Tag: Cyndi Harles

2024 Minnesota State Fair Blue Ribbon Special Contests

2024 Minnesota State Fair Special Contests To Feature New Fresh Salsa, Nutty Cookie & Mighty Muffin Recipe Contests

Minneapolis-St Paul, MN – July 12, 2024 – With over 75 baking and cooking categories at the Minnesota State Fair this year, home cooks and bakers will have many ways to win in the kitchen. The annual and much beloved tradition of competing for blue ribbons returns. Home cooks can compete for more than $1,000 in prizes in Blue Ribbon Group special contests and awards.

For the first time in over 20 years, there’s a Fresh Salsa contest thanks to Bushel Boy Farms, a Nutty Cookie contest from the Blue Ribbon Group, and a Mighty Muffin contest from 3 Cricketeers. The general/classic baking categories (divided into “classes”), range from 28 types of bread and 21 types of cookies, to 12 different kinds of cakes, and 3 pie flavors, plus international and gluten-free baking divisions. Let the games, er… Minnesota State Fair Blue Ribbon Special Contests BEGIN!

Register by Tue July 30, 2024, 4:30pm; All Special Contests & All Baking Categories Take Place Sat Aug 17, 2024

Rally time is now! Look for these new special contests, each with $100 to $200 for first place, plus runner-up prizes and special awards. Registration is now open. It closes Tue , 2024, 4:30pm CT. All contests happen Sat August 17, 2024, drop off 9:30am to 1pm, Creative Activities Building. Winners announced Thu August 22, 2024. Having trouble finding what you need to participate? Drop us a line here.

Bushel Boy Farms “Fresh Salsa Recipe Rally”

2024 Minnesota State Fair Blue Ribbon Special Contests
Make a fresh-tasting, crowd-pleasing salsa with premium, locally grown Bushel Boy Farms tomatoes as the star ingredient. Bushel Boy’s tomatoes are grown right here in Owatonna, Minnesota at their high-tech greenhouses and picked at perfect ripeness. Combine them with other ingredients for a masterful and award-winning homemade salsa (refrigerated, not processed/canned). Present with your favorite chips for dipping. $350 in prizes await the top 3 winners, plus bonus prizes for canned salsas (Class 1245 & 1246). Find recipe inspiration @BushelBoyFarms on Instagram & Facebook.

Join Bushel Boy Farms to celebrate opening day of the fair, Thu, August 22, 2024. They will take over the Cambria Kitchen to showcase fresh tomato creations and salsa contest winners, plus offer complimentary samples and other giveaways throughout the day.

Blue Ribbon Group “Nutty Cookie Contest”

2024 Minnesota State Fair Blue Ribbon Special Contests

Come compete in the “Nutty Cookie Contest” from the Blue Ribbon Group. We want a creative variety of nut-centric winning cookies. Make your tasty treats with your favorite nuts, from peanuts and pistachios to almonds and cashews. Any nut goes and any type tracks. They can be classic or creative: think biscotti, nut clusters, butter pecan shortbread, monster cookies, and more. Wow the judges with your outstanding cookie, how it looks and what they experience biting into it. A unique mix of cookies will win. Prizes are $200, $100 and $50 for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, respectively. Find inspiration @BlueRibbonFoodies on Instagram & Facebook.

Join us Sun, August 25 at the fair for our Nutty Tarts & Treats event (Cambria Kitchen, Creative Activities Building). In the meantime, find a fantastic sample recipe to make here.

Mighty Muffin Recipe Contest

2024 Minnesota State Fair Blue Ribbon Special Contests

Make your 3 Cricketeers Mighty Muffin entry with 3C’s Pure Cricket Powder (1/4 cup or more) and additional ingredients known to give you power and energy, such as nuts, seeds, oatmeal, peanut butter, and chocolate. Awards: $100 (1st Place), $75 (2nd Place), $50 (3rd Place). Find their online store at 3 Cricketeers. Use code StateFair2024 for free shipping on your first order. Share your creative process by posting on Facebook or Instagram. Tag #3cricketeers

Join 3 Cricketeers on Sat August 24 for a day of demos and free tastings (Cambria Kitchen, Creative Activities Building)

Special thanks to our prize partner and and all-around amazing baking company:

Key Contest Dates to Remember

  • Competitors Register by Tue July 30, 2024, 4:30pm
  • Drop Off Day Sat Aug 17, 20, 9:30am to 1pm
  • View Winner Displays & Recipe Demos Aug 22 to Sep 2 in Creative Activities Building

First Time Participant or Need a Refresher?

