Saturday, July 16, 2016

2016 Johnson County Fair -Turn In Day

The bun rack is in the kitchen and the 2016 Fair Season has begun!

Admittedly, I wasn't going to do it this year. Then I decided I'd enter a couple crochet projects that I'd done over the last year, plus my favorite photo that I'd taken of my daughter... then I wanted to go see everything at the State Fair and it wouldn't be the same if I wasn't competing... so maybe a recipe or two... and some sponsored contests. Yes, it all snowballed.

Usually the turn-in for the County Fair falls on the Friday and Saturday of the first week of G's summer dance intensive so it's a crazy week of driving and baking. As luck would have it, this year G's dance intensive doesn't start until next week. G wanted to compete in the Junior Open category and she would have time to do it. I was excited for her and gave her several of my past winning recipes to recreate. I didn't want to compete them again because they have taken the top award in the County and State Fairs for several years now and I didn't want to keep doing the same thing over and over. G is dying to win a "big fluffy ribbon" so hopefully she will do well.

So... I came up with a list of brand new fair recipes to try out. Some of them I planned to enter in the State Fair so County is basically a practice run for me. Actually I planned to test some of these before the County Fair but, as usual, I ran out of time and ended up making them for the first time on Friday or Saturday.

First though, here are my non-food entries...

After my big office purge/organization I really worked on finishing some of the unfinished projects I had kept. I finished a lacy angora shawl I'd been working on since last spring a couple months ago. I actually wore it to one of my daughter's performances.

blocking my shawl

Lacy Shawl - crocheted cape, poncho, or shawl

Love it!

I finished a "Spider Web" doily I'd started, oh, maybe two or three years ago.

Spider Web Doily - doily under 12"
It's going to be a Halloween decoration

I entered the various baby items I made last summer for my Etsy site.

Lacy Acorn Sweater - crocheted baby item

Acorn Cardigan - crocheted sweater

Pumpkin Hat - crocheted hat

I also found some more adorable baby items to make on Ravelry and made these booties and hat.

Woodland Pixie Hat and Bootie Set - other crocheted yarn item

I'm planning to put them on my Etsy site later this summer. I love making baby items because they don't take forever to make and are so darn cute! I just have to sell what I make.

I entered the Canadian smocked pillow I made for G. I was going to make another one for J and actually enter that since the first pillow was a learning process but I ran out of time and didn't get a chance to make a second pillow so I entered the original one.

Canadian smocked pillow - sewn article for home utilizing creative stitching technique

I really wanted to enter the "Owl Obsession" baby afghan that I'd been working on fanatically for the last two weeks but there were some last minute issues (which will be a blog post of it's own) so I had to shelve it on Monday night.

I worked Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at 6:30 am. I stayed up really late on Sunday and Monday nights trying to get the owl afghan done before throwing in the towel on Monday night so by Tuesday I was trashed.

Pretty much collapsed on the first flat surface in my house on Tuesday after work. Wednesday was better and I wrote out a game plan for Thursday and Friday.

Thursday G and I started Fair Season my going out for brunch and ordering enough food to take home and eat for the rest of the day. We love breakfast! Next was a stop at the Johnson County Extension Office to pick up our entry tags so we could fill them out at home before taking all our stuff to the fairgrounds on Saturday. After that it was off to JoAnn, Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Fresh Thyme, and Meijer to pick up craft supplies and baking ingredients. Back to the house mid-afternoon to start fair prep.

Plan was for me to make my cakes while G made a floral arrangement. G's arrangement has a Christmas theme and the whole arrangement is surrounded by candy canes. I had purchased the candy canes after Christmas. She laid them all out and realized she didn't have enough to go around the base. Arghhhh! I told her to go do something else for awhile while I tried to figure something out. I made my cakes and ruminated.

I have my heart set on making a coconut layer cake this year. I found a wonderful coconut buttercream icing recipe and I dreamed of layers of moist coconutty white cake enrobed in this icing. I had a recipe that I had planned to try out on my co-workers last week but I got too busy with my afghan project and never got around to it. So... now I was making the recipe for the first time... and the layers came out flat... like really super flat.

Not what I was expecting. I re-read the recipe and I had made it exactly as written. I had two super flat layers. The recipe was simple enough so I made another batch of batter and baked two more layers. Four layers would give me the look I wanted. It was a white cake made with egg whites. But it looked really white too. My toothpick told me it was baked completely through but, man, it was really pale! I set those to cool and went back to deal with G's problem.

