It’s All About the Cherries: The Annual Eau Claire, MI Cherry Baking Festival

It was all about the cherries, as it is every year at the Eau Claire Cherry Festival, held each July 4th in downtown Eau Claire. Michigan. This year, I was asked, along with Sara and Hanns Heil, to judge the festival’s 31st annual Cherry Baking Contest. Of course, loving small town food events, I had to say yes.

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From left to right: Jane Simon Ammeson, Hanns Heil & Sara Heil.

Like in years past, contestants could enter one or more of the  six categories: Cakes, Breads, Pies, Desserts, Miscellaneous and Quick Mixes, a category where entrants can use cake mixes, pie fillings and other store bought ingredients, none of which can be used in the other five categories. Besides that, both a Grand Prize and Most Eye Appealing winner is then selected from the first place winners of the six categories.

After the prizes were awarded, the baked goods were auctioned off by John Glassman, raising approximately $2245.00. P1060982

“We had a lot of great looking desserts,” said Chris Dohm, who with Betty Timmreck, organized the contest.

Celina Cantrell’s Cherry Celebration Cake won in three categories—taking first place for cakes, being selected as most Eye-Appealing and also was the Grand Prize winner. Coming in second for Cakes was Carole Skibbe’s Mrs. America Cherry Cake. Third place went to Denise Rogers for her Cherry Crumb Cake.

In the Quick & Easy category, Joyel Timmreck took first place for her Cherry Supreme Cake,  Barb Adams placed second for her Cherry Treat and Levi Lollas won third place for his Cherry Golden Muffins.P1060980

Celina Cantrell’s Red, White & Cherry Dessert took first in the Desserts category, Debra Lollar won second for Cherries on a Cloud and third went to Kortney Rodriguez for her Cherry Pie Bars.

Stephanie Glassman’s Cherry Mousse was the first place winner in the Miscellaneous category. Coming in second was Aiye Akhigbe for her Cherry Pie Jam and third went to Danielle Dilts for her Very Cherry Salad.P1060968

In the pie category, Sara Disterheft’s Sweet Cherry Pie won first place, Maxine Wagner took second for her Cherry Rhubarb Pie and Celina Cantrell third for her 3 Cherry Cherry Pie.

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The following are the first place recipes.

First Place: Cakes

Grand Prize Winner & Most Eye Appealing

Celina Cantrell’s Cherry Celebration Cake

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 ¾ cups sugar

2 teaspoons almond extract

6 egg whites

2 ¼ cups cake flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup whole milk

21 ounces cherry pie filling

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons water

Frosting:

12 ounces cream cheese, soft

6 tablespoons butter, room temperature

4 cups powdered sugar

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Prepare three round cake pans with butter and flour.

In one bowl combine milk, egg whites, almond and vanilla extract.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix in butter. Add one-half of the wet mixture, mix and then add remaining wet mixture.

Divide batter into three round cake pans.

Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Let cake cool in pans.

Cherry Filling:

In a sauce pan, cook cherry filling until warm, add extract and cook on low for five minutes. Mix water and cornstarch, then stir into cherries. Remove for heat and let cool.

Frosting:

Cream together cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Gradually add the powdered sugar.

Assemble the cake:

Spread a thin layer of frosting on the first layer of cake, then add cherries. Repeat with second layer. Top the two layers with the third cake, frost and top with cherries.

Optional: Add sliced almonds for looks and taste.

First Place: Quick & Easy Mixes

Joyel Timmreck’s Cherry Supreme Cake

One Cherry Chip cake mix

1 cup water

½ cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

½ cup chopped tart cherries

Heat oven to 350 F. Grease bottom only of two 8-inch cake pans. In a large mixing bowl, mix all ingredients except cherries until blended then beat on medium speed for two minutes. Add cherries and mix until blended. Pour into prepared baking pans and bake for 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on cooling rack. Remove from pans and place cake on plate. Frost then place other on top and frost entire cake.

Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese

½ cup unsalted butter, slightly softened

1 pound confectioner’s sugar

4 tablespoons maraschino cherry juice

¼ teaspoon vanilla

Mix all together until fluffy.

Variations:

One jar stemmed maraschino cherries; desired amount to decorate cake.

