At age 17, Victoria Grubb of Pleasant Plains is an accomplished baker and candy maker whose Orange Ginger Chocolates won the top prize in the Illinois State Fair’s Calling All Chocolates contest. This was her first try at the chocolate contest, sponsored by The State Journal-Register. There were 16 entrants and each was required to submit a dish made with any form of chocolate.
At age 17, Victoria Grubb of Pleasant Plains is an accomplished baker and candy maker whose Orange Ginger Chocolates won the top prize in the Illinois State Fair’s Calling All Chocolates contest.
“Making candy and pastry is one of my hobbies,” said Victoria, a home-schooled high school senior. This was her first try at the chocolate contest, sponsored by The State Journal-Register. There were 16 entrants and each was required to submit a dish made with any form of chocolate.
“The filling had a distinct flavor that was not overpowering. And it was very pretty,” said contest judge Rob Flesher, about Victoria’s winning candies, which were painted with gold luster-dust. Flesher is co-owner of Pease’s Candy in Springfield.
“The center was so smooth. It was a nice surprise when you put it in your mouth,” said Mary Alice McNaught of Auburn, a retired home economics teacher and the contest’s other judge.
Victoria, the daughter of Melissa and Ray Grubb, also won first place in the gingerbread house contest this year, plus first- and second-place awards for her drawings.
She taught herself how to temper chocolate by reading a cookbook. Then she played around with flavors and bought oval candy molds for the contest.
“I love the spicy heat of the crystallized ginger,” Victoria said about her winning chocolates. “And I like the taste of orange, so I thought maybe orange oil would work.”
For anyone making her recipe, she cautioned that the tempering process takes awhile.
“I’m driven to do this,” said the teen about cooking. “It’s fun and it relaxes me.”
The winners of the Calling All Chocolates contest, held Aug. 18 in the fair’s Hobbies, Arts and Crafts Building, received prizes of $125, $50 and $25, plus SJ-R merchandise. Recipes did not have to be original; entries were judged on taste, appearance and creativity.
A wide variety of chocolate dishes were submitted. They included shortbread cookies, zucchini brownies, several tortes and tarts, chocolate pizza, chocolate oatmeal cookies, a black walnut chocolate cake, brownie cookies, Black Forest cake, chocolate angel cake and raspberry brownies.
Nancy Bathurst, who lives near Girard, took second prize with Chocolate Tarts. The 4-inch shells were filled with espresso-flavored chocolate custard and topped with powdered sugar and candied pansies.
“We had cakes, we had brownies, but this was totally different,” said Flesher. This was something you would put out for guests.”
“The filling was rich and smooth. Just delicious,” said McNaught.
Bathurst, a retired administrator at Helene Curtis in Chicago, was inspired by a recipe she found on pastry chef Marcy Goldman’s Web site. She tweaked it to make it her own and added a garnish of purple pansies.
“I love baking. My specialties are hors d’oeuvres and desserts,” said Bathurst, a native of Ottawa who used to live in Montana. In another culinary contest at the fair this year, her chocolate cake entry won first place, a rosette and a trophy.
Although the tarts look fancy, Bathurst said they are simple if you use a food processor for the crust.
“You have to watch the crust while it’s in the oven. If it bubbles up, keep poking it till it stays down.”
Taking third place was Betty Stewart of Springfield, who made Triple Chocolate Brownie Cookies.
“This is just an incredibly good chocolate cookie. Anybody could bake them. It’s a simple recipe, but they really stood out,” said McNaught.
“These cookies were so moist with a great flavor. The chocolate on top was mixed with shortening so it didn’t break when you took a bite,” added Flesher.
Stewart, a retired Cilco worker, made the cookies for the first time for the contest. In fact, she had prepared another entry, a cake, but it didn’t bake correctly, so she quickly put together her winning chocolate cookies from a recipe in Taste of Home magazine.
In other state fair contests this year, Stewart entered coconut bread, fudge, lemon cake and brownies. She’s a busy community volunteer who spends a lot of time working at Senior Services of Central Illinois.
Although the contest specified three winners, the judges gave an honorable mention to Nan Kessler of Springfield for a braided chocolate bread with cream-cheese filling.
The winning recipes:
Orange Ginger Chocolates
From Victoria Grubb
2 pounds bittersweet chocolate, tempered (see note)
5 1/2 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
3/4 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon orange juice concentrate
2 teaspoons Valencia orange peel
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon salted butter, cubed, soft but not melted
1/4 finely chopped crystallized ginger
7 drops orange oil
1 drop cinnamon oil
2 teaspoons ground ginger
Dash of cinnamon
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, tempered
Use a ladle to completely fill a candy mold with tempered bittersweet chocolate. Shake the mold around a little to insure the tempered chocolate coats every surface of the mold cavities. Turn the mold over the bowl of chocolate, allowing any excess chocolate to drip out. Lightly tap the mold with the back of a heavy knife or spatula to help remove the excess chocolate.