All registration goes through the Minnesota State Fair competition department. Registration is free! Once you’re signed up, there is no obligation if you later can’t participate. Go to the Competitions/Creative Activities/Baked Products section at MNStateFair.org to sign up (under the Participants tab).

Minnesota State Fair Blue Ribbon Special Contests: Quick-start tips:

  1. Find all baking rules, regs, open classes, and cool special contests here and be sure to download the Creative Activities/Baked Goods Premium Book Section. Jump to pages 12-14 for the special contests, page by page.
  2. Sign up for the Competition Department email list here and be sure to choose “Creative Activities” as your email list.
  3. Create your online account here (then be sure your registration clears and is confirmed by email).
  4. For step-by-step guidance: go here (for a written tutorial) or here (for a video) For FAQ (frequently asked questions) go here.

Minnesota State Fair Blue Ribbon Special Contests: Resources are aplenty, but if you still have questions, never hesitate to ask. The state fair competition office can be reached 651-288-4417 or competition@mnstatefair.org. We are available too, at statefairteam@blueribbongroup.net.

2023 Minnesota State Fair Special Baking Contests

2023 Minnesota State Fair Special Baking Contests Celebrate Healthy Cookies, Low-Sugar Chocolate Desserts, Citrus Cakes & More

Minneapolis-St Paul, MN – June 20, 2023 – Minnesota hobby bakers and home cooks are hitting their kitchens to vie for big blue ribbon bragging rights and prizes in our special contest series at the 2023 Minnesota State Fair.

Register by Tue Aug 1, 2023, 4:30pm, All Baking Contests Sat Aug 19, 2023

At the Minnesota State Fair, our hometown fair, look for these new special contests, each with $100 to $200 for first place, plus runner-up prizes. Registration is now open. It closes Tue Aug 1, 2023, 4:30pm CT. All contests happen Sat Aug 19, 2023, drop off 9:30am to 1pm, Creative Activities Building. Winners announced Thu Aug 24, 2023. Having trouble finding what you need? Drop us a line here.

Kowalski’s Markets “Citrus Cake Contest”

Bring sunshine to the table with your best and brightest, citrus-flavored cakes. Feature lemon, lime, orange, or other tangy citrus ingredients in your cake, solo or with any complimentary flavors. Wow the judges and our taste buds. Entries can be any size or shape: layer, sheet, tube, cupcake or bite-sized. Prizes: $100 1st, $50 2nd, $25 3rd (gift cards).

Join Kowalski’s Markets in celebrating opening day of the fair Thursday August 24th, with their Cambria Kitchen “takeover,” an event, not to be missed They’ll feature local growers with demos and off complimentary samples and other giveaways throughout the day.

Splenda Magic Baker “Low-To-No Sugar Showdown” Theme: Chocolate Desserts

Make your favorite chocolate sweet treats for this Low-To-No Sugar Showdown. Use little to no added sugar. Think pies, pastries, puddings, custards, cakes, cookies, or cheesecakes. Sweeten your entry with 1/4 cup or more of any Splenda product, such as Splenda Magic Baker, a new plant-based, zero-calorie sweetener. It measures and tastes like sugar. Use it 1 to 1 for replacing sugar. Prizes: $200 1st, $100 2nd, $50 3rd (gift cards).

UnitedHealthcare “Healthy Cookie Contest”

Make energy bars, on-the-go sweet treats or any cookie that has a health-minded twist or theme. Use “good-for-you” ingredients that help you power through the day, have nutritional value, or are a fit for special diets. Think protein powders, nuts, nut butters, fruits, and seeds. You can even simply “healthify” your favorite cookie to have less sugar, fat or calories. Your entry can be baked or no-bake style. The term “cookie” is open to interpretation and that’s intentional. Prizes: $200 1st, $100 2nd, $50 3rd.

Blue Ribbon Baker Awards

In addition to the Minnesota State Fair Special Baking Contests 2023, we also organized Minnesota State Fair Blue ribbon baker awards for anyone winning 1st place for any cookie and cake classes in general baking. Each will receive a $25 gift card.

