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Blue-ribbon baking

By Staff | Sep 9, 2011

DIANNA SHEEHY, of Audubon, cuts into her carmelicious rolls, a recipe which won the Iowa State Fair’s famed cinnamon roll contest in 2007.

AUDUBON – While local foods are all the current rage, Dianna Sheehy’s family members were growing their own fruit, raising their own hogs, rending their own lard and baking homemade pies when this was just a common part of Iowa farm life.

“My three maiden great aunts, grandmother and mother were out-of-this-world great cooks who would prepare whatever was in season,” said Sheehy, who has won countless blue ribbons at the Iowa State Fair and now judges many of the baking competitions there.

“As a kid, I didn’t know there was any dessert other than pie.”

Sheehy, who grew up on farm near Audubon and now lives on a farm north of town, still enjoys cooking homemade meals and desserts for her husband, Leo, as well as the couple’s children and grandchildren when they visit.

Her well-equipped kitchen, which includes two refrigerators and three stoves, allows her to turn out baked goods by the dozen for her Pies by Dianna business, which she has operated for many years.

DIANNA SHEEHY said she enjoys baking these chocolate chip oatmeal cookies for her grandchildren.

Customers can’t get enough of Sheehy’s North 40 berry pies, cherry pies, rhubarb pies and caramel chocolate pecan pie. Neither can the judges at the Iowa State Fair, where Sheehy won hundreds of top honors, including multiple sweepstakes awards for pies, from the mid-1970s until four years ago, when she starting judging.

In 1989, Sheehy’s culinary skills also earned her a trip to Los Angeles for Crisco’s national pie baking contest, where she finished in second place with her rhubarb pie. In 1993, she was a top 10 finalist in a pie bakeoff at the Good Housekeeping Institute in New York City.

“Pie baking got me off the farm and allowed me to travel from coast to coast,” said Sheehy, who still plays an active role on her family’s farm, where you’ll likely find her running the grain cart this fall.

After all, this baker extraordinaire is still a western Iowa farm girl at heart. When she won the Iowa State Fair’s famed cinnamon roll contest in 2007, she used her prize money to purchase some vintage iron.

“I was able to buy half of a 1963 D21 Allis Chalmers tractor,” she noted with pride.

THIS AWARD-WINNING North 40 berry pie from Dianna Sheehy combines blackberries and red raspberries.

Blue-barb pie

(This delicious pie was the first place overall pie at the 2002 Iowa State Fair.)

3 1/2 cups fresh rhubarb

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (can use frozen berries if fresh ones are not available)

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 1/8 cups sugar

1/4 cup flour

2 tablespoons butter

Combine rhubarb, blueberries and lemon juice. Stir in sugar and a scant 1/4 cup of flour. Spoon filling into pie shell. Dot with butter. Add top pie crust.

Flute outer edge and use pie ring or tinfoil to avoid over-browning the outer edge of the crust. Bake pie at 400 degrees for 15 minutes and continue baking at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until pie crust is golden brown.

North 40 berry pie

2 1/2 cups blackberries

2 1/2 cups red raspberries

2/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon minute tapioca

Combine fruit and sprinkle with lemon juice. Add sugar. Combine cornstarch and tapioca and add mixture to berry filling. Spoon filling into pie shell, dot with butter, if desired, and add top pie crust.

Bake pie at 400 degrees for 15 minutes and continue baking at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until pie crust is golden brown.

Pie crust

2 cups unbleached flour

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup shortening or lard

1 egg

1/2 cup cold water

1 teaspoon vinegar

Combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening or lard. Beat together egg, water and vinegar. Add 5 to 7 tablespoons of this liquid, or enough to make dough rollable. Makes 2 pie crusts.

Carmelicious rolls

(These rolls were named the first-place overall winner at the Tone’s Cinnamon Roll Contest at the 2007 Iowa State Fair.)

2 packages active dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup warm water

3/4 cup warm mashed potatoes

1/4 cup warm potato water

1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups bread flour

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

Caramel syrup

for carmelicious rolls

1 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons corn syrup (light)

1 tablespoon heavy cream

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Combine yeast, sugar and warm water; let stand 5 minutes. With an electric mixer, beat the potatoes, water, butter, sugar and salt. Mix in eggs, the yeast mixture and vanilla.

Add bread flour, one cup at a time, until a soft dough is formed.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface; knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 7 minutes.

Place dough in greased bowl, turning dough once to grease the top. Let dough rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

During this time, make caramel syrup. Bring butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and cream to a boil. Pour syrup into one 9-by- 13-inch baking pan, or into three 8-by-8-inch baking pans. Sprinkle pecans over syrup.

Meanwhile, combine granulated sugar and cinnamon. After dough has doubled, divide it in half. Roll each half into a rectangle. Spread each rectangle with butter and sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Starting on the long side of the dough, roll it up. Slice each into six or nine pieces. Place on top of caramel syrup in the baking pan(s). Cover, and let the rolls rise until doubled.

Bake in preheated, 350-degree oven. Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Remove rolls from oven and invert pans.

Grandkids’ favorite chocolate chip oatmeal cookies

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups brown sugar

2 sticks butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons milk

2 3/4 cups instant oatmeal

1 cup chopped walnuts

2 cups chocolate chips

Combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, beat brown sugar, butter and granulated sugar. Add the eggs, milk and vanilla.

Gradually combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients.

Stir in oatmeal, walnuts and chocolate chips. Bake cookies at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, or until golden brown.

Crunchy breakfast


6 cups old-fashioned oats

2 cups whole wheat flour

2 cups packed brown sugar

2 cups flake coconut

1 cup wheat germ

1 cup All-Bran cereal

3/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup water

2 tablespoons vanilla

1 cup raisins or dried fruit of your choice.

Combine first seven ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix oil, water, vanilla and salt. Pour over oat mixture. Toss to coat.

Pour into two greased 15-by-10-inch baking pans. Bake at 275 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 10 minutes.

Add raisins or dried fruit. Store cereal in an airtight container. Yields 16 cups.

You can contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at yettergirl@yahoo.com.

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