First Place: Pies

Sara Disterheft’s Sweet Cherry Pie

2 ½ cups flour

2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt

One cup unsweetened butter, very and cool cut into teeny cubes

½ cup ice water (you might not use it all)

Mix flour sugar and salt. Add butter until mixture becomes coarse. Slowly blend in just enough ice water form moist clumps. Gather the dough into a ball and divide in half. Form dough into 2 balls and gently flatten into disks. Wrap each in the plastic and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours.

For the filling:

5 cups sweet cherries, pitted

¼ cup cornstarch

½ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon lemon juice

In a large bowl stir together all the ingredients. Let mixture sit while you make your crumble and roll out your crust.

For the crumble:

¾ cup granulated sugar

½ cup all-purpose flour

5 tablespoons butter, melted

Mix sugar and flour together in a medium-sized bowl, then stir in melted butter. Put the topping in the freezer.

Assembly and Baking:

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Roll out half of the chilled dough on a well-floured work surface, rolling into a 12-inch round. Gently place the dough in 9-inch pie pan. Trim the edges of crimp them decoratively. Add cherry mixture into the pie crust, making sure the majority of its juices remain in the bowl. Add half of the frozen crumble on top of the pie filling and then place in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 30 minutes.

Rotate pie and add the remaining crumble. Bake for another 25 minutes or until crust and crumble are golden.

First Place: Breads

Celina Cantrell’s Red, Yellow, Cherry Bread with Cherry Blossom Butter

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon lemon rind, grated

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 2/3 cup flour

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup sour cream

1 cup chopped and pitted yellow cherries

Glaze:

¾ cup powdered sugar

1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Grease and flour loaf pan.

Cream together butter and sugar. Add extract, lemon juice and rind. Add eggs one at a time. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Alternate with sour cream. With a spoon, fold in cherries.

Bake for 50 minutes or until golden brown and a tooth pick inserted comes out clean. Let cool before drizzling with glaze.

To make glaze, combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice.

Cherry Blossom Butter

Cream together 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter (at room temperature) with ½ cup powdered sugar, ½ cup chopped maraschino cherries and ½ teaspoon almond extract.

First Place: Miscellaneous

Stephanie Glassman’s Cherry Mousse

1 package cherry Jell-O (4 serving size)

½ cup boiling water

1 cup fresh cherries, chopped

½ cup cream cheese, softened

½ cup cold water

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup Cool Whip

Cool Whip and/or maraschino cherries

Add Jell-O into a small bowl and pour in boiling water. Stir until dissolved.

Add cherries, cream cheese, cold water and vanilla extract. Blend for one minute or until smooth.

Pour mixture into a large bowl and whisk in Cool Whip

Spoon mixture into dessert dishes and place in refrigerator to set, about 2 hours.

To serve, top with Cool Whip and maraschino cherries, if desired.

First Place: Desserts

Celina Cantrell’s Red, White & Cherry Dessert

Crust:

1 cup crushed almond sugar cookies

¼ cup melted butter

Filling:

8 ounce package Cherry Jell-O

1 cup boiling water

½ cup

1 cup fresh chopped and pitted xx cherries

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 ounces of cream cheese

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

1 cup heavy cream

In a small bowl combine cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press on to bottom of an ungreased pie plate.

Bake at 350° F. for 10 minutes.

In a bowl, dissolve gelatin in boiling water, add the partially set, about 1 ½ hours.

In a mixing bowl, cream the cream cheese and powdered sugar together until smooth. Add vanilla and salt.

In another mixing bowl, beat the whipping cream. When stiff peaks form, then fold in the cream cheese mixture.

Layer the dessert, starting at the bottom with some of the cream cheese/whipped cream mixture then add a layer of the cherries. Repeat layers. Top with whipping cream.

Refrigerate overnight.

 

Cooking with the Faeries

lavender-shortbread-cookies_lrg-0015-credit-sara-ghedina-e1518153286780.jpgTo me, fairies have always been about the holiday season—think the Sugar Plum Fairy from the Nutcracker Suite ballet and Tinkerbell, the blonde-haired imp who wore a green outfit with matching translucent green wings in the 1904 play Peter Pan and knew how to handle a wand and pixie dust—both a job requirement. Imagine then my delight when my friend Lily Lopate sent me a copy ofThe Faerie Handbook: An Enchanting Compendium of Literature Lore, Art, Recipes and Projects by Carol Turgeon with Grace Nuth and the Editors of Faerie Magazine (Harper Design 2017; $35). And yes, there is a Faerie Magazine.