 

Key Dates to Remember

  • Competitors Register by Tue Aug 1, 2023, 4:30pm
  • Drop Off Day Sat Aug 19, 2022, 9:30am to 1pm
  • View Winner Displays & Recipe Demos Aug 24 to Sep 4 in Creative Activities Building

First Time Participant or Need a Refresher?

All registration goes through the Minnesota State Fair competition department. Registration is free! Once you’re signed up, there is no obligation if you later can’t participate. Go to the Competitions/Creative Activities/Baked Products section at MNStateFair.org to sign up (under the Participants tab).

Quick-start tips:

  1. Find all baking rules, regs, open classes, and cool special contests here and be sure to download the Creative Activities/Baked Goods Premium Book Section. Jump to pages 12-14 for the special contests, page by page.
  2. Sign up for the Competition Department email list here and be sure to choose “Creative Activities” as your email list.
  3. Create your online account here (then be sure your registration clears and is confirmed).
  4. For step-by-step guidance, go here.

Best Tasting Thai Pizza

The beauty of this Best Tasting Thai Pizza recipe is how delicious it is and how easily you can put it together. Every element has a shortcut, pre-made option if you need to get this on the table quickly. Or if you are like me and really enjoy the process of cooking, you can make each part from scratch instead.

Preparation Tips & Shortcuts

For the crust, I’ve used my share of pre-made pizza crusts. Boboli pizza thin crusts were my go-to for many years years ago. In fact, when I was working 60 to 80 hour work weeks, I made an endless number of pizzas with just olive oil, mozzarella, red pepper flakes, and onions on them. With a pre-made crust, I could prep and eat in about 30 minutes. If I do have enough time, however, I make a homemade pizza crust, like this one.

I also favor using my homemade Thai cabbage slaw or a shorter version as provided in the recipe below. It has cabbage, garlic chives and a sesame oil based dressing.

Best Homemade Thai Pizza

The crunch of the cabbage/carrot vegetables with the peanuts is what makes every bite so delightful. Plus the slaw is so colorful!

Best Homemade Thai Pizza

Your other option is to buy a pre-made slaw from your grocer’s deli or vegetable section.

As our protein in this recipe, we used tofu. Be sure to use extra firm tofu, drain it, then dice into tiny cubes before frying.

Best Homemade Thai Pizza

The peanut sauce is key with this Thai pizza too. My version has coconut milk, peanut butter and a mix of Asian ingredients. You can find the recipe here.

Overhead Shot-Spicy Peanut Sauce

If you’re in a pinch time-wise, grab a bottled peanut sauce. My preference however, is homemade, as I like how it tastes and how thick it is. Some bottled peanut sauces are simply too sweet and don’t pack enough peanut flavor.

If you love creative, colorful, and flavorful meals, this best tasting Thai pizza is for you! We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Cyndi

 

State Fair Apple Raspberry Pie

This State Fair Apple Raspberry Pie is a show stopper. It won both “best creative apple pie” and “best overall pie” at the 2021 Minnesota State Fair. Carol Marsh is the star state fair baker here. Her pie is beautifully designed and absolutely delicious. The filling tastes fantastic and has a firm yet tender texture. Fresh raspberries add a splash of color. Their sweetness pairs perfectly with tart apples.

State Fair Apple Pie

Carol has been competing at the Minnesota State Fair since 2010 and baking since she a child. This year, 2021, was a big year, with her winning four blue ribbons. They were for a 2-layer chocolate cake, a raisin bread, a classic apple pie, and this creative apple pie, which won best overall pie also. This makes her a 6 time pie sweepstakes winner (best overall pie 6x since 2010). That brings her total to 36 Minnesota State Fair ribbons for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place wins.

Carol, like a lot of us, finds much joy in baking. She knows the ideal texture of pie dough and how to have a thick filling. As a result, she finds baking pies a breeze. She has it down to a science.

State Fair Apple Pie Baker

Carol has won multiple times at the Minnesota State Fair with this recipe and slight variations on it. Carol recently baked her pie for me and we brought you along to experience the journey of making a perfect pie. Seeing her in action was so much fun!

Carol’s Pie Baking Tips – Step by Step

Chill your bowl and all your pie crust dough ingredients (dry, wet and shortening).

Dough mixture (with chilled shortening already cut in) should resemble cornmeal.Cornmeal Looking Stage

Carol strains her egg/vinegar mixture into the crust’s dry ingredients.

