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  Paige Dague of Homewood 
  started baking pies less 
  than five years ago, but she 
  mastered the craft quickly. 
  She has won top honors 
  with her pies   at the Illinois
  State Fair the  past two years.
 
  (Photos by Eric Crump/
  HF Chronicle)

Paige Dague’s third pie saved her from Cleveland.

The educator and long-time Homewood resident went into business as a pie creator just a few weeks ago. But until about 4 1/2 years ago she hadn’t baked a pie. Ever.

The adventure began when her husband, Jim, was on a business trip in Cleveland and stopped at a pie shop for lunch.

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The pie he had apparently was pretty good.

“He called me from the car and said, ‘We are moving to Cleveland. I’ve just had the best pie I’ve ever had in my life,'” she said.

But it wasn’t really Cleveland-avoidance that unleashed her latent pie-making abilities. It was the challenge.

Jim told her he thought she could make a pie as good as the one from the Cleveland shop. 

“I don’t shy away from a challenge,” she said. “I had never baked a pie before.”

She started doing research on how to bake pies. Then she started to bake and experiment with various recipes.  

The first two efforts did not quite meet Jim’s standards, but the third one made the grade. Cleveland was off the table.

Competing
Dague quickly got the hang of pie-baking. Her pies became popular with friends and family.

“I got a lot of encouragement. People said, ‘You could win the state fair with this,'” she said.

She decided to take that advice and entered the 2014 state fair to compete in the culinary arts contest. 

Many of the competitions at the fair consider entries made at home, but Dague wanted a bigger challenge, so she entered the Blue Ribbon Culinary Contest. 

“You are on stage and you are timed,” she said. “You’re baking in front of an audience. You’re in an unfamiliar setting. You’re at the mercy of some oven you’ve never worked with before. It’s a little unnerving.”

With no experience competing at the fair, she wasn’t really prepared for the demands of the contest.

“I went in totally blind,” she said. 

However, the other competitors, many of them regulars, were kind enough to give her advice and loan her equipment. 

“They were very nice to me because they knew I didn’t know what I was doing,” she said.

She made and presented her Sweet-Tart Charming Cherry Pie.

And won.

Then she won again in 2015 with her Very Violet Blueberry Pie, the same pie that won over her husband a few years earlier.

Becoming a business
After the 2015 win, Dague decided it was time to turn her new hobby into a business. 

“I totally threw myself into it,” she said. “I knew nothing about it. There hasn’t been a day I haven’t spent at least an hour pricing, testing recipes. I still feel like I could invest thousands of hours.” 

She officially launched her new pastry business, Hypnotize Pies (slogan: “You are getting happy, very happy”) on National Pie Day, Jan. 23, but pie lovers got their first opportunity to purchase her pies at the Homewood Indoor Farmers Market on Saturday, Jan. 30.

She sold out of pies in less than two hours.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “I was surprised at the traffic volume. That was a pretty successful day.”

She and her assistant, her daughter Elaina, plan to be at all the indoor market days. The market is open from 9 a.m. to noon the last Saturday of February, March and April in the Marie Irwin Center, 18200 Highland Ave. in Homewood. Currently, that’s the only place Hypnopies are available for purchase.

Although pies are her specialty, she is also offering homemade jams and jellies and Hypno Cookies. The cookies are based on a special secret recipe handed down through the generations in Jim’s family.

“I basically had to marry into the family to get the recipe,” she joked.

All of her products are baked from scratch using fresh, local, natural ingredients with no chemical additives, preservatives or artificial coloring, according to her website. She uses recyclable or reusable jelly jars and pie tins, compostable plates and recycled packaging materials.

Dague still works full time as an educator, but she has big plans for Hypnotize Pies, hoping to slowly grow the business to the point where it will some day support a brick-and-mortar shop. 


More information:
www.hypnotizepies.com
facebook.com/HypnoPies

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