Friday, August 19, 2011

Fun at the County Fair 2011- Blue Ribbon Recipes

Rides, food, music, animals, people (though by observation, sometimes the latter two might be interchanged!) A plethora of sights, sounds, smells, taste and touch, the County Fair can most definitely be an overload to the senses, especially those who choose to overindulge their taste buds before hopping on one ride after another! Thankfully I didn't have to experience the latter and enjoyed other fair attractions instead.
As with most all County Fairs, they attract both young and old and it makes for a wonderful week-long event that my family has enjoyed for many years. As a kid, I loved going to the fair with my Dad, especially the horse shows! It always seemed to rain when he took us in the mornings, so the smell of the horse barn and sweet hay was always in the air. LOL that could be why I love the smell to this day and where I really fell in love with horses! I also remember walking through the buildings with my Mom admiring all the canned goods and handwork items. My hubby could also tell you a story that would give you a good ole belly laugh of how one of his show pigs got loose and he had to chase it through the pig barn! Of course he wasn't laughing then, but it still made a wonderful memory that he can laugh about now. Fair week is a family event that makes for amazing memories so if you haven't taken your kids or your grandkids to your local fair, I encourage you to do so and even participate if you can!
Getting ready for the fair is a lot of work. Weeks and months of planning and preparation have gone into the entries. The pride and care one has taken in their projects, whether it's in raising a lamb through the 4-H program or baking a cake as a Girl Scout, explodes into the anticipation of winning a blue ribbon and for certain categories a premium to go along with it. The County Fair gives everyone- both young and young at heart, a chance to show off their favorite hobbies and crafts or to brag about that 50 pound squash one grew in their garden and almost everything else in between including a jalepeño eating contest and outhouse races!
This is the first year that none of my kids participated and though I still enjoyed attending and entering my crafts, canned and baked goods and a few photographs, it just wasn't the same without them there to share in the fun. But as in years past, I closed up shop for a week so I could gather up my projects and do last minute preparations.
Blue Ribbon Antique Window
Gathering things up.
This year I made 2 jams and 10 different varieties of jellies and after 105 jars later, I entered 10 of those along with banana bread, a lemon loaf, sourdough biscuits, a pie, several photos, the recycled antique window (above), and a couple of embroidered projects. Then there was the open baking contest for which I baked 3 more pies. LOL and let me tell you, there's nothing like a friendly open baking contest! So much excitement in the air!
I'm so glad that I wasn't a judge for all those baked and canned goods the fair took in this year. I have a hard enough time not tasting at home let alone being asked to judge such delicious and high calorie foods! LOL, but it's the County Fair where calories don't count, right?
Well, I didn't grow a 50 pound squash in my garden and my home-grown tomatoes were certainly nothing to brag about, but I did come away with several blue ribbons and as promised to my Yahoo group, I'm sharing some of the recipes I used for you to enjoy too!
Blue Ribbon Jellies
2011 Blue Ribbon Jellies
I don't think I'll get all of the recipes added today, but here's a few to get you started:
Remember that Amish Friendship Bread sourdough starter I've been experimenting with for several months? I'm happy to report that there have been no more volcanic-like eruptions in my oven! In fact the Banana Bread recipe not only got 1st place in its category, it was also chosen as this year's "Best Bread" at the San Juan County Fair!
As you may recall from a previous post, we live at 5,860 feet above sea level, so this recipe has been adjusted for high altitudes. I have decreased the oil and the baking powder and increased the bananas. I also now bake ALL of my bread & pies with an unglazed clay pot in the bottom of the oven that has been filled with water. Having this moisture actually slows down the cooking process and simulates a sea level environment.
If you don't need to make adjustments, then you'll find the original Amish Friendship Bread recipes on the Friendship Bread Kitchen's web site

Banana Nut Amish Friendship Bread
Blue Ribbon Banana Bread
1st Place & Best Bread
1 cup Amish friendship bread starter
3 large mashed bananas
3 eggs
2/3 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
2 boxes banana cream instant pudding
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325° F. In a large mixing bowl, add ingredients as listed.
Grease 2 large loaf pans. Pour the batter evenly into loaf pans.
Bake for 1 hour, or until the bread loosens evenly from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

I guess I should mention that I threw out the original starter I made when I first began experimenting with the Amish Friendship Bread starter and the recipes at high altitudes. I just wasn't all that happy with the way the sponge was forming. I then decided I wanted more of a "wild" sourdough so when it got warmer, I made a new batch. My jar of starter now goes outside everyday to sit in the sun and soak up the wild yeasts that are in the air and comes in every evening before it starts getting cool. Now I have a TRUE New Mexico sourdough! I'll find a nice warm and sunny window to help keep the yeast thriving during the winter months.
By the can use any sourdough starter with these recipes. For instance, if you want a sourdough that uses less sugar, try a potato bread starter instead.
Here's another 2011 San Juan County Fair blue ribbon winner. I made no adjustments to this recipe other than using Hungarian flour and an unglazed clay pot during baking: 

Sourdough Biscuits
Sourdough Biscuits
1 package Active Dry Yeast
1 1/4 cup Lukewarm Water
1/3 cup Sugar
1 cup Sourdough starter
3/4 teaspoon Salt
5 cups bread flour (I prefer Hungarian or King Arthur's Flour for high altitudes)
Melted butter or Margarine

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water with a little sugar till bubbly. Sourdough is a yeast but rises faster with added commercial yeast and of course living at a high altitude, sometimes a boost is needed.

