Tag: Minnesota State Fair

Great Chocolate Cake Contest Winner: MN Blackout Cake

The Kowalski’s Great Chocolate Cake Contest Winner at the 2022 Minnesota State Fair was this phenomenal “MN Blackout Cake.”

With its three layers, pudding filling, chocolate drip, and decoration, this cake is a chocolate lover’s dream come true. It’s intense color and flavor are going to wow you, just like it did us and the judges.

Replicating it as we did, takes time, but every bite makes it worth the effort.

Great Chocolate Cake Contest Winner MN Blackout Cake

Kudos to Michelle Seywerd who was the Great Chocolate Cake Contest Winner at the 2022 Minnesota State Fair with this inspired creation.

Michelle’s husband loves Guinness chocolate cake which was her first idea of what to enter. Then she recalled the notorious Brooklyn Blackout Cake. Michelle’s winning recipe is a twist on it. She used this recipe as her base and then adapted a Food Network pudding filling. She added the fun chocolate shards on top too. We were shocked to learn Michelle had barely baked a cookie before the pandemic but really got into it with her daughter, who was a toddler at the time. They started with basic baked goods, watched a lot of YouTube channels, and worked up to more challenging recipes. “It’s been quite a journey,” Michelle shared.

Decadently Dark Cake

In her own words, Michelle describes her MN Blackout Cake here:

A decadently dark cake perfect for the dark chocolate lover in your life! I created a twist on the classic Brooklyn Blackout Cake by featuring black cocoa. Black cocoa is used to give Oreos that distinct color and flavor. Here, I’ve featured chocolate in 4 ways –  layers of moist cocoa cake, filled with black cocoa pudding filling, dripping with a semi sweet chocolate ganache, and topped with intense dark chocolate shards. The result – the boldest and richest chocolate flavor possible without use of food coloring. Enjoy with a nice glass of cold milk! Thank you!

Baking Tips: Great Chocolate Cake Contest Winner

Some random tips we got from Michelle and learned along the way, are these:

  • You’ll want to double the cake portion of the recipe if you want to recreate Michelle’s 3-layer version she won with at the fair. You’ll have an extra single layer that works great to taste and decorate separately. We did crushed salted peanuts on ours (4th unused layer) and loved it. You could also go for a 4 layer cake, but that’s mighty big.
  • If you opt to not double the cake and don’t want extra of the pudding filling, you’ll want to cut that recipe portion in half or do 2/3. The thick filling layer makes this cake a show stopper in our opinion. I would eat that pudding filling as a solo dessert. It’s that good.
  • We got our black cocoa from King Arthur and loved the results. Get yours here.
  • Using black cocoa over the buttered parchment helps the cake keep its intense color.

  • With chocolate drip, if you’re starting with a chocolate bar (versus chocolate chips), chop it into small pieces until they’re about the size of chocolate chips. You’ll get a smoother, more efficient melt.
  • If you can’t find 90% cacao chocolate, use 100% (2 ounces) and semi-sweet chocolate (1 ounce) as a substitute.
  • When we did the chocolate drip, we started with the edge. We worked by the spoonful for more control and to get the drizzle/drip look we wanted.
  • Michelle says this cake is not a fast one to make, but the payoff is totally worth it.

We invite you to re-create the magic of this MN Blackout Cake. Be sure to share on social media and tag @blueribbonfoodies. We want to see what you’re baking!

Enjoy!

-Cyndi

 

No-Sugar Gourmet Banana Bread

This award-winning No-Sugar Gourmet Banana Bread took 1st place at the 2022 Minnesota State Fair. The Splenda Magic Baker “Low-To-No Sugar Showdown” recipe contest was new this year. It called for quick and delicious quick breads.

This blue ribbon winning bread comes from Gina Walker, who won $200 and some bigtime bragging rights.

No-Sugar Gourmet Banana Bread

Gina had never before competed in a recipe contest or at the State Fair. Gina was cheered on by a good friend who has diabetes. In fact, Gina says she never would have entered without her friend’s encouragement.