Allow enough time to also chill the dough, for at least an hour. Check out the beautiful texture Carol gets. State Fair Apple Pie dough

For the filling, Carol prefers using a combo of Granny Smith, Braeburn, and Pink Lady apples.

Layer the apples, butter, and raspberries. You’ll get a colorful look that doesn’t “bleed” much or look messy.Layering State Fair Apple Pie

Let your artistic side out by cutting and etching the leaves for the top crust like Carol did.Pie Crust Leaves

Layer and distribute the leaves evenly, so the top crust will bake uniformly.Leaf decoration on State Fair Apple Pie

Brush with beaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar for some beautiful browning and sparkle.

The pie will be heaping with apples. While baking, the apples shrink, resulting in a full, lush-looking pie.Baked State Fair Apple Pie

The pie cuts beautifully and has a firm yet tender filling.State Fair Apple Pie

This State Fair Apple Raspberry Pie is a classic. Put it on your holiday baking list. And if you want another 2021 Minnesota State Fair winning pie, check out this blue ribbon winner also.

Enjoy!

-Cyndi

 

Cinnamon Cookie Butter Cookies

These Cinnamon Cookie Butter Cookies won best sandwich cookie and best overall cookie at the 2021 Minnesota State Fair. Their creamy filling, phenomenal flavor, and utter deliciousness will wow you with every bite.

Cinnamon Cookie Butter Cookies

A Winning History

Joan Kinsley

Joan Kinsley was the winning Minnesota State Fair baker. She adapted a Star Tribune Holiday Cookie Contest winning recipe that Annette Gustafson won with in 2020. Joan first entered the state fair baking competition in 2014, had a win, and was hooked on the annual tradition.

Joan’s version is a linzer look-alike with an opening on top so you see the inside filling inside, which is thick, creamy, rich, and absolutely divine.

Cinnamon Cookie Butter Cookies

We invite you to make them for the holidays and check out our step-by-step tips for reproducing these blue-ribbon-winning Cinnamon Cookie Butter Cookies. Did I mention that outstanding filling? =)

Special thanks to Joan fore re-baking her cookies for me. Same to the our friends at the Star Tribune for their recipe use permission and to Annette. We look forward to learning what more about this year’s Star Tribune Holiday Cookie Contest winners!

Secrets to Success

Joan estimates she made these cookies 5-6 times before entry drop-off at the fair. She spent hours tweaking ingredients and altering the thickness of the dough and the filling. She also adjusted baking times, temperature, and what kitchen tools she used. This seems to be a popular process among successful state fair blue ribbon baker, especially with recipes they’re new to. It pays off.

  • To achieve the “perfect bake” Joan keeps the dough chilled throughout the entire prep process: before rolling it out, afterward with the scraps she re-works, and even while the cut dough waits its turn in the oven.
  • Hint: Handle the dough as little as possible. It’s much easier to transfer and work with when chilled.
  • Joan prefers baking them on parchment that sits on a silpat baking mat with an air bake pan underneath.
  • You can opt to cut out the cookies an inch apart, directly on the parchment you’ll bake them on. This way the shapes stay fully intact because you’re not touching or moving them.
  • Joan uses an adjustable rolling pin (for an exact thickness) and a Linzer tart cookie cutter.
  • Joan also bakes her cookies 1 sheet at a time.

Step by Step

You make the cookies with flour, cinnamon, salt, butter, and brown sugar. Set out your butter ahead of time as you want it room temperature. Also, allow enough time to chill the dough at least 30 minutes.

Ingredients for Cinnamon Cookie Butter Cookies

When mixing the dough, it’s ready when the ingredients are just fully combined and clumps start to form. Like with pie dough, avoid over-mixing.

Prepped Dough

Pressing the dough out before chilling makes for an easier roll out. And seal it in plastic wrap. Ultimately you end up rolling it out between parchment layers.

Dough pressed out

Joan uses an adjustable rolling pin with rings to make the dough exactly 1/6th inch thick.

With the first portion of dough, you cut the cookie “bottoms.”

Cinnamon Cookie Butter Cookies

With the second portion of dough, you cut the cookie “tops” with the center cut out.

Wilton Linzer Cookie Cutter

Tip: cut out, then chill the unbaked cookies again and they will be easy to move with an offset spatula. Bake them an inch or more apart. Cinnamon Cookie Butter Cookies

You sprinkle all with a cinnamon/sugar mixture before baking, giving them some glitter and glam.