We had enough candy canes to cover a base 19"around. The one we had purchased was 25"around. I rummaged through the house to see if there was anything else that was cylindrical with a smaller circumference that we could use but found nothing. I had thrown everything out during my big purge. What to do? I finally decided to take a knife to the foam cylinder we had purchased and trim it down. I found a glass jar that was 17" around to trace and started sawing. Got the shape we needed and started getting out craft supplies for G. Then I realized someone had stuck low temperature glue sticks into the high temperature glue gun and destroyed it. I used to have two low temperature glue guns that used different shaped glue sticks - one with oval ends and one with rounds ends. Now all that was in my glue gun box were a bunch of round glue sticks and the glue gun that only used oval sticks. Arghhh again! It was back to Meijer to buy another glue gun. While I was there I got more baking supplies... just in case.

G was finally all set so I moved on to making my microwave candy. White Chocolate Praline Fudge. The original recipe called for it to be made on a stovetop and I had made it once this way last December.

White Chocolate Praline Fudge I made in December

I decided to try making the recipe in the microwave to enter in the "Make It In the Microwave" category. I poured everything in the pan and set it aside to set up overnight. I tasted the praline that was left in the bowl and was a little worried it tasted grainy. I'd just have to see what it tasted like after it was set as I learned last year candy can change in texture significantly over several hours.

Next up was my "Make It with a Box Mix" recipe. Peanut Butter Brookies. It's a brownie on the bottom topped with cut up Reese's peanut butter cups then covered with peanut butter cookie dough. A Pinterest find, I had made these for a relative's birthday party earlier this year. The original recipe called for a scratch brownie. I substituted a brownie mix for the base to enter it in this category.

After that, I made the cookie dough for my peanut butter cookies and my maple shortbread cookies. G was done with her flower arrangement by then so I instructed her to fry a pound of bacon for the rolls she was going to make in the morning. G is my healthy kid. She had never fried bacon before. Funniest thing she said was, "This is the McDonald's of meat!" From the mouths of babes...

I cut the mat for my photo and mounted it while she did that. We called it a day after that.

My photo entry

G's flower arrangement. I love it!

Friday was a big day. G had four baked goods to make and I had planned on about eleven. I got up at 7 am and made my pie. While that was baking I made Toasted Coconut Quinoa Breakfast Cookies in my top oven; my entry in the Heart Healthy category. G was still asleep when the pie came out so I made my Gooey Butter Cake. I was only going to enter one item in each category but this recipe popped up on my Pinterest feed and I was dying to try it. It too would go in the "Make It with a Box Mix" category but would be a cake while the Peanut Butter Brookies would be a cookie.

G was up after that so I turned the kitchen over to her for awhile. First she made her blueberry pie using our favorite blueberry pie recipe. While that was baking I had her start on her rolls. She is making my Loaded Potato Rolls. I think this is the best recipe I have ever created. It has not lost a competition in three years so I'm curious how it will do when she makes them. I basically sat in the kitchen and oversaw her time management (cause heck, it was my kitchen time too and I didn't want her to doddle!) while she baked. Pie is done, roll dough is rising, and I had her make the Iced Pineapple Coconut Macadamia cookies. Another Sweepstakes winning recipe. In Junior Baking G can only enter four items. Any four items. Junior Baking is not broken down into sub-categories like cookies, pies, etc. so all of her items will be competing against each other. I gave her three winning recipes and left the rest to her.

G's pie is done. Cookies are done. Rolls are done, and she decided she needed a nap so I got the kitchen back. I decided to make my Pesto Rolls next because that would take the longest time with two rises. I made the dough and during the first rise went to put the finishing touches on my Spiderweb Doily and the baby booties. I still had to stretch and block the doily. Done. Then I had to sew buttons on the baby booties... and I only had one button. Well, another trip to Joann. Plus, I found that I needed extra large ziplock bags to plate some of my items and G came up with her final baked item to make and still needed two ingredients so, another trip to Meijer.

In the summer the back of my SUV is the perfect proofing oven for my yeast breads. I shaped my Pesto Rolls and then they had to rise again for another hour. I stuck them in the back of my SUV, drove off to JoAnn and Meijer, and made it back just in time to throw the rolls in the oven. How's that for multi-tasking time management.

Rolls are baking and I cut and plated the White Chocolate Praline Fudge and PB Brookies. Fudge tasted better after a day. Phew!. I held my breath on the Brookies too because I was afraid the bottoms might be burned but they weren't.

Rolls came out... and I'm not too sure about them. Yes, they are Pesto Rolls... but they looked, well, green, and a little flatter than I wanted. Certainly not as attractive as the Loaded Potato Rolls. They tasted fine but the presentation wasn't exactly what I was looking for. I may need to shape them differently for the State Fair.

Next I made the coconut buttercream icing. Plan was to ice my cake while G made her last batch of cookies. I looked at the cake layers again. They were SO flat and SO white. Normally I level my cakes and taste the excess. These cakes were pancake flat so there was nothing to level or taste. I was scared to death they would be gummy and inedible. Do I just ice it and hope for the best or do I sample a layer and show a shorter cake? I always show a whole cake because I think a whole cake looks better. For the County Fair though, you only need to present 1/4 of a cake. I could sample a layer then stack what's remaining... Finally I couldn't stand it anymore and sampled the cake.