No-Sugar Gourmet Banana Bread

Baking Tips

Here are some great tips about this recipe:

  • Make sure you bananas are overly ripe, fragrant and flavorful. Gina likes to tuck hers in a dark cupboard until they’re blackened. She often freezes mashed portions of them to have on hand throughout the year
  • Also, don’t skip the coconut extract or orange juice.
  • And don’t be scared of the amount of baking powder the recipe calls for: 1 1/2 tablespoons. No, it is not a typo.

We have made this no-sugar gourmet banana bread numerous times and can attest to it’s deliciousness. For some reason, because of how all the ingredients work together, this bread comes out tasting fantastic every time.

The most recent time we baked it, we made mini loaves and added shredded unsweetened coconut. YUM! They make great gifts for friends and freeze well. And with a smear of peanut butter, a slice is even more magical, if that is possible!

Enjoy!

-Cyndi

1st Place Creative Cookie at Minnesota State Fair

These Crispy Creamy Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies are a 2022 blue ribbon winner, a 1st Place creative cookie at the Minnesota State Fair.

Betsy Faber created these for one of the new 2022 special contests. She won $100 and lots of accolades. They are exceedingly delicious. The cookies themselves are candy-like and the filling is magical. They are said to blur the line between candy and cookie.

Recreate these award-winning cookies today! Be sure to follow the recipe because Betsy gives lots of tips and tricks. Using no oil peanut butter is key, as well as not overheating the “dough” part.

You are going to want to make these time and time again!

Enjoy!

-Cyndi

 

Minnesota State Fair Baking Competition Winners Announced

Minnesota State Fair 2022 Baking Competition Winners Announced

  • Blue Ribbon Group special contests celebrate the best in home baking & cooking

  • Find the complete Creative Activities Building winner list here

  • Take in daily live demos/tasting Events in the Cambria Kitchen, starting with Kowalski’s Markets opening day

 

Minneapolis-St Paul, August 25, 2022 – Please join the Blue Ribbon Group in congratulating all the talented and creative entrants in our Blue Ribbon Special Contest Series at the Minnesota State Fair.

 

Splenda Magic Baker “Low-To-No Sugar Showdown” Winners

1st Place – Gina Walker of Savage for “Gina’s Sugar-Free Gourmet Banana Bread”

2nd Place – Billie Holterman-Schniepp of Cottage Grove for “Low-Sugar Apple Coffee Cake”

3rd Place – Christina Bergstrom of Twin Lakes for “Peaches & Cream Coffee Cake”

 

Kowalski’s “Great Chocolate Cake Contest” Winners

1st Place – Michelle Seyward of Woodbury for “MN Black Out Cake”

2nd Place – Erin Dooley of St Paul for “Tribute to Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake”

3rd Place – Colleen Jensen of Woodbury for “Merry’s Chocolate Orange Cupcakes”

 

Kowalski’s Supreme Sourdough Contest Winners

1st Place – Guillermo Guardia of Minneapolis for “Peruvian Sourdough Croissants”

2nd Place – Karen Cope of Minneapolis for “Beer & Cheese Sourdough Bread Twist”

3rd Place – Molly Abbattista of Minneapolis for “Sourdough Focaccia Barese”

 

Blue Ribbon “Best Peanut Butter Cookie” Contest Winners

1st Place – Betsy Faber of St. Paul for “Crispy Creamy Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies”

2nd Place – Emily York of Hopkins for “Peanut Butter & Chocolate Macarons”

3rd Place – Sheila Mullen of Woodbury for “Salted Caramel Nougat-Filled Peanut Butter Cookies”

 

Blue Ribbon “Best Cream Pie” Contest Winners

1st Place – Melinda Chapel of Rosemount for “Blueberry Mojito Pie”

2nd Place – Randy Ferguson of Randolph for “The Pie-phrodisiac” (Chocolate Almond Coconut Pie)

3rd Place – Rachael Hood of St. Louis Park for “Blackberry Smash Cream Pie”

 

Blue Ribbon “Salad Bowl Tournament” Winners

1st Place – Amy Ellenberger of St Paul for “Lemony Summer Kale Salad”

2nd Place – Mia Bremer of Minneapolis for “Herby Tortellini Harvest Salad”

