A Match Made in Baking and Blue Ribbons

“We have very analytical jobs,” Dr. Taylor explained on a recent afternoon. Both work for the C.D.C., Dr. Taylor in the Alzheimer’s disease division and Dr. Arguin as a malaria specialist. “We use our scientific knowledge to work on the recipes,” Dr. Taylor added, “but it’s really about finding a creative, artsy outlet.”

The men are careful not to enter the same categories when they compete. Dr. Taylor, 34, the guy at work who always brings the birthday cake, usually bakes the cream pies. Dr. Arguin, 49, is the savory man, and a master of yeast breads, muffins and rustic desserts. He makes the fruit pies.

In the June contest, they each entered seven pies. Dr. Arguin picked up one of the more challenging categories. “I took gluten-free for the team,” he said.

The secret to his Orange Sunrise Pie, which won its division, is the crust. Dr. Arguin hit on the idea when he remembered that Cheerios, their favorite cereal, is gluten free. He ground the honey-nut version together with almonds. Since he was already thinking about breakfast, orange juice seemed like a natural to flavor the filling.

Dr. Arguin also won the blueberry division with a maple-scented creation piled high with blueberries that he cooks in a sous-vide machine. “It’s about precision,” he said. “For a competition pie, I want it perfectly toothsome and not falling apart and tasting fresh.”

The winning touch was the lattice, made with four wide strips of dough pressed into a silicone mat with a wood-grain texture that is favored by those who work with fondant. The effect was like lacquered wood.

Photo

A collection of winning ribbons and Dr. Taylor’s symbolic check for winning the amateur division of the National Pie Championship this year.

Credit
Kevin D. Liles for The New York Times

Both men grew up with working parents who required that they cook as part of their chores. But cooking as a hobby came later. Dr. Taylor didn’t get his first stand mixer until he was working on his doctoral degree.

They cut their teeth on competitive baking at smaller fairs in Georgia. Now, most of their victories come at the Georgia National Fair in October. Dr. Taylor has won the sweepstakes — that’s the award for essentially taking the most awards — five times.

At last year’s fair, they entered 58…

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