Cinnamon Cookie Butter Cookies

Then, simply keep a close eye on the oven. You want the bottoms to barely start to brown, which takes 12-14 minutes.

The filling features Biscoff cookie butter (available at most grocery stores in the peanut butter section), along with butter, and powdered sugar. I could eat this stuff by the spoonful.

Cinnamon Cookie Butter Cookies

Joan pipes hers on before spreading it even with an offset metal spatula.

Cinnamon Cookie Butter Cookies

All these tips and tricks were the secrets to her baking success.

The last thing you need to do is enjoy these better-than-anything blue ribbon cookies.

Happy baking!

-Cyndi

 

Homemade German-Style Pretzels

These Homemade German-Style Pretzels are chewy, slightly crunchy, and so totally tasty.

Closeup of Homemade German-Style Pretzels

They make a great Oktoberfest appetizer, or an “any time of year” party snack. What’s more, they’re simple and fun to make.

Pretzel Ingredients

You likely have all the main ingredients already in your cupboard:

  • active dry yeast
  • all-purpose flour
  • salt (table/plain and coarse)
  • sugar
  • butter
  • baking soda

These homemade German-style pretzels require some easy steps and wait times. That’s about it. Start to finish, they won’t take much longer than a couple hours, and most of that time is letting the dough ingredients sit…

Well of ingredients

…and chilling the prepped pretzels.

Baking Tips

  • Allow enough time: the dough prep has a few “rest” times: before you mix in the dough, after you mix it, plus an hour chill time before baking.
  • You roll out 12 equal portions into ropes 20 inches long. Try to get them a consistent size end-to-end.
  • The soda bath is key to their great flavor and beautiful golden brown color.
  • Give your boiling pot of water the space it needs when you add the baking soda. It will look like a grade-school science project for a few seconds.
  • The bake time is short and sweet, just 15 minutes.
  • For a mustard sauce, I simply combined equal parts Koops stone ground mustard and mayonnaise.

While this recipe isn’t a blue ribbon winning recipe, that I know of, it certainly could be! The recipe is based on this one from Amanda’s Cooking. My friend Nancy requested authentic German pretzels for an Oktoberfest party she was hosting and sent me the link to Amanda’s version. It worked out so perfectly the very first time. Her tips and insights were so helpful. I re-worked Amanda’s recipe into my own words and to match our format. This recipe is one I will make again and again. We hope you make and enjoy it soon too!

-Cyndi

 

Coconut Curry Mango Cake

At the 2021 Minnesota State Fair baking competition, no one could have predicted how tasty this Coconut Curry Mango Cake was going to be, including me. With surprising ingredients and a colorful exterior, the cake stood out for its perfectly balanced flavors, rich taste, and tender yet firm texture.

Recipe credit goes to Maggie MacIntosh. She used a Cooks Illustrated coconut cake recipe as a starting point and began experimenting.

Creative Cake

Garam masala, turmeric, mango nectar, and mango crystals are among the unique ingredients Maggie features in this award winning cake. Between that creativity, how well she combined all the ingredient amounts, and how perfectly she baked the cakes, this Coconut Curry Mango Cake really stood out. Plus Maggie nailed it with the coconut aroma, in both the cake itself and the frosting. The mango filling was a colorful element that added yet another dimension to the cake. Well done!

Maggie won 1st place in our Blue Ribbon Best Coconut Cake Contest with this cake. She wins $100 in King Arthur Baking Company gift cards. Here’s a shot of Maggie and her daughter, celebrating her win and all the fun the fair has to offer. Congratulations Maggie!

Judging Criteria

If you’re curious about the winner selection process, here’s the judging criteria.

  1. Unique, innovative, creative recipe……………………………………………25%
  2. Appearance, color, presentation………………………………………………..25%
  3. Texture, internal appearance…………………………………………………….25%
  4. Flavor, aroma…………………………………………………………………………. 25%

Coconut Curry Mango Cake – Step by Step

Want to re-create the magic of Maggie’s coconut curry cake and its mango filling? We walk you through it with a detailed overview, including photos.

Here’s everything that goes into the batter, from the cake flour and spices, to butter, sugar, and eggs.

Batter ingredients

You starting with whipping the egg and egg whites before adding cream of coconut, water, and extracts.

Coconut Curry Mango Cake Egg Whites

Next, you mix the dry ingredients: cake flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, garam masala, and turmeric.