3rd Place – Ellen Joseph of Minneapolis for “Peppery Greens with Shrimp, Soba Noodles & Crunch Herbs”

 

3 Cricketeers “Energy Bars & Power Balls” Recipe Contest

1st Place – Amy Ellenberger of St. Paul for “Magic Chai Power Balls”

2nd Place – Tiffany Mainella of Rochester for “Apple Pie Energy Balls”

3rd Place – Eamon Whiteaker of St. Paul for “Cherry Chocolate Almond Energy Balls”

 

Find the Minnesota State Fair’s complete Creative Activities Building winner list here. During the fair, visit the Creative Activities Building to view entries across all baking classes and categories. To get involved:

  • Sign up for Creative Activities Mailing list (Under Participant tab at MNSTATEFAIR.org)
  • Follow Blue Ribbon Foodies on Instagram or Facebook

 

Thank you to the brands that made this Minnesota blue ribbon contest line-up possible:

@splenda

@kowalskis_markets

@kingarthurbaking

@3cricketeers

@thesaladgirl

 

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2022 Minnesota State Fair Blue Ribbon Competitions

2022 Minnesota State Fair Blue Ribbon Competitions Celebrate Home Baking & Cooking

7 New Special Contests & Blue Ribbon Group Baker Awards Offer Kudos & Cash Prizes

$3,325 in Winner Prizes Up for Grabs

Minneapolis – July 24, 2022 – Home cooks from throughout the Twin Cities are hitting their kitchens to vie for big first place prizes and bragging rights in our blue ribbon recipe contest series at the 2022 Minnesota State Fair. The much beloved tradition of competing is a quintessential state fair experience you don’t want to miss.

Calling All Blue Ribbon Foodies & Minnesota State Fair Lovers!! August 20, 2022 is Entry Drop Off Day

In this skill-based competitive event, home cooks prepare their entries at home and deliver them to fairgrounds for judging . You drop off your entry the Saturday before the fair opens , so it’s easy in, easy out. Drop off is 9:30am to 1pm on Saturday, August 20, 2022. You can even have a friend drop it off if you can’t make it. Competition is open to Minnesota residents only. Thousands of items from hundreds of competitors come in. Staff and volunteers sort, tag and organize everything for judging, a process closed to the general public. The Minnesota State Fair then showcases top finishers in window/display cases (Creative Activities Building) throughout entire run of fair (August 25 – Sept 5, 2022). Look also for chef presentations and product sampling among the Cambria Kitchen demonstrations schedule during the fair.

If you are on social media, be sure to follow, post and tag BLUE RIBBBON FOODIES and contest sponsors on Instagram or Facebook (or both =) for special giveaways and more ways to win in the kitchen.

Raspberry Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Building on the success of 2021’s blue ribbon baking contest series and our decades of arranging national state fair recipe contests, our 2022 Minnesota State Fair plans include Blue Ribbon Baker Awards to honor each blue ribbon winning baker for their best cookies, cakes, pies, pies, and breads. Plus, we arranged seven (7) new special contests with 1st place prizes ranging from $100 to $200. They put the spotlight on sugar-free baking, classic artisan breads, creative cookies and cakes, energy bars made with cricket powder, and even healthy salads!

Key Dates

**Competitors Register by Tue Aug 9, 2022, 4:30pm**

**Drop Off Day Sat Aug 20, 2022, 9:30am to 1pm**

**View Winner Displays & Recipe Demos Aug 25 to Sep 5 in Creative Activities Building**

*Low-To-No Sugar Showdown – calling for the best quick breads made with Splenda products and no added sugar. Prizes total $350 with $200 for 1st place, $100 for 2nd place, $50 for 3rd place. Bring on the baked goods that are perfect for those avoiding sugar or are living with diabetes. Think scrumptious scones, marvelous muffins, and crave-worthy coffee cakes. Quick breads made with fruit, vegetables, or spices qualify too. This contest made possible by Splenda and its new plant-based, zero-calorie, sugar-free sweetener, Magic Baker.