This beautifully illustrated book containing all things faerie (the archaic literary spelling) is divided into chapter including Flora & Fauna with such headings as “A Select List of Fairy World Inhabitants” and their history, a “Fairy Herb and Flower Almanac,” as well as instructions on making such fairy necessities as houses, furniture, pressed flowers, and terrariums. In the section on Fashion & Beauty we learn about such style icons as Morgan Le Fay, Titania of the Fairy Realm and La Belle Dame Sans-Mercy—a woman with eyes that mesmerized helpless, handsome men (way to go, La Belle, we say).  The Fashion & Beauty chapter gives us the low down on fairy couture including fairy shoes which are totally inappropriate for walking particularly the ones with five-inch heels made of flowers. It also contains directions on how to make a fairy crown—a clothing item no one should be without.

It isn’t easy being a fairy. You have to get up early to gather the right beauty ingredients. After all, according to Samuel Pepys, the great 17th century diarist, his wife was a big believer in maintaining her looks in a faerie manner by collecting early morning May dew. Another requirement is being able to make fairy dust. That’s what Tinkerbell used to get Peter Pan to fly. You wouldn’t want to be without it.

Want to hang with the faeries? The authors tell about how to find fairy portals and pathways. You’ll need to read the chapter, but we can give some hints. Look for a strange circle of mushrooms (those are fairy rings), bridges (but be careful of the trolls, country crossroads are good places to run into fairies (but devils hang out there too) and natural portals like ocean cliffs and tangled branches with an open center in the middle.

Of course, what interested me the most was fairy food. As one might expect, fairies love parties and the authors show us how to host a Midsummer Night’s Dream Garden Party. Fairies main ingredient when it comes to cooking seems to be edible flowers. Their menus consist of such goodies as Flower Lollipops, Honey Ricotta Tart with Lavender Scented Crust, Candied Violets and Lavender Shortbread Cookies.

Faeries also love tea parties—ones with lots of flowers in pastel colors of pink, lavender, violet, pale blues and even moss. What to eat at such a party? Fairy Tea Cakes and flower teas.

Frosted cranberries (1)Candied Violets

40 fresh violets, pesticide free, with stems intact

1 egg white

1 cup superfine sugar

Special Equipment:

Fine-tipped paintbrush, preferably new

Small sharp scissors

Place a wire rack over a parchment-lined baking sheet and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy.

Holding a violet by the stem, dip the paintbrush in the egg white and carefully coat each petal, front and back.

Sprinkle the superfine sugar over the violet and shake off any excess. Sprinkle again until the whole flower is lightly coated.

Gently place the violet on the drying rack. Repeat with theremaining flowers.

Allow the violets to dry for 24 hours, then use the scissors to cut off the stems. Candied violets may be stored in an airtight container for up to eight weeks.

Lavender Shortbread Cookies

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon dried lavender, pesticide-free

1 stick plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons whole milk (optional)

½ cup sanding sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the sugar and lavender in a food processor and pulse to achieve a fine texture.

In a large bowl, combine the lavender sugar, butter, and salt. Use the electric hand mixer to cream the ingredients until light and fluffy.

Gradually add the flour, mixing until the dough comes together. If it’s too crumbly, lightly wet your hands with water and knead the dough in the bowl untilthe flour is completely absorbed, and the dough is smooth.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a ½-inch thickness.

Use a cookie cutter to cut out the dough. Transfer the cookies to the parchment-lined baking sheet.

If desired, use the pastry brush to lightly coat each cookie with milk, then sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Transfer cookies to the oven and bakefor approximately 25 minutes, rotating the pan once, until the cookies are golden brown.

The cookies will be very soft when you remove them from the oven, but will set once cool. Allow them to cool completely on the baking sheet before transferring them to a plate.

Frosted Cranberries

1 ½ cups water

1 ½ cups granