Sunday, July 26, 2015


Friday was a looooong day. This is going to be a long post. Grab your bowl of popcorn and settle in.

Cakes got done Thursday night and I put them on their cooling racks and went to bed at 1 am.

Alarm went off at 5 am. First thing I made was the Blueberry Crumble Pie. This is my "go to" pie. I invented this recipe for the Blueberry Contest at the 2007 Johnson County Fair. It was pie champion that year and I've had great success with it ever since.

40 minutes to make the pie. 60 minutes in the oven. G and I had to leave for Carmel at 7:30 am so I had just enough time to cook  the bacon I needed for my Loaded Potato Rolls later in the day.

Blueberry Crumble Pie
Everything is better with bacon!
I dropped G off and headed back to the Interstate. Gotta get home QUICK today! I am on the highway ramp when traffic comes to stop. A towing RIG with flashing lights squeezes by, followed by a fire truck. NO! Oh yes, there's an accident. A semi rolled over onto its side ON the highway ramp. Lucky for me (I guess), I was only about 10 cars back so I was able to pass around the whole mess in about 15 minutes. Around the Interstate I go, then onto SR 37... and traffic comes to a crawl again. Another flatbed semi had dumped it's entire payload onto the right lane of the highway so everything was down to one lane. Ugh. Another delay.
FINALLY home. Next up are the Loaded Potato Rolls, my Fancy Dinner Roll item in the Yeast Bread Class. Another "go to" recipe that I created for a State Fair contest several years ago. Dough mixes up like a dream and I put it in my car to rise. Yes, my car. It's another 90 degree day. The black interior of my SUV makes it the perfect proofing oven.

Next up are Honey Pecan Bars, my Honey Cookie item in the Make It with Honey Class. You have to use honey as your primary sweetener in this Class. Another "go to " recipe. In this recipe you bake a bottom shortbread crust first, cook up a honey pecan filling on the stovetop, then pour it over the crust and bake it some more. My notes from past years told me to bake the crust really well to make sure it's nice and firm for the filling. It's a bar cookie and bar cookies need to be firm enough to pick up and eat.

The crust comes out of the oven nicely brown. There are a couple cracks across the bottom but I figure the filling will hold everything together. Filling goes in, bars go back in the oven, then out to cool on a cooling rack. I've lined the whole pan with parchment paper so once it's completely cool I can lift the whole thing out and cut it into bars on my countertop.

By now my Loaded Potato Rolls are done with their first rise so I bring them back inside and shape them into rolls. Three trays of rolls then go back into my SUV for their second rise.

Next up, I put my macadamia nuts into the nut grinder to make them into coarse chunks, then under the broiler to toast them. Nut tray goes on the bun rack to cool.

Now to cut the caramels. They have set up for well over 18 hours now. I chill them briefly, then try to cut them. They cut beautifully but it's so hot and humid in my kitchen that they won't hold their shape for any length of time, especially after it's been cut into a little square. I had cut squares of wax paper that had been lightly greased to wrap them up in but it was a cumbersome process. I could only cut one row of caramels at a time before I had to return the pan to the refrigerator. I wrapped about 16 pieces (since I only needed 6) then put the rest of the pan on a cookie sheet and threw it in the refrigerator to deal with later.

Loaded potato rolls are now done rising so in the oven they go. Perfect. I love this recipe.

OK, 2 pm. I have time for one more item. I settle on making Molasses Cookies. Another recipe I've made for many years. In years past when I've entered more items I would always make all my cookie doughs several days in advance and put them in the refrigerator. Then, on Friday, all I had to do was scoop out the premade dough for my cookies. Now there is a BIG difference in how the cookies bake if you chill the dough first. There is an excellent explanation over at King Arthur Flour HERE. Most cookies bake and taste better if you chill the dough at least overnight. There are some exceptions. The other two cookies I planned to make were the exceptions so I just didn't pre-make any dough. In retrospect, I should have pre-made the molasses cookie dough.

First tray of molasses cookies came out too flat and spread out. I put the second tray in the refrigerator while the first tray was baking because I could see how fast the first tray was spreading. I then made a third tray and put that in the freezer. I generally put 8 or 9 cookies on a cookie sheet. This way once I get a cookie sheet of cookies I'm happy with, I can pick out the 6 that are the most uniform and take a bite out of another one to make sure it tastes OK. I end up with a lot of cookies with one bite out of them. Once I get the six I want, I put the rest of the dough away to bake later and move on to the next recipe.

It took all three trays of cookies before I got a tray of Molasses Cookies that I was happy with. Now it's almost 3 pm. I put all the cookies on the cooling racks and left to go pick up G.

The skies opened up and it started pouring rain while I drove to Carmel. Traffic on the Interstate was very stop and go. It will just be a matter of time before someone wrecks...

I pick up G and head back to the Interstate. I can already see that it's a parking lot on the overpass. I'm not taking any chances. I decide to drive through the city instead. At least that way if there's a wreck I'll have side streets to bypass it. Suddenly, traffic on the street I'm on comes to a standstill. What?!!! There's a stalled car in my lane. We all have to slooowly scooch past it. We finally get to SR 37. We made it in exactly the same amount of time it would have normally taken on the Interstate so I'm feeling pretty good about things now. We're flying down SR 37 and... it turns into a parking lot.