Splenda Low-To-No-Sugar Showdown

*Great Chocolate Cake Contest – prominently feature chocolate as an ingredient and flavor 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. The most unique and most delicious cakes will win. Prizes valued at $175 are up for grabs for the top 3 finishers, plus bonus prizes for broader “best in class” cake winners. This contest made possible by Kowalski’s Markets.

Double Chocolate Bacon Cake

*Supreme Sourdough Bread Contest – the spotlight is on sensational sourdough this year. Enter yours in the new “Supreme Sourdough Bread” Contest at the 2022 Minnesota State Fair. Prizes valued at $175 will go to the best sourdough bread bakers. Plus, bonus prizes will go to the fair’s broader “best in class” 1st place bread winners, from quick breads to yeast breads, sweet or savory. This contest made possible by Kowalski’s Markets.

Sourdough Polish Rye Bread

*Blue Ribbon Best Peanut Butter Cookie Contest – We want to see your tastiest and most unique cookies and cookie bars, any shape or size. Creativity counts! Use 1/4 cup (or more) peanut butter, plus any flavors and any ingredient combinations you love, to wow the judges. Prizes valued at $175 are up for grabs, plus bonus prizes for broader “best in class” cookie and bar winners. This contest made possible by Blue Ribbon Group and King Arthur Baking Company.

Jumbo Peanut Butter Butterfinger Cookies-from above

*Blue Ribbon Best Cream Pie Contest – Make your creamiest and dreamiest pie entry, any size or shape. Creativity for the win! Prizes valued at $175 are up for grabs for the top 3 finishers, plus bonus prizes for all broader “best in class” pie winners. This contest made possible by Blue Ribbon Group.

Best Banana Cream Pie Recipe Overhead Shot

*Energy Bars & Power Balls Recipe Contest – if you missed last year’s first-ever 3 Cricketeers recipe contest, get cracking on your “Energy Bars & Power Balls” contest entry for the Minnesota State Fair. We want to see creative recipes using 3C’s 100% pure cricket powder and additional ingredients known to boost and energize – peanut butter, nuts, seeds, oatmeal, and chocolate, for example. Your entry can be any shape, size, or style, baked or the no bake kind. This contest made possible by support from 3 Cricketeers.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats

*Salad Bowl Tournament – make your best bountiful salad with any Salad Girl™ dressing and any other ingredients, from fresh vegetables, salad greens, herbs, and fruits, to proteins and nuts. Your entry can be in a bowl, or not. We’re looking for nutritious, unique, innovative, and creative recipes. Among the other judging criteria: appearance, color, presentation; texture, balance of ingredients, and flavor, aroma. Prizes valued at $175 are up for grabs. This contest made possible by Blue Ribbon Group with support from Kowalski’s Markets and Salad Girl.

State Fair Baking, Cooking & More

Don’t miss this treasured tradition that hundreds of Minnesotans take part in every year. You’ll rub elbows with like-minded home cooks and hobby bakers on entry drop-off day and once the fair opens see what wins in display cases throughout the Creative Activities Building. The experience is also a wonderful warm-up for the upcoming holiday baking season.

First Time Participant or Need a Refresher?

All registration goes through the Minnesota State Fair competition department. Registration is free! There’s also 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 12-18 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.

 

 

Splenda Low-To-No-Sugar-Showdown

New Splenda “Low-To-No Sugar Showdown” Recipe Contest Celebrates Sugar-Free Blue Ribbon Baking at State Fairs

$350 in Cash Awards for Top Winners in Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Texas, Arkansas; Bonus Prizes for Sugar-Free Bakers Nationally-

If you love cakes, cookies, pies, and other sweet treats but prefer them sugar-free or diabetes-friendly, check out the new Splenda “Low-To-No Sugar Showdown.” The state fair recipe contest series takes place this summer and fall at 5 prominent fairs.