Batter mixing stage 2

Then you mix in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Batter mixing stage 3

Once you slowly combine everything together…Batter mixing…you divide the batter between your prepped 8-inch pans. It makes a nice thick batter. Spread it around.

Batter in pans

While those bake and cool, get your filling ingredients together. Whip that up.

Coconut Curry Mango CakeDo the same with your buttercream frosting.

Coconut Curry Mango Cake

Whip it good. It should form stiff peaks. Here’s a shot when it’s reaching perfection.

Buttercream Frosting Stage 2

Last, you slice each cake in half to get 4 equal layers, then assemble everything together. A great tip from Maggie was to pipe the frosting on the edge of each layer to help hold in the filling.

Filling layer

We didn’t get shots of this, but applying a crumb coat–thinly frosting top and sides of cake before fully frosting the cake–prevents a messy look.

Finishing Touches

To finish, sprinkle toasted coconut on top and press into sides of cake. This will give the cake a classic look, like this.

Or you can opt to dye the toasted coconut in one or more colors and decorate in circular patterns on top (as winner did).

These resemble the colors Maggie used: yellow, orange, and red.

Dyed Coconut flakes

And this is her stencil she used decorating the top of her cake.

Feel free to reach out to us direct if you want help re-creating the multi-color decor Maggie used. We have additional notes from our test runs and Maggie we can share.

If you love this cake’s concept but want a faster, easier version of the recipe, stay tuned. We are working on a sheet cake version of this magical Coconut Curry Mango Cake we will share later.

In the meantime though, this cake makes a fun fall baking experience. Fun fact: some of our tasters thought the curry/turmeric combo was a tastier, gingery pumpkin spice. Give it a try and see what you taste.

Enjoy!

-Cyndi

 

Raspberry Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Put these Raspberry Chocolate Chunk Cookies on your must-make baking list. Their flavor shines bright with Chambord black raspberry liqueur, along with orange zest, chocolate chunks, and fresh red raspberries.

Raspberry Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Minnesotan Rachael Hood created the cookie for the Blue Ribbon Drop-Style Cookie Contest at the 2021 Minnesota State Fair (a Blue Ribbon Group sponsored contest). She won 1st place and $100 in King Arthur Baking Company gift cards.

I also arranged for Rachael to showcase her cookies on a TV spot with me on KARE 11 Saturday, the NBC affiliate in Minneapolis. Yay for hometown PR! We had an absolute blast.

Blue Ribbon Baking 2021

Let’s get back to the cookie itself. If you are intrigued by this cookie, read on for some insights about it and how you can recreate the recipe.

Key Ingredients

With these Raspberry Chocolate Chunk Cookies, the Chambord liqueur is key. It plays off the other ingredients so well, making for a terrific flavor combination that subtle, but not too subtle, and so well balanced with citrus and chocolate elements.

Display of Key Ingredients - Raspberry Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I especially love the cookie’s scent you take in with each bite and the delicious lingering aftertaste.

Chambord – if you aren’t familiar with it – is a liqueur that combines XO Cognac and French spirits with Madagascan vanilla, honey and Moroccan citrus peel, making it an ideal flavor enhancer for these cookies. It originated in France, the Loire Valley specifically, in the 1600’s. Back then, with the many King Louis of the time, it was popular to sip cognac or liqueurs at fancy French meals.

Raspberry Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Fast forward to today, the Chambord brand is owned by the same folks who own Jack Daniels. I was surprised to learn that in addition to black raspberries, they infuse blackberries and blackcurrants into it. You can find it in a variety of sizes. Since I had to go to a couple of stores to find it,I recommend calling ahead, especially if you want a specific size.

Bake Like a Blue Ribbon Winner

As always, before I add a recipe to this Blue Ribbon Foodies blog, there’s a baking test run. Walk through the recipe with us here and then give it a go yourself. The cookies are delicious and highly recommended.

Here’s everything that goes into the cookies (minus the food color), including the liqueur, fresh Driscoll raspberries, orange zest, and all-purpose flour from King Arthur Baking Company.

Raspberry Chocolate Chunk Cookies

You first sift together the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Flour

Next you cream the butter and sugars before adding in the remaining wet ingredients and mixing until smooth. Sorry, no pic. I was too excited to get these into the oven! Finally, add the pre-mixed dry ingredients, and stir just until combined.

