At 15 years old, Rebecca Eflin has spent nearly a decade building and honing life skills she picked up in 4-H. A member of the Great Plains 4-H Club for the past nine years, Eflin is learning and practicing skills across a wide range of products, including fiber arts (sewing and embroidery), crafts such as quilling, ceramics, photography and table setting. She has won several purple ribbons for her homemade products, mostly crafts, at the Johnson County Fair. Last year, she was named grand champion for a vase she glazed for the county fair competition. Baking is now her forte. At the county fair this year, she’s virtually auctioning off a cherry pie she baked. She lives in Lenexa with her parents, Brian and Diane Eflin and her four siblings.
My mom has always done a lot of baking, and my grandma, and I’m pretty sure my great-grandma. So I had always grown up with my mom baking. And so for fair, when I was little, I just kind of was told I’ll be baking something.
So then I started baking and I realized I really liked it. I just enjoy making it, and following the instructions, and it turns out into this really nice, good-tasting, sometimes nice-looking thing. I enjoy when my family tries it and says it’s really good. It’s just the thrill.
My first thing I baked for fair were sugar cookies. I made quick breads — lots of quick breads — and I always did a cookie every year, so when I got to higher levels, I would do rollout cookies like sugar rollout cookies.
So for this year, I decided I want to do something more complicated, because quick breads and rollout cookies aren’t that complicated. I decided to do some yeast breads and Irish soda bread, which is kind of like a biscuit but it’s a loaf of bread. And then angel food cake, which is more complicated. And then cherry pie, which is also probably one of the most complicated things I’m entering this year.
I always do the dough by hand because I don’t like using machines. I don’t know, there’s something about machines, I’d rather use my hands. So I make the dough by hand, and then I roll it out and make the cherry filling, and then I put it together and do the lattice top and bake it.
Before I baked this pie, I didn’t wait for the dough to chill enough, so it rolled out really weird and I was getting kind of stressed because it wasn’t coming out right. Then once I started doing the lattice top, it also started to mess up, so I was getting even more worried because it wasn’t working out right. And then we baked it and it baked nicely, nothing burnt or anything, which was great.
That was a practice pie. I’ll practice making the pie up until the day I make the pie. When I make the actual pie, then I’ll do it like normal and be very careful so that it doesn’t burn on top or anything, just be very attentive. Hopefully with all the practice, it will turn out nice.
I feel very excited when I find out that it’s perfect, or at least very good. I’m kind of proud to see that something I’ve made is looking right and not looking off or anything. I enjoy when the judge cuts the pie open, or really anything that I’ve made. Their reaction, I always love that.
With everything that I’ve done, I’ve learned a lot of stuff that will help me throughout the rest of my life in different ways. For baking in particular, I’ve been looking into culinary classes at different colleges to see if I can make a career out of this whole baking 4-H thing.
The lockdowns were why I started baking even more, because I didn’t really have much else to do. So I haven’t really had any chance to share with friends, but my family, they love it because I make a whole ton of stuff and someone has to eat it. I just enjoy baking. I don’t know why, it’s just fun. It’s a good pastime, so why not do a lot of it for fair?