  • Ohio State Fair  Runs 7/27/22 – 8/7/22   Judging 7/24/22 in Rhodes Center Building
  • Wisconsin State Fair   Runs 8/4/22 – 8/14/22   Judging 8/7/22 in Grand Champion Hall
  • Minnesota State Fair  Runs 8/25/22 – 9/5/22   Judging 8/20/22 in Creative Activities Building
  • State Fair of Texas  Runs 9/30/22 – 10/23/22   Judging 10/5/22 in Creative Arts Building
  • Arkansas State Fair  Runs 10/14/22 – 10/23/22   Judging 10/19/22 in Arts & Craft Center

Note: Most fairs require advance registration, which bakers do directly with each fair’s competition office. If you can’t compete at any of these fairs, you can still participate. See below.

The Low-Down on the “Low-To-No Sugar Showdown” (Product Giveaway!)

  • At each event, home-baking fairgoers receive a free 16 ounce bag of Splenda’s new plant-based, zero-calorie sweetener, Magic Baker (one per person, while supplies last).
  • All winning entries will feature Splenda Magic Baker or some other Splenda product.
  • Cookies, cakes, and diabetes-friendly desserts are among the varied themes at each showdown.
  • $350 in cash awards are up for grabs at each of the fairs.
  • 3 winners will receive cash prizes at each fair: 1st Place is $200, 2nd is $100, 3rd is $50.
  • Judges choose winners for being unique and creative, with great taste, flavor and aroma, as well as presentation and texture.
  • Look for a winning recipe collection on Blue Ribbon Group website and Blue Ribbon Foodies social media channels.

For contest details and complete competition guidelines, contact the fair’s entry office or the Blue Ribbon Group (here).

Bonus Prizes for Sugar-Free Baking Nationally

If you compete with a sugar-free/no added sugar recipe at ANY state fair (one of the above or other) and use Splenda, we invite you to share it with us for a chance to win a $25 gift card. To qualify, post before October 23, 2022 on social media — Facebook or Instagram, using #splenda, #lowtonosugar, #blueribbonfoodies, #blueribbonbaking, #statefair among your hashtags – and submit your sugar-free blue-ribbon-worthy baked good here. We will choose winning recipes (1 for each of 5 U.S. regions, if applicable) and feature them on our website and Blue Ribbon Foodies social media channels. Each baker with a winning recipe receives a $25 gift card.

Prize-Winning Parmesan & Chive Scones

These homemade, aromatic, prize-winning parmesan & chive scones are simply the best savory scones, in more ways than one.

You will relish their phenomenal taste and tender yet firm texture. Their golden brown appearance is drool-worthy for sure. If you love savory scones like we do, be sure to bake these soon! They are perfect for weekend brunches and snacks in between meals.

Prize-winning parmesan & chive scones

This remarkable recipe comes from Amy Ellenberger.

Blue Ribbon Baker - Best Scone Winner 2021 MN State Fair

Amy won “Best Scones” at the 2021 Minnesota State Fair with this recipe. One taste and you’ll know why this one is a winner.

We asked Amy what her secret to winning was. In her words: “Because scones are a fairly simple baked good (as in few ingredients), it is important to use the best quality ingredients, as there isn’t much to hide behind. For this recipe I like to use (Minnesota-based) Hope Creamery butter, a sour cream (like Daisy) that doesn’t contain thickeners and other artificial ingredients, garden fresh chives, and high-quality Parmesan cheese that is freshly grated.”

Step by Step Tutorial

Take Amy’s top tip and begin with the best ingredients.

Parmesan Chive Scones

You start by mixing the dry ingredients with the cheese and chives.

Prize-winning Parmesan & Chive Scones

Next, you cut in the cold butter. By the way, Amy’s family buys Hope Creamery butter by the case.

Prize-winning Parmesan & Chive Scones

At this stage you want to see the chilled butter in tiny clumps, roughly the size of peas.

Butte Cut in Stage - Prize-winning Parmesan & Chive Scones

You also use both sour cream and buttermilk in the recipe, plus an egg.

Prize-Winning Parmesan & Chive Scones

Mix the sour cream, buttermilk and egg smooth, then combine that mixture with your flour mixture.

Prize-winning Parmesan & Chive Scones

Once everything is together, you want a shaggy look to the dough.

Be careful not to overwork the dough. Shape it into a flat circle. You want it 1 ½ inches thick.

Prize-winning Parmesan & Chive Scones

Then cut out the scones. You should get 12 (2-inch size) rounds (or squares if you prefer that shape).

