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Lutz resident has a winning recipe for Florida State Fair baking competitions

TAMPA — By day, Tampa Bay realtor. But once a year, Lutz resident Jo Anne "Joni" Hartzler leaps into action in another way entirely. One that includes flour, sugar, butter and a whole lot of competitive zeal.

Hartzler started years ago as an exhibitor in the horticulture competitions at the Florida State Fair, which runs through Monday in Tampa. She clearly had a powerful green thumb, nabbing "best of show" with different entries of bonsai, orchids, succulents and dish gardens.

She got the fever. Growing up with a sweet tooth (breakfast: hot tea with cookie dunkers) and with a mother who routinely baked cookies, butterscotch pies, bread pudding and perfect divinity, maybe it was inevitable that she'd set her sights on the baking competitions at the state fair.

"My first entry in the baking competition in 2007 was an apple pie," she said. "As usual, I used a lard-based crust that always worked. As I rolled out the dough, I sprinkled it with a lot of cinnamon to make a pretty marbled pattern, making it more dramatic along with tastier. Since my mother had always cut perfect dough into shapes to make the top crust look pretty, I cut out the little ovals to vent it and used them to make petals into flowers on top."

Since the judges takes several hours to deliberate, Hartzler wandered off to enjoy the exhibits and food at the fair. Rejoining the crowd in the Florida Living building for the results, she was intimidated. All the bakers seemed more confident and familiar with the process. Still, she was hoping for a ribbon.

First they announced the winners of all the cake categories, then on to the pies, which came before the cookies. The pie announcements were broken down by cream, chocolate and fruit, with the third-, second- and first-place winner in each.

"I was with my husband, and when they announced I had a blue ribbon, I almost cried," she said. "Then while I'm sitting back admiring my huge Florida State Fair blue ribbon for best fruit pie, I hear, 'And the Best of Show overall pie, Joni Hartzler for her Creamy Dreamy Cinnamon Crusted Apple Pie.' "

She was hooked. Since then she has won Best Cake (Original Cannoli Cake), Best Cookies, Best Pie, Best Candy and Best Sugar Free items, a track record that allows her now to participate in the Sweepstakes Baking. She says there are fewer competitors in the sweepstakes but that the competition is fierce.

"Still, why not compete with the best?"

Every February, Hartzler's friends begin sniffing around, waiting for her practice efforts. She says she doesn't win every time, but her "friends all get to try out some really unique treats along the way."

She has advice for would-be competitors.

"If you're not sure if what you made is good enough, always enter it anyway. More than once I have hesitated about entering something as I question if it is pretty enough or tasty enough and more than once I was happy to be wrong!"

Contact Laura Reiley at or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.

.If you go

Florida State Fair

This year the baking judging is a live event open to the public. It's at noon Friday in the Florida Living Pavilion.

The Florida State Fair runs through Monday. Admission today, Thursday and Monday is $11, $6 for kids. Admission Friday, Saturday and Sunday is $13, $7 for kids. Florida State Fairgrounds, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. (813) 627-7821.


Best of Show 2007 Florida State Fair: Dreamy Cinnamon Crusted Apple Pie

For the pie crust:

1 cup pure lard

3 cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

cup cold water

1 egg

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For the filling:

5-6 large peeled apples, thinly sliced

1 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar

1 egg, at room temperature

1 tablespoon flour

½ cup butter

Make the crust: Butter one 9-inch pie pan. Mix lard, flour and salt together in a bowl. Add ⅓ cup cold water and egg in a separate bowl and beat well. Mix egg and water mixture into flour mixture, kneading until consistent. Form into 2 balls, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

On a floured surface, roll out 1 ball into ⅛ inch thickness into a circle, sprinkling cinnamon randomly on crust while rolling out dough. Place rolled crust into greased pie tin/pan.

Make the filling: Place apples in a bowl and gently stir to coat with ½ cup sugar, letting them sit for at least 15 minutes.

Pile apples into pie crust doming from center to outer edges. Use as many apples as needed to make a gentle slope from center to edge of pie crust. Gently beat 1 egg and add ½ cup sugar and 1 tablespoon flour and spread mixture over apples, adding 6 or 7 very thin pats of butter randomly on top.

Roll out remaining dough for top crust, again sprinkling with cinnamon randomly into a marble pattern. Roll top pie crust onto rolling pin and unroll it over pie pan to cover with the top crust. Trim off overhanging edges up to edge of pie pan and with two fingers pinch top and bottom crusts together into a fluted edge all around the pan making sure top and bottom crusts are sealed together.

With a small knife, neatly cut out small 1-inch half-moon shaped vent holes evenly from the top crust then arrange the cutout dough pieces as leaf petals for a flower in the center adding a tiny ball of dough for flower center. Top with additional very thin pats of butter and sprinkle approximately 2 teaspoons sugar lightly over top crust.

Cover edges of crust with foil (to prevent overbaking) and bake at 350 degrees for at least 45 minutes. Remove foil from edges for additional 5 minutes of baking or until crust is golden.

Source: Jo Anne "Joni" Hartzler

Lutz resident has a winning recipe for Florida State Fair baking competitions 02/13/17 [Last modified: Monday, February 20, 2017 10:32am]
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