It's SO pale and FLAT!

I was going to have to taste it before making another one for the State Fair anyway. If this was awful I could just move on and find another recipe. The cake was OK. Not gummy. Actually pretty moist. Not incredible but OK enough to turn in for now. On the plus side, if I had had to ice four layers I would've had to make another batch of icing. I managed to get by (barely) with one batch for a three layer cake. So... cake was NOT what I had envisioned but it is done and entered. Not expecting much though.

Coconut Cream Cake

I really started losing steam after the cake. G was still baking her cookies in the top oven. I baked my peanut butter cookies in the lower oven, followed by my maple shortbread cookies.

G got done and left the kitchen. By now it was after 10 pm. I made my Spiced Pecan Buttercream Icing. I had made this icing last year to ice the Sweet Potato Cake that I had entered in the State Fair and fell in love with it. So tasty! I had visions of creating the perfect sandwich cookie by using it as a filling between the maple shortbread cookies I had made. Got the icing made and tried it out. It was a no go. The maple cookie totally overpowered the icing and you couldn't taste it at all. Finally decided I'd show the maple cookies by themselves as a cut-out cookie in the Cookie category.

It's getting late and I still don't have any items made for the Quick Breads, Candy, or Honey categories yet. I had two recipes for the Honey category. The first was a Lemon Coconut Cream sandwich cookie. The recipe said the filling needed to be frozen before using and that the cookie should be kept in the refrigerator. That should have been my cue that this was NOT going to work for the Fair but, oh, it just sounded so delicious I had to try it. I made the filling first. It was a total liquid FAIL. I threw it in the refrigerator and shelved it. Next, I was going to make a Nutella banana bread as my quick bread. I wasn't going to do a quick bread if I was running short on time but while I was running through Meijer on my third trip I decided I might have time so I had picked up the two ripest bananas I could find. Now... there was only one banana left in the kitchen.

Who ate my banana?!! My husband ate it as an after dinner snack. #$%@!! His comment... "Well, Meijer is open 24 hours..." Nope. I refused to go back for a fourth trip. Not that hard core this year! Decided not to make a quick bread.

Back to my Honey item. The other honey cookie recipe I had found was a honey peanut butter cookie. Mainly I was intrigued because it only had three ingredients - peanut butter, honey, and an egg. It might be awful but it was simple enough to make for the category. After that, I was DONE. I'm not entering a candy item this year.

Sewed the buttons on my baby booties. It was 1 am and bedtime. This is the earliest I have gone to bed the night before a Fair turn in in at least 5 years.

Got up this morning and filled out all the entry tags. Thankfully I had typed out all the recipes yesterday while waiting for stuff to bake. Tags took almost 30 minutes to fill out.

G's Baked Goods
Blueberry Pie, Chamomile Cookies
Pineapple Iced Coconut Macadamia Cookies, Loaded Potato Rolls

My Baked Goods
Pesto Rolls, Toasted Coconut Quinoa Breakfast Cookies, Peanut Butter Brookies
Honey Peanut Butter Cookies, Blueberries in Paradise Pie, Maple Shortbread, Coconut Cream Cake
Peanut Butter Cookies, White Chocolate Praline Fudge, Gooey Butter Cake

I really wanted to have some of the Gooey Butter Cake so I decided to show only a quarter of the cake. Definitely not very hard core about competing this year. The only baked items that I felt would be competitive were the pie, maple cookies, and maybe the fudge. I guess I'll find out tomorrow!

Ready to go!

Everything got dropped off without drama by 10:30 am. I think I miss the drama. Is that crazy or what?!! There is something sadistically satisfying about staying up all night to get everything done just right and turning everything in right under the wire. I don't have that feeling this year. I didn't WANT to do that and now I, well, miss the exhaustion. I know, I need my head checked...


  1. HaeWon,
    This is Deborah (Debbi) Green. I compete in Culinary at State Fair, too. Your blog appeared on my page because Mary Alice commented on it. It was a fun read for me. It was amusing to see how others go through Plans a,b,c and etc. just like I do. I'm planning to write a post about helping my 4 grandchildren prepare their 4H foods for the Hancock County Fair ( 2 muffins, 1 biscuit, and 1 yeast bread) in about 3 hours with one oven. They somehow how managed all blue ribbons and one Grand Champion in-spite of several mistakes and do-overs. I'm looking forward to State Fair competions. I will probably see you there. I hope you do well at Johnson County.

    1. Thanks Debbi! I'll have to find your post. That's why I like competing out at the State Fair. I get to hang out with all the other people who do this!