Then all that remains prep-wise is to chop the raspberries and gently mix everything together.

Raspberry Chocolate Chunk Cookies Dough

Put both the fruit and juice in the dough. Raspberry Chocolate Chunk Cookies Ingredients

Your dough should come out a bit like this.

Raspberry Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Scoop the dough by heaping tablespoons onto a parchment lined baking sheet. You’ll bake these 12-14 minutes at 350 degrees F.Dough on baking sheet

To experiment and to use ingredients already on hand, I varied from Rachael’s recipe just a bit. I used all semi-sweet chocolate chunks instead a combo of dark and milk chocolate and did not chop them fine, opting for larger chocolate pieces. I also used a different red food coloring. Here’s how mine came out!

Raspberry Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Rachael chopped her chocolate by hand and smaller. She also used McCormick’s red food coloring.  Do both those things and you’ll match the color of Rachael’s cookie dough and end product.

Blue Ribbon Raspberry Chocolate Chunk Cookies

What a delight these were to bake and eat. We invite you to bake and share these cookies, or anything from our recipe collection. If you do, be sure to post a pic on Instagram or Facebook. Be sure we can follow along, by tagging:

  1. @blueribbonfoodies
  2. @mnstatefair
  3. #blueribbonbaking2021
  4. #kingarthurbaking

Hey Hey! You never know when we might do a giveaway!

-Cyndi

 

 

Best Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

This Best Strawberry Rhubarb Pie recipe from Kathleen McCarron took first place at the 2021 Minnesota State Fair. Kathleen won top honors in the Blue Ribbon Best Fruit Pie special contest (and won $100 in King Arthur Baking Company gift cards). Her pie has a delicious, flaky crust you make with shortening, cold water, and of course, flour, sugar, and salt. The filling is chopped rhubarb and sliced fresh strawberries, making for a sweet, slightly tart taste to every bite.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Read on for some insights direct from Kathleen with our Winner Q&A:

What is your secret to baking great pies?

For me, the secret to a great pie is having a great crust. I love my family’s recipe, and rarely bother to use anything else, but (a perfect pie crust) is fairly tricky. It took me a number of years and at least a dozen pies to actually get the technique right, as judging exactly how far to cut the shortening into the dry ingredients took practice. To me, the effort is worth it because it tastes so good. We’ll sometimes bake the crust on it’s own with a bit of cinnamon sugar and eat it like cookies.

What can you tell me about your strawberry rhubarb pie and how the recipe came to be?

I first made this pie at the request of my father-in-law. I asked him what dessert he would like me to bring for a Father’s Day celebration, and he said that strawberry rhubarb was his favorite. After a quick google search, this one looked the best to me, as it had the least amount of sugar and he mentioned liking a tarter pie. I then doubled the cinnamon and substituted my family’s pie crust.

Do you have any helpful tips for someone making your recipe?

The trickiest part is the crust. Cutting the shortening to the size of small peas is important. A pastry cutter is faster, but it is possible to do this with a fork as well, as I did that for years. Leaving time to chill is also important, if you don’t rolling out will be more difficult.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Presentation is important. What are some of your tricks?

If I’m honest, I’ve always focused on taste first, presentation second. People will ooh and aah when something looks pretty, me included, but they only come back for more if it tastes good. Once I’m happy with the flavor, my next goal is usually to make it neatly, though sometimes I can’t even manage that. I almost didn’t turn this pie in because the juices burst through, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. And I won despite the untidiness!

What is the worst disaster you have had in the kitchen and how did you deal with it?

My family has a recipe for an apple cake with fudgy frosting that’s to die for. My mom had always made it as either a bundt cake or in a 9×13 pan, but I decided to try making it as a three layer cake. The first layer came out fine, but I didn’t leave time for the frosting to set before turning out the second layer, and the cake itself was too loose to hold together anyway. It was just this mound of broken cake and gloopy frosting. Unfortunately, I was making this cake for my sister’s birthday party, and didn’t have the time or ingredients to make anything else. Instead I just shoved some candles on top and apologized. Everyone at the party had a huge laugh, as this was by far the ugliest thing I had ever baked for them. Still tasted great!

Who does most of the cooking in your home?

I am both the cook and baker in my home, though both of my children are very interested in what goes on in the kitchen, particularly my son.  There are times that I’m rushing to get dinner on the table, and it just doesn’t work to have a three year old helping.  I have to promise him that he can help me make a dessert after we eat, and then he’ll happily mix together a box of pudding for us to enjoy.

