Newfolden's Jill Hanson, among Home of Economy-Herald bakers, says 'I really love to bake'
Hanson is sponsored by Hugo's Family Marketplace.
NEWFOLDEN, Minn. — When Jill Hanson was young, her grandmother would take her to auction sales. Along the way, they’d look for cafes that offered good, homemade food.
“Anytime we’d go, we would stop at cafes to see if they had homemade pies,” Hanson said. “You don’t find homemade pies anymore.”
She’s been around her share of homemade treats, however. The Thief River Falls native – she now lives in Newfolden, Minn. – moved to Colorado in her 20s and found a job baking homemade buns, muffins and pies. Eventually, she and her family moved back to Thief River; she worked at Digi-Key before buying and operating the Double J Cafe in Newfolden. At first, she was able to do much of the baking, but eventually it got to be too much.
“My dream was to have a little bakery where you could get fresh cream puffs and all the great breads and cakes we had as children and made from scratch. Most scratch bakeries have closed in our area,” she said. “But when I had to hire someone to do the baking because I was too busy cooking at the restaurant, I decided to close the restaurant and just bake for friends and family.”
The Hansons — she's been married to Jeff for 39 years — sold the restaurant and Jill went back to working at Digi-Key, and since her two sons are grown, her baking was pretty much limited to some company food days.
“I love to cook, but really love to bake. I haven't done as much baking lately as I would like,” she said. “Truth is, with the kids not home anymore and my husband not a huge sweet eater, I don't need to eat a whole pie.”
Hanson is among the 16 contestants chosen to participate in the Home of Economy-Grand Forks Herald Pie Bake-off, a tournament designed to highlight some of the best bakers in the Grand Forks region. She is sponsored by Hugo’s Family Marketplace.
As a resident of rural Minnesota, Hanson said she saw an ad in the Herald promoting the contest and thought “how fun this would be.”
“I would love to dust off some of my pie recipes and give it a go,” she said in a note to the newspaper.
And it seems natural, considering her background. There’s the work she has done in restaurants, of course, but also she – like so many in the contest – grew up around homemade baking and cooking.
“I got into baking because of my grandmother. She would pull out a cookbook, have me pick out a recipe and see if she had the ingredients. If she didn’t, I had to pick another recipe,” Hanson said. “My grandma is a good cook. My mom is a good cook. And in northern Minnesota, everything revolves around food. … I thought it would be fun to bake again and share some recipes.”
In an interview with the Herald, she couldn’t really pinpoint a specialty pie.
“It depends. Are you talking about a cream pie? My in-laws love my coconut create pie. My husband loves my apple pies. I like any – there’s a chocolate-peanut butter pie that I do,” she said. “I will make or eat any kind of pie.
“I’m not pie prejudiced.”