In a large mixing bowl add sugar, salt, sourdough starter, yeast and flour. Cover; set in warm spot and let rise until double. Punch down and turn out onto floured work surface. Roll out to 3/4 inch thickness. Cut with biscuit cutter.

To prevent hard biscuits, try to cut out as many biscuits as possible before re-rolling the dough.

Dip both sides in melted butter and place on well-greased baking sheet.

Let rise 15 min. Bake at 425 - 20 min. or until golden brown.
Again, I used an unglazed clay pot filled with water in the bottom of my oven.

Whether you like Banana Cream Pie or Coconut Cream Pie, the following recipe is for you! I entered the Coconut Cream Pie version in our County Fair's Open Baking Contest and got 1st place in that category. The judges wanted to take it home with them! I think I'll enter the Banana Cream next time! 

Coconut Cream Pie
Coconut Cream PieCoconut Cream Pie- Blue Ribbon
The judges wanted to take this one home!
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut extract
1/2 cup flaked coconut
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup sifted powdered sugar
Toasted coconut for garnish if desired.

Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a heavy saucepan; stir well. Combine egg yolk, half-and-half, and milk and beat until blended. Gradually stir into sugar mixture until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Transfer to a glass bowl, stir in butter, vanilla, coconut extract and coconut. Cover with plastic wrap and cool to room temperature. Pour cooled custard into baked pie shell and chill until firm.

Beat whipping cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread over pie filling. Garnish with toasted coconut if desired.
Banana Cream Pie
Banana Cream Pie
Prepare as above, omitting the coconut and coconut extract. Arrange 2 large bananas that have been sliced and dipped in lemon juice to prevent browning in bottom of your cooled pie shell.
As you can see in the photo of the Banana Cream Pie, I chose to add what we call a "mile-high" meringue instead of the whipped topping in the recipe- LOL, that's the kind where the meringue is twice as high as the pie filling!
If you've never made a meringue, here are a few tips I've learned over the years.

* Use Fresh Eggs
* After separating the eggs, bring the egg white to room temperature (about 15-20 minutes)
* Add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, AFTER the egg whites become foamy.
* Spread the meringue over a HOT filling and spread to the edges of the pie to seal completely before baking. This helps prevent weeping and shrinking.
4 Egg Whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Beat in vanilla. Spread over hot filling, sealing to the edges. Bake 10-12 minutes or until meringue is lightly browned. Cool.

As an experiment, I used lavender in several recipes this year, mostly jelly. The following pie recipe is what resulted from one of my experiments and received a blue ribbon in the regular baking category of "any other fruit pie" as well as a 3rd place ribbon in the Open Baking category of "any other pie." In the latter competition, there were 14 different varieties of pies judged which, according to the sponsors is the most risky category for an open baking competition because you never know what other pies you're up against like you would in a peach vs peach or coconut vs coconut.
If you don't have fresh chokecherries in your area, try using cherry juice or a cranberry juice cocktail. 

Chokecherry- Lavender Pie
Chokecherry- Lavender PieChokecherry- Lavender Pie 1st Place
1 Baked Pie Shell, cooled
8 oz package Cream Cheese, softenend
8 oz carton Cool Whip, thawed
2 cups sugar divided in 1/2
2 Cups Chokecherry Juice (reserve 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon dried culinary grade lavender buds
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

In microwave safe measuring cup heat 1/2 cup chokecherry juice. Remove from microwave and add lavender buds. Cover and steep for 10 minutes. Strain Juice, throwing away the lavender buds. Set aside to cool.
Add cornstarch to cooled 1/2 cup juice. Mix well and set aside.
Heat remaining 1-1/2 cups juice with sugar in a non-reactive saucepan & bring to a boil.

Add cornstarch mixture; cook to thicken over medium high heat, stirring constantly.
Set aside to cool.

Mix cream cheese, Cool Whip and 1 cup sugar until stiff. Spread ½ of this mixture into the bottom of pie shell. Keep filled crust and other half of mixture in refrigerator until ready to use.
When pudding mixture has cooled and thickened, spread over cream cheese mixture.

Gently spread remaining cream cheese mixture over pudding.
Garnish with fresh chokecherries and sprinkle with a few lavender buds. (I used dried pink rose and lavender buds. Serve Chilled.

These should keep you busy for at least a couple of days. : ) I'll try to get the jam and jelly recipes posted in the next day or two.
Enjoy your day!

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