I can count on one hand the number of times I've pulled a U-turn on the highway and today was one of them. After about 10 minutes of crawling down the highway I turned around at the first cut-through I saw and decided to drive back up north then cut east over onto SR 135. We had to stop at the grocery store anyway. G was making an apple pie for the Fair and needed apples and I needed more bacon. So... we're tooling down SR 135 and, once again, traffic comes to a complete stop. WTF!! I'm ready to pull my hair out (plus I have to pee...) Inch along... inch along... I can see the problem now... the storm knocked the power out to the traffic lights down SR 135.

We finally get to the grocery store; hit the bathroom and pick up our groceries. The sky is BLACK as we're running to our car. As soon as we get in the skies open up and it DOWNPOURS. Lightening everywhere. G breaks open the bag of candy she had just bought and tells me, "We're going to die so I want to eat my candy first."

Well, we lived. We got home at 7pm. Ate something for dinner; I can't remember what. I turn most of the kitchen over to G to make her pie. I go over to plate my Molasses Cookies... pick up a cookie...and the whole thing just droops in my hand. All the cookies had sucked up more moisture from the humidity in the air in the 4 hours that had passed. The cookies are suppose to be soft and ever so slightly under baked in the middle but firm on the bottom. These were no longer firm. ACK!!! OK, I will have to try and gently crisp them somehow in the oven.

It then occurs to me to look at my pie. It has a crumb top. Usually it takes 2-3 days for the crumb top to get soft. It's always nice and crunchy for the first day or so. Not today. The top was already soft. I put it under a glass dome to prevent any more sogginess but the damage was already done.

G is making her pie so I made the Espresso Buttercream for the cake. I love this buttercream recipe but it involves heating a sugar water mixture on the stovetop to 240 degrees - so more heat in the kitchen.

Now to ice the cake... it occurs to me that the cakes have been sitting out on the racks since last night. Hopefully they haven't dried out. I touch their tops; they're sticky. Hmmm... no chance of anything drying out in this kitchen tonight! I use a cake knife to level the tops and then realize the cake is VERY moist - like so moist it gums up the knife. This is a very moist and dense cake to start with. It melts like fudge in your mouth because of it. I just hope the judges don't think the cake is not done. Nothing I can do about it now. I iced between the layers and crumb coated it, then stuck it in the refrigerator.

Moving on to Two-Layer Fudge, my entry in the Microwave Candy category in the Make It in the Microwave Class. It's a super easy recipe with chocolate fudge on the bottom and vanilla fudge on top. The chocolate pours fine. The vanilla is stiff. I'm not happy with it. I should make it over but I just want to move on at this point.

G's pie is now done and the kitchen is mine again. It's after midnight.

Next up are Bacon and Date Scones, my Other Quick Bread entry in the Quick Breads Class. First I had to fry up more bacon then I made the scones. Scones go in the refrigerator to chill an hour.

Buttered Popcorn and Malted Milk Ball cookies are next. They are my entry in the Drop Cookie category in the Cookie Class. They were the winner of the Popcorn Contest at the State Fair several years ago and a favorite of mine. The cookies have popcorn baked in them and taste best the day they are made or else the popcorn gets soggy so that's why I made them towards the end of the day.

After the popcorn cookies, I make the dough for the Oatmeal Cranberry Flax Cookies. They are my entry in the cookie category of the Heart Healthy Class. This has been a Class Champion before. The dough has to sit for at least 30 minutes for the oats to soften so while this dough is resting I make the dough for the Iced Pineapple Coconut Macadamia Cookies. This is my entry in the Other Cookie category in the Cookie Class. I created this recipe several years ago for the Ellison Bakery Cookie Contest at the State Fair.

Now to bake everything. Scones go in first, followed by the Oatmeal Cranberry Flax cookies, then the Coconut Macadamia. Check, check, check.

While the cookies are baking I start cutting my Two-Layer Fudge and Honey Pecan Bars for plating. The fudge cuts fine; the Honey Pecan Bars are another story. So... remember the cracks in the crust? The gooey filling leaked out through the cracks and collected under the crust in places, making the crust soft and gooey too. I managed to cut 6 pieces from near the edges where it wasn't quite as bad but it definitely was not a firm crust like it should have been. I really should have made this over but now it was the wee hours of the morning and I just couldn't do it.

One more batch of Espresso Buttercream to make, then the final layer of icing on the cake.

I still needed to ice the Coconut Macadamia cookies, type up some of the newer recipes, and finish weaving in some yarn for my crochet items but I just couldn't do it. I was hot and sticky and gross and tired. It was 5 am. I took a shower and went to bed, alarm set for 7:30 am.

Two hours later I was up and at 'em again. I finished icing the cookies. Typed the recipes. Finished the crochet. 10 am. It was time to load the car and GO.

Another exhausting night before the Fair. Some days I wonder why I do this but then I know... I love creating food that is beautiful to look at as well as wonderful to eat... and I love the competition.

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