Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Blue ribbon dreams

For the past few years, my family has made an annual trip the last weekend in September to the North Georgia State Fair in Marietta. My girls love the rides, the smoked turkey legs, roasted ears of corn, and cotton candy. Each year, we walk through the exhibit halls and admire the livestock, and the late summer produce and flowers. There's also artwork, and quilts and Christmas crafts. One thing that I've always wanted to see is the baked goods - I've heard stories of blue ribbon-winning pies and cakes, but by the time I've gotten to the fair, the winners are gone.

I figured out the scheduling this year - the baked goods are judged before the fair, ribbons attached to pictures of the foods, and the food either picked up by the cook or donated to a local food ministry. I understand the rules this year because for the first time, I entered three items in competition. Sure there was cash for the winners, but I was in it for the ribbon.

About a month ago, I checked out the fair's website and the categories of baked goods - a dozen categories from bar cookies and biscuits to Bundt cakes and pound cakes and fried pies. At first, I intended to enter a half-dozen categories, but the pressure to bake everything over two days and then have it sit for overnight before judging, led me to settle on three products:

Chocolate Sour Cream Pound Cake

Glazed Lemon Thin Cookies

Morning Glory Muffins
We visited the fair Friday night and my daughter and I raced to the exhibit hall to see if we'd won - she entered a friendship bracelet display in the Youth Jewelry division. Laura came running up to me with the news - a red ribbon for second place and a premium of $3!

I looked through the photographs of the winning food entries and found a picture of muffins with a blue ribbon! That's a $5 premium and a coveted blue ribbon!

I may sleep with the ribbon under my pillow, to dream dreams of the sweet treats I can make for next year's fair. Once blue ribbon fever gets a hold of you, it won't ever let go.

If you're not familiar with Morning Glory Muffins, they're only the best muffin ever created. They are loaded with chopped apple, dried cranberries, raisins, pineapple, shredded carrot and coconut, all in a cinnamon-scented batter. They are moist and tasty and totally unlike the cake-y dessert-type muffins that you see in coffee shops.

Blue Ribbon Morning Glory Muffins

1 cup packed Craisins (sweetened, dried cranberries)

1 cup crushed fresh or canned pineapple, drained

1 Fuji or Gala apple, peeled, cored, chopped

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

4 large carrots, peeled and grated to yield 2 cups

3 large eggs, at room temp

1 cup canola oil

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Demerara or sparkling sugar for topping

1. Preheat oven to 350 and coat muffin tins with baking spray or use paper liners.

2. In a large bowl, combine all the fruits, coconut and carrots. In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla. Place the sifter over this bowl, measure into it the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, then all at once sift these ingredients directly onto the wet mixture. Stir everything together until just blended; do not overbeat. Stir in the fruit mixture.

3. Divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling almost to the top. Sprinkle the topping sugar on each muffin. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the muffins rise, are crusty brown on top, and the top of the muffin springs back when touched. Remove the muffins from the oven and let cool in the pan for five minutes or so, then remove to a wire rack. Try to keep your mitts off the muffins for at least another 10 minutes - hot fruit can burn your mouth (voice of experience). Totally optional, yet heavenly: a dab of softened cream cheese on a warm muffin half.

Text & images copyright 2010, Lucy Mercer.


Nianya said...

Print up a photo of your delicious goodies attach the ribbon and hang it on the wall; I have a "Wall of Fame" above and around my computer in my office for my winning photos form the past three years. Congrats to you and Laura both!

The Teacher Cooks said...

Congratulations on the blue ribbon! Can't wait to try these muffins. These will be great for a classroom activity. Thanks for stopping by.

Unknown said...

Congrats on the ribbon and thanks for posting the recipe. (Actually, you printed it out for me once, but this is easier!)

I'm making these this week for Christmas gifts - especially for my relatives for whom biscotti is too hard.