(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — One local baker has claimed a top honor from the Pennsylvania Farm Show.
The statewide Farm Show was held Jan. 7 to Jan. 14. It celebrates agriculture throughout the commonwealth, like a state fair. This year, Waterford-native Riley Harris took home the 2nd place Junior Baker award.
Harris is a 9-year-old who enjoys basketball, running with his mom, deer hunting and rollerblading, but he’s also an avid baker. The Harris family has a tradition where every Saturday morning, one of the four children in the family cooks a homemade breakfast for the family.
“Either Riley or my older kid bakes something from scratch — biscuits or something out of the ordinary. Then the whole family gathers around the table to enjoy it,” said Aly Harris, Riley’s mother. “It’s a blast.”
That inspired his love for baking, and he decided to take his skills to a competitive level.
For his second-prize-winning recipe, Riley Harris baked up a batch of oatmeal cream pies. He shared his secret to making the best oatmeal cream pies: “It’s the perfect amount of molasses. If you use too much molasses, it will be gross. I can tell when there’s too much molasses.”
The road to the PA Farm Show has been a long one, with trial recipes being baked throughout the year and an entry in the Waterford Community Fair where he won first-place. Aly Harris estimates that Riley baked more than a dozen batches to find the perfect technique. This wasn’t batches of cookies baked from a box, but rather they were from-scratch cookies.
“I’m very proud of him. He really put a lot into it,” Aly Harris said. “It was a labor of love.”
Unfortunately, due to an illness in the family, the Harrises couldn’t travel to Harrisburg for the PA Farm Show. Luckily, a Wattsburg resident was traveling to the show and sent back real-time updates on how his cookies were faring.
The 2nd-place honor came with a cash prize.
“He’s learning that hard work pays off,” Aly Harris said. “He spent $20 of his earnings on a yo-yo, and the rest is in the bank.”
Riley Harris is a third-grader in the Wattsburg Area School District.