• St. James

#BakingPriest's Recipes for Success

Originally published on the Diocese of Cleveland website.

“Take the teachings of the Church, grow in holiness and become a beautiful creation – more beautiful than when you started.”

That’s Father Ed Suszynski’s recipe for success.

Known on Instagram as “bakingpriest,” he lives by that advice, both as administrator of Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in Litchfield, and when he works in the kitchen baking his award-winning pies.

He says recipes are akin to the precepts of faith.

“You read a recipe and follow the directions, which is like a seeker who is on a journey of faith. Sometimes you make a mistake with a recipe. Maybe you forget to add something, but you learn from your mistakes; you move on and do better. In our faith journey, we seek reconciliation when we make a mistake. There is advice and penance to help us do better going forward. The confessional is an opportunity to grow and learn,” Father Ed said.

The younger generation “tries to live in a perfect world. But we’re not perfect,” he said. “We learn from our mistakes. And who knows what God will do with us when we learn from our mistakes?”

Even the baking process has faith applications, he said. “You can look at faith as being tested or tried by fire. We try to avoid some things; we might feel like we’re in the oven or in the heat, but God walks with us through that heat, through suffering and shows us we are never alone. The good news is in that coupled with suffering is the joy of the resurrection,” he said. “A pie baking in the oven uses heat to turn into something beautiful – and delicious.”

Father Ed, of Polish and Czech heritage, grew up in St. Bede Parish, Mentor and is the oldest of three children. Ordained in May 2008, he began baking almost by accident during his seminary internship, when he was assigned to St. Malachi Parish on Cleveland’s West Side.

“I was in the right place at the right time,” he said.

He was working with some diocesan staff members on the Vibrant Parish Life Phase 2 program and the meetings always ended with a meal and pie. “It was my turn to bring the pie and I thought how hard could it be to follow a recipe and make one?”

So he rolled up his sleeves and got to work. His first effort was well-received.

“I thought he’d been baking for years,” said one priest recalling one of Father Ed’s early pies.

After that, he never looked back. Family members, parishioners, his classmates, fellow priests and others have all enjoyed Father Ed’s pies. He watched YouTube videos and researched best practices through trial and error to perfect his creations, earning accolades from the pastor at his first assignment, St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Parma.

“Father (John) Carlin told me, ‘You’ve got good crust, kid,’” he said.

He really stepped up his pie-baking while at St. Charles, since the rectory kitchen had been renovated and there were two ovens. “One year, I baked 32 pies at Thanksgiving time,” he said, adding that he brings the pies to his family’s Thanksgiving dinner. “We have a pie buffet.”

He continued perfecting his baking techniques at his second assignment, St. Gabriel Parish in Mentor.

He also gives pies as gifts and has donated them as raffle prizes at events.

Father Ed says he enjoys the challenge of baking pies and likes to try new things. He prefers using fresh fruit and although he hasn’t tried making a blueberry pie, he is considering a recipe with port wine and blueberries. Recently, he decorated the top of a cherry pie with hearts fashioned from pie crust with a cookie cutter.

Sometimes, he does a lattice crust on top.

“It’s all in the presentation,” he said.

Now that he’s assigned to Our Lady Help of Christians, a sprawling, rural parish with four worship sites, he decided to enter his pies in the Medina County Fair. Last summer, he swept the pie category, taking home first-, second- and third-place ribbons for his Dutch apple, banana cream and cherry pies.

“I sure didn’t win for presentation with that cherry pie. I think I rode the taste train to success,” he quipped.

When asked which was his favorite, Father Ed said he considers his pies to be like his children, but acknowledged the Dutch apple caramel is his favorite. “It has all the goodness of fall. With a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a cup of coffee, you’re good to go,” he said.