Note: While this entry is about entering cookies at the county fair, it could be entering anything, from the dinner-plate dahlia to biggest zucchini to strawberry jam. County Fairs tend to bring out the competitor in all of us in a desire to win the elusive blue ribbon.
Written by: Linda Wilson, CSU Extension Master Gardener in Larimer County
It is 14 days and counting until I come before “The Judge”. It’s almost Larimer County Fair time, which means it’s time for cookie judging. You might think winning blue ribbons would be easy for someone who’s been baking for six decades. Well, it’s not—because my family members are not the judges.
The Fair judges are professionals with consumer science degrees, experience and a list of eight (!) criteria which must be met “…to the letter of the law” (judges’ instructions). They take their instructions seriously, and even the audience of highly qualified cookie monsters cannot convince them that a medium size cookie is larger than 2 ½ inches!
I start preparing for next year’s fair the very same day as judging. Why so early you ask? Well, if you really want to win blue ribbons or champion ribbons, you need to pay attention to the judges’ remarks as to how your current entry did or did not meet the criteria. Besides, it is always ego-building to hear the judges argue as to why your entry deserves the Champion Ribbon. It’s not about the $2.00 premium awarded for each blue ribbon, it’s all about the “prestigious honor”—at least that’s what all my taste testers say when I complain about how much I spend on groceries making the winning entry. (Personally, I think they just enjoy having the treats!)
Here is what I’ve learned about my chocolate chip trial recipes this year: First, adding almond butter to the basic recipe makes the cookies lighter, but they are dry and are not “characteristic” of a chocolate chip cookie (characteristic is one of the eight criteria). Secondly, using cake flour instead of all purpose flour yields a 6” cookie which cannot be removed from a hot cookie sheet, because it has the consistency of a wet paper towel. Finally after using four bags of chocolate chips trying new secret ingredients, my entry will be using last year’s recipe, but making the cookies the correct size.
So, today I’m left wondering, “When the outside temperature is 95 degrees, why am I still heating the oven to perfect recipes?” Prestigious, competitiveness, or just plain nuts….you be the judge! I know I'm not the only one out there who enters the fair. What do you plan to enter this year?