What are some of your favorite family recipes?

I’ve always loved my mom’s apple pie, which is funny because she thinks it’s nothing special. She also makes a wonderful chicken salad and beef stew. For myself, I have a chocolate chip cookie recipe that I love, and there’s peach and apricot pie I’ve made that gets really great reviews. This summer I’ve been experimenting with fancy burgers, and I also once made a beef Wellington that had the flavors of Rouladen that was particularly superb.

Strawberry Rhurbarb Pie winning baker

What advice would you give young people wanting to cook/bake more?

The biggest advice I can give is to read the recipe all the way through!  More than once, I’ve gotten stuck when I realize that a step I had just skimmed over was actually far more intense or difficult than I initially realized.

Also, it helps to have someone you can talk to about cooking, but who won’t step in and take over. I first really learned to cook during the summer after my senior year of high school. My parents told me that I was in charge of dinner on Tuesday nights. Inevitably, I would end up calling my dad 2-4 times over the course of the day to ask questions. What does this step mean? It calls for this cut of meat, but can I use this instead? I’ve watched mom make this before, but I’ve never seen her do this step, can I skip it?  I think he really looked forward to those calls, and both of my parents were very encouraging about the meals I made. I think I only needed to throw the whole thing out once and declare a pizza night instead.

What has been your biggest win in recipe competitions?

I think this blue ribbon is my biggest win to date.

What do you do for work?

Before the pandemic, I worked at the University of Minnesota in the Theater Department as a draper in the costume shop and as an adjunct professor. Lockdown decimated the theater industry, so now I am back in school working on my Initial Licensure/M.Ed degree for English Education.

Other hobbies besides baking?

I don’t have much free time between school and family, but I like to sew, particularly cross stitch.

 

We highly recommend Kathleen’s winning pie. Happy baking ya’ll!

-Cyndi

 

Marjorie Johnson’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Celebrate great home baking with Marjorie Johnson’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake.

No blue ribbon recipe collection would be complete without something from Marjorie Johnson, the baking goddess who turned 102 last month. If you don’t know who she is, look her up. Marjorie is sweet, sharp, and so utterly endearing. My heart warms any time I’m fortunate enough to be in her presence. The first time I met her was of course at the Minnesota State Fair as we both took in the display cases of full of cookies, cakes, breads and pies in the Creative Activities Building. Then of course she has won special contests I’ve organized over the years.

In honor of Marjorie’s recent 102nd birthday and because it’s so darn delicious, we made and are showcasing her Sour Cream Streusel Coffee Cake. It is also the infamous cake she made with Jay Leno on the Tonight Show way back when. By the way, if you want a great read about Marjorie, check out the feature that writer Kevyn Burger penned for the Star Tribune, here.

Here are the ingredients for the batter and streusel, and before/after baking shots, then read on for baking tips.

Tips from Marjorie

Here are some baking tips for Marjorie Johnson’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake, from the grand blue ribbon baker herself. Check them out, then pull out those cake pans and get baking!

  • This coffee cake is so quick and easy because it’s a quickbread so you don’t have to worry about using yeast.
  • The secret to a light and tender coffee cake is to beat the butter and sugar very well for a creamy consistency.
  • Be sure to only fill your pans half full (at the most) or they might overflow during baking because the baking powder and the baking soda makes the batter rise while baking. Any leftover batter can be baked in a small pan, it makes a nice sample for the cook.
  • It’s a great recipe because it makes two round coffee cakes. You can eat one right away and freeze the other and take it out another day.
  • It will be ready to serve in a short time. Just enough time to set your table, make coffee and get ready for your guests.
  • I use a package of sweetened flaked coconut but any coconut would be fine.
  • The fresh-grated orange zest (in the almond streusel shown below) adds a great flavor.
  • One tip with adding the powdered sugar to the milk, is to have the milk warm maybe 80-90 degrees. This cuts the powdered sugar taste and makes a delicious glaze.
  • You could also juice the orange and use the juice with the powdered sugar instead of the milk.
  • This coffee cake was my first sweepstakes winner and since has won many blue ribbons and sweepstakes.
  • I just love this coffee cake with coffee.

And we just love love love you, Marjorie! Thanks for being such an inspiration to us all, in so many ways.

-Cyndi