Prize-winning Parmesan & Chive Scones

As your final step, you brush each with heavy cream, then sprinkle with parmesan, a pinch of sea salt, and fresh cracked black pepper. You also want to chill them 30 minutes at this stage.

From Amy: Don’t skip the chilling step. This ensures the butter is solid and won’t leak out of your scones during baking.

Prize-Winning Parmesan & Chive Scones

After the chill time, the only thing to do is wait for them to bake (at 350 degrees Fahrenheit) for 25-30 minutes.

Prize-Winning Parmesan & Chive Scones: every bite will be pure delight. Seriously. Hit the kitchen and bake these now!

-Cyndi

p.s. Scones are best eaten shortly after they are baked. However, you can opt to freeze the dough to fresh bake the scones later (ideally within 2 months). Or you can freeze them after baking. Just pop a frozen one in the microwave for about 30 seconds before you nosh.

 

Blue Ribbon Triple Berry Pie

This Blue Ribbon Triple Berry Pie features a flaky butter crust and first-rate filling of blueberries, raspberries and cranberries. The combination makes for a delicious taste that’s perfectly sweet, but not overly so. Cinnamon and nutmeg give the pie tasty nuances as well.

MN State Fair Blue Ribbon Triple Berry Pie

This award-winning recipe comes from Tim Scott, a long-time lover of pies and baking-at-home. He entered his first Minnesota State Fair baking competition in 2016. His pie won best multi-berry pie out of 60 pies. He also placed 2nd and 5th with two other pies, making 2021 his best year yet. His first ribbon was in 2017, a 3rd place for a peach pie.

Cranberries for the Win?!

Given many multi-berry pies have blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, the cranberries are what helped Tim’s pie stand out. The proportions he used translated to a fantastic flavor. The tartness from the cranberries paired perfectly with the sweetness of the blueberries and raspberries. Tim shared that using the very best seasonal fruit from local growers is key. Ripeness plays a factor as well.

Tim shared that another secret to winning is being organized, enough so that the timing of baking multiple pies works out and every aspect get the attention and time it deserves. Tim’s strategy is to always make 2 pies per competition entry. He picks the more perfect one to enter. The other often goes to (very happy) neighbors.

Attention to Detail

Fun fact: Tim uses butter for all his Minnesota State Fair Pie entries, but lard for something like the Braham Pie Day Contest.

His advice to aspiring pie bakers trying his recipe: “Cranberries have a lot of pectin, so how much thickening agent you use is tricky,” Tim shared. “Pay close attention to how much liquid is in the berries after simmering to get the right consistency.”

As far as advice to first time baking contestants: practice by entering other baking contests for experience. Also, have tasters who know what good pie is (or great cake or cookie, etc.) and will give you honest feedback.

Great tips! Now give Tim’s Blue Ribbon Triple Berry Pie recipe a try! If you don’t bake, find a friend who does and request they make this! Pie lover alert: be sure to also check out our other award-winning pies on our site, like this other 2021 apple pie winner.

-Cyndi

 

Blue Ribbon Beer Bread

Say hello to this award winning Blue Ribbon Beer Bread. The recipe features the pilsner Wonderstuff, from Bauhaus Brew Labs in Minneapolis, along with cheddar cheese, rosemary, and honey. A thick slice of this bread solo or with a swipe of butter is pure bliss. It’s tender but hearty, and has a beautiful golden brown exterior.

The recipe comes from Cortney Carlson who won “best beer bread” with it at the 2021 Minnesota State Fair.

Cortney Carlson

This was her first blue ribbon win ever! In fact, she had only competed one other time, in 2019 for a special sugar cookie competition. Cortney shared, “Nothing came of the submission, but it ignited my interest in competing.”

Her recipe is easy to follow and replicate. It also great starting point for variations. After tasting and loving Cortney’s Blue Ribbon Beer Bread, we tried a cheddar, chive, and jalapeño version. It was really good also.

Winner Q&A

We caught up with Cortney for a Q&A recently. Read on to learn about her backstory.

