens, 14356 Highway 62, Eagle Point. U-pick price is $1.50 per pound. Open all day Fridays and Saturdays. Call 826-7621.
"Pies are harder than they look to get the right crust and to make sure the filling sets up, especially with fruit," Christy said.
She's counting on blueberries, a favorite of Larks customers, to secure her victory in Tuesday's "Iron Pie" event at the Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Market. Blueberry pie lends itself to quick preparation because the fruit requires no pitting or peeling, Christy said.
Tuesday's cook-off pits Christy, 22, against 47-year-old Peter Hambly, an Ashland resident known for his proficiency with Dutch ovens. Hambly said he developed his expertise over years of whitewater rafting, for which he usually packs four of the cast-iron pots.
"Anything you can cook in an oven, I can cook in my Dutch oven," Hambly said.
The three-hour time limit doesn't phase Hambly, who has competed in about a dozen Dutch-oven competitions. With the clock ticking, contestants must first shop for seasonal produce, locally milled flour, farm-fresh eggs and butter.
"One of the people who ... wanted to be a baker (for the competition) said she couldn't imagine what you could get at the market besides fruit," said event organizer, Wendy Siporen of THRIVE, a coalition of independent local businesses.
But all ingredients, except sugar, must be purchased at the market in keeping with the theme of "Pie Across America," a 25-city tour intended to focus attention on the local, sustainable food movement. Pies, organizers say, are a metaphor for "wholesome American food." Set to kick off Thursday in West Hollywood, Calif., the roadshow is scheduled to stop in Ashland, coinciding with "Iron Pie."
A savory pie category will test the skills of two Ashland restaurateurs, Pilaf owner Susan Battenburg Powell and Pangea owner Marc Rosewood. The competition will conclude with judging by a panel of pie experts, who will take into account how well contestants use items available at the market, Siporen said.
In addition to an up-close look at the baking race, market-goers can get a free taste of pies made locally by Pennington Farms, The Upper Crust, Four and Twenty Blackbirds and Sweet Aroma Bakery. Those who purchase pie during the event could win a one-week sustainable bicycle tour.
Or try your hand at pies with the following recipes. Make them a product of local agriculture by filling with fruit from one of the Rogue Valley's many U-pick farms.
Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail email@example.com.