Home of Economy-Herald bake-off: Brenda White McCauley learned skills from mom and grandfather
She is sponsored in the contest by Altru Health System.
GRAND FORKS — So many contestants in the Home of Economy-Grand Forks Herald Pie Bake-off attribute their culinary skills and interest to their family foremothers.
But for Brenda White McCauley, one of her kitchen models was less traditional — her grandfather, Clifford Silkey.
“I really enjoyed baking with my grandpa, as well as my mom,” she said. “Grandpa was a carpenter by trade, and he grew a beautiful garden and he made all those old kinds of pies, like sour cream raisin.”
While grandpa baked pies and a lot of cookies, White McCauley’s mother also was a baker and made a darn good divinity – you know, that sugary, white candy that’s a staple of so many holiday treat baskets.
“I have always loved to bake, and have passed that passion onto my daughter, too,” she said.
White McCauley is among the 16 bakers who will compete in the first-ever Home of Economy-Grand Forks Herald Pie Bake-off, a tournament-style competition that seeks to highlight the region’s best bakers. More than 30 candidates sought to be in the competition.
White McCauley will be sponsored by Altru Health System, where she has been employed for more than three decades. Altru earlier this month hosted an event to find a baker to sponsor; White McCauley was selected to represent the local entity, which is among Grand Forks’ largest employers.
She often gets help from her husband, John, as she makes pies for family members.
“My husband and I are always requested to make pies for every holiday (for family),” she said. “Even my nephew’s family raved about our banana pie. I just thought, if people think that way …”
Even so, she actually might be more comfortable making other desserts. She’s been known to bring treats to work, and she’s adept at things like caramel roles, lemon bars and monster cookies.
However, there is a particular pie she feels could be a contender in the early rounds of the Home of Economy-Herald contest. She calls it her “Hollywood cream pie,” and follows a recipe handed down from her husband’s grandmother.
Sounds tasty. But why “Hollywood”?
“My husband said that’s what we have to call it because that’s what his grandma called it,” White McCauley said while discussing its various traits, starting with a graham cracker crust.
It must be pretty good, since it won the recent baking in-house baking competition at Altru.
White McCauley is passing on some family traditions, too. The native of Minnewaukan, N.D., is a mother of three grown children and grandmother to five.
“My daughter, Abby, is a wonderful baker and we have always baked together,” she said, noting that she also has a granddaughter who enjoys baking.
The Home of Economy-Herald contest, she said, “sounds super fun – and something different.”