Relatives team up to bake goods to help children in Chile

Somewhere, 5,500 miles away in the South American city of Rancagua, Chile, there is a youth attending a Bible camp today because someone in Minnesota is eating a Swedish holiday delicacy or a slice of good Renville County apple pie.

Thanks to the baking talents of Greg Bunting, of Bird Island, and his aunt, Phyllis Anderson, of Hector, the pair have been selling their home-baked rosettes, krumkakes and pies for the past three years to benefit disadvantaged youth served by the Young Life Ministries based in Prescott, Ariz.

Several years ago Greg, age 58, went on a mission trip to Chile through the Covenant Church where he met Jorge Walters who was 18 at the time, and they stayed in touch through social media. Greg traveled to Chile four different times for Young Life Ministries, where he became involved in working with the lives of youth in Rancagua, a city of 233,000 located about 50 miles south of Santiago.

Greg Bunting and his aunt, Phyllis Anderson, bake and sell rosettes, krumkakes and apple pies and send the proceeds to the Young Life Ministries to help youth in Rancagua, Chile. Photo by Steve Palmer

“So I got the idea of making rosettes and krumkakes one year and by word-of-mouth started selling them to donate the proceeds collected from the sales to Jorge’s camp, which is like our Bible camps here,”  Greg explained.

“The money sent down to Jorge through Young Life is for kids with limited finances living in a gang-dominated inner city and assist families to be able to pay the cost of a child attending a camp if they want,” Greg said.

Greg said it costs about $500-$700 for a young person to attend a week-long camp. “They also don’t have a camp facility that they own like churches are affiliated with here, so they have to pay rent on top of the amount of money it takes to attend the Young Life-based Bible camps,” he added. Greg said he sent $800 to Young Life in Chile for 2016.

He started learning about making rosettes about nine years ago with his aunt Hazel but admits there was a lot of trial and error when they started.

“Somebody told her that any idiot could make rosettes,” Greg recalled. “Well, if that was true then we must have been the biggest idiots in the county because we couldn’t bake them,” Greg laughed.

“We knew the basic ingredients, but until we got the temperature right, it was a disaster.

He said they finally found the right way to make good rosettes when they discovered the most important thing was having the correct frying temperature set at 375 degrees.

Greg also said he fries his rosettes in peanut oil because it has a longer burn temperature. “That way you don’t smell up the house when you’re finished the way it does if you use vegetable oil. But I make sure I list peanut oil on the ingredients label when I sell them.”

Greg thinks his rosettes are more popular with customers over krumkakes, so last year he made and sold 159 dozen rosettes and 99 dozen krumkakes, which resemble a sugar cone when rolled and hardened and are good to eat when filled with chocolate or whipped cream.

“I don’t mind doing the baking, but it’s the cleaning up the mess in the kitchen that I don’t like to do,” he joked. Greg usually starts his annual baking marathon a few weeks before Thanksgiving and goes up until the week before Christmas. The popular treats usually are sold to family members and friends and anyone else who’s heard of his mission, with nearly all of the proceeds going to Young Life for the Rancagua effort.

“It’s mainly a Scandinavian holiday food project so it’s not a year-around job,” said Greg who grew up on the Bunting farm near Bird Island. “Besides, the rosettes and krumkake don’t keep very well during the summer months when it’s damp, hot and humid,” he noted. And he’s been busy working in the retail food business for the past 30 years in stores at Lake Lillian and currently in Bird Island.

Greg’s aunt Phyllis, age 81, joined his involvement with Young Life Ministries three years ago by specializing in making delicious soft apple pies, which she sells and donates the money.

“I made 90 pies the first year, 110 in 2016 and 100 pies last year,” Phyllis stated.  She usually starts baking in August when the apples are ripening.  She uses all the space in her kitchen to create her wonderful pies at her independent living Prairie View apartment in Hector where she’s lived since 2003.

“The other residents know when I’m baking pies because the aroma of fresh pie fills the halls,” she smiled.  “They always say, ‘I bet she’s baking today.’”

She gets her apples for making the pies (and some applesauce) from the one remaining tree her dad planted many years ago on the home farm where she grew up in rural Hector. “It’s a nice apple for pies, but we don’t know what kind of variety it is,” she commented.

“When I began this it was because that lone apple tree produced so much fruit we didn’t know what to do with them,” she recalled. “Greg knew I could make apple pies, so he suggested why not do that and give the money to Young Life and that’s how I got started,” she added.

She makes all of her soft apple pies from scratch using her mother’s simple 100-year-old recipe that features a classic soft, thin, crumbling crust. She does all of her baking at home, where she cuts her apples, makes the crusts and can bake up to a dozen pies a day depending on the number of orders. One of her biggest requests for pies came from an area businessman who ordered 25 pies for his employees last December.

“I do all the mixing and roll out the pie crusts right here in my kitchen, and when I get them filled, I usually bake four of them at a time,” she explained. She’ll bake and freeze some pies all year long for anyone who wants to buy one. Besides apple, she can make rhubarb, cherry, pumpkin, peach, strawberry or raspberry pies too. Phyllis said the first time she made and sold pies was for the ladies in the First Lutheran Bible Study group.

Phyllis and Greg both say they’ve met some interesting people along the baking way.

“One day a lady asked me if I could make donuts for them,” she said. Some customers have asked for her pie crust recipe too.

“We enjoy doing this because each time we send donations down to Chile it’s enough to have one more kid go to a Bible camp,” Greg added. “The money goes to a good cause in Rancagua, and somebody gets something good to eat here in Minnesota.”