Lay the mold upside down on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. After a few minutes, check to see if the sides are setting. Once it has begun to set, use the blade of a chef’s knife to scrape the top of the mold clean. Return the mold to the baking sheet and allow it to finish setting completely. If it doesn’t set, place the mold in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
Combine the chopped chocolates in a medium-sized bowl. Pour the cream into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the orange juice concentrate, orange peel and corn syrup.
Cook the cream over medium-high heat until it reaches a rolling boil. Immediately pour through a fine-sieve mesh onto the chopped chocolate. Let it sit for a minute to melt the chocolate. Stir slowly to incorporate.
Using a candy thermometer placed in the center of the bowl, check the temperature. Once the ganache has reached 95 degrees, add the butter, crystallized ginger, orange and cinnamon oils, ground ginger and cinnamon. Mix to combine.
Pour mixture into a piping bag. Pipe ganache into the molded shells, filling each shell 3/4 full. Gently tap the filled shells against the counter to release any trapped air bubbles. Let the ganache sit overnight at room temperature to dry.
Ladle tempered chocolate over the top of the mold. Scrape off excess chocolate to create what will be the bottom of the molded chocolate. This layer of chocolate is then allowed to harden before the molds are inverted and lightly tapped to remove the finished, molded chocolate.
If the chocolates don’t come out of the molds, set the mold in refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes.
Paint gold luster dust on top, if desired.
Note: Tempering is a technique by which chocolate is stabilized through a melting and cooling process. Instructions for tempering chocolate can be found in candy cookbooks and on the Internet.
Makes about 28 candies, depending on size of molds.
From Nancy Bathurst
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup grated semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon half-and-half or whole milk
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/4 cup warm espresso or coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup powdered sugar
Heavy whipping cream (optional)
Pansy decoration (optional):
1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup fine sugar
Pansies, grown with no pesticides
For tart dough, place flour, grated chocolate, powdered sugar and salt in food processor and pulse until blended. Add butter and pulse until mixture is grainy. Add vanilla and 1 teaspoon half-and-half or whole milk. Pulse briefly until dough just sticks together.
Remove pastry from food processor and gently knead a couple of minutes on lightly floured work surface to smooth out dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Divide dough into 8 equal portions (2 ounces each). Press out onto bottom and sides of ungreased 4-inch tart pans. Using a fork, prick bottoms. Place tart shells on large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake tart shells until lightly colored — 15 to 20 minutes. Cool well.
For filling, melt chocolate and set aside to cool. Stir in warm espresso or coffee and vanilla.
Meanwhile, with a whisk attachment on an electric mixer, beat eggs with sugar and salt until very light and thick, about 5 minutes. Add some of the egg mixture to melted chocolate and mix well. Fold remaining egg mixture into chocolate, blending gently but thoroughly. Spoon chocolate filling equally into baked tart shells.
Place filled tart shells on baking sheet. Bake until filling puffs and is set, about 20 minutes. Cool well. Remove sides from pans to release tarts. Dust with powdered sugar. If desired, garnish with a dollop of whipped cream.
Place a candied pansy on each tart, if desired.
To make, whisk 1 egg white and 1 teaspoon water until frothy. Hold pansy in left hand (if you are right-handed) with a tweezers. Using a child’s small paint brush, paint the petals with the egg wash. Sprinkle with fine sugar and shake off excess. Turn pansy over and repeat the process, shaking off excess sugar.
Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet to dry. They will be completely dry in 2 hours. Finished pansies that are lightly covered and placed in pantry will last several months.
Makes 8 tarts.
Triple Chocolate Brownie Cookies
From Betty Stewart
3/4 cup butter
4 squares (1 ounce each) unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup baking cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips, divided
2 teaspoons shortening
In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter and unsweetened chocolate; cool. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add sugar and eggs. Beat until smooth.
Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to chocolate mixture. Stir in 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours or until easy to handle.
Drop by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 7 to 9 minutes or until edges are set. Cool for 2 minutes before removing from pan to wire rack to cool completely.
In a microwave-safe bowl, heat shortening and remaining chocolate chips on high for 1 minute or until chips are melted; stir until smooth. Drizzle over cookies. Let stand for 30 minutes, or until chocolate is set.
Makes about 3 dozen.
Kathryn Rem can be reached at (217) 788-1520 or firstname.lastname@example.org.