BRG: What can you tell us about your Blue Ribbon Beer Bread recipe and why you chose it?

Cortney: While you’d think most people just KNOW they are submitting their (insert favorite recipe here… sugar cookies, sourdough, etc.), I actually stumbled across mine. When the categories for baking categories were released, I scanned the list for something to jump out at me. I like to try new recipes, new areas of baking, new techniques… so I didn’t go into this with a plan or recipe.

Immediately beer bread jumped out at me. My experience with bread was virtually nonexistent, but all the breweries around town, especially coming from Northeast Minneapolis? Not so much a mystery to me (hehehe).

Knowing little about bread, I looked at dozens of different recipes. I looked for types of beer bread, what types of things people added to them, and then just dove in. I liked the idea of adding an herb…I tried different cheeses, different styles of beers, and went back to the drawing board the more I tried things (that’s a MN nice way of saying the first attempts were gross). Once I started researching the right things, things started clicking and here we are. I landed on the attached final recipe.

BRG: What do you think your secret to winning was?

Cortney: The only thing larger than the amount of foods on a stick at the Minnesota State Fair is the Minnesota pride that you can feel in the air the entire twelve days of the fair. My recipe included ingredients made or headquartered in Minnesota. From local beer, honey, and cheese, to Pillsbury flour and rosemary grown at home… every part of that bread was a nod to people (myself) who say “ope” several times a day.

BRG: What is the worst disaster you’ve had in the kitchen and how did you deal with it?

Cortney: I’ve experienced the most average disasters – burning things, undercooking things, messing up a recipe, missing key ingredients, etc. The thing I’ve learned about kitchen disasters is that while it’s so disappointing and frustrating that day, the greatest lessons I’ve learned in the kitchen have come from the time I did it wrong.

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

Cortney:  Learn your staple dinners/desserts/contributions to potlucks, but don’t stay there. Try new areas of cooking. You like pie but have never made one? Try it. And know that you may not knock it out of the park the first try, but the more you try the more you will learn and can apply to the next recipe.

Great advice Cortney! Now everyone, get ready, set, and bake this bread!

-Cyndi

p.s. If you’re into breads, be sure to bake this blueberry winning recipe and this whole wheat winner.

Blue Ribbon Wheat Bread

This Blue Ribbon Wheat Bread is nothing short of perfection. We savored every slice and you will too!

Toasted Slice Blue Ribbon Wheat Bread

Recipe credit goes to Heather Zarrett who won “best whole wheat bread” and “best overall yeast bread” with it at the 2021 Minnesota State Fair. 

Heather Zarrett

Heather accomplished a “perfect bake” with her Blue Ribbon Wheat Bread. The recipe is one she knows by heart. It is her go-to whenever she wants to whip up a whole wheat loaf.  Also, it is based on a white bread loaf she uses as her starting point, or spring board to create new variations. We loved how perfectly it was baked. Just look at the inside texture. Wow.  

Sliced Bread with Butter, Jam

The tall rectangular pan she uses gives her Blue Ribbon Wheat Bread a boxy appearance, a shape with clean lines that are squared off.

Loaf of Blue Ribbon Wheat Bread

This blue ribbon baker is no stranger to winning. Heather has 50 award ribbons in her collection, all achieved at the Minnesota State Fair. The baking competitions there are referred to as the unofficial baking Olympics. With thousands of baking and cooking-related entries each year, it takes a lot of skill to stand out. We should note Heather also placed second in the “angel food cakes,” those sweet and airy sponge cakes we all love. Impressive! 

Secret to Winning?!

Heather felt one of her secrets to her winning success is milling her own flour from wheat berries. It gives the bread an ideal taste, texture and aroma.

Blue Ribbon Baking

Heather gets her wheat berries from her local food co-op or from the Minnesota folks at Sunrise Flour Mill. She also noted to make sure your yeast is fresh.

Give this recipe a try. We got our first taste from a loaf still warm from the oven, smothered with butter. Our enjoyment continued by having a toasted slice with peanut butter. We even spoiled ourselves with a cubed avocado and an egg on top. Conclusion, home-baked blue ribbon bread makes everything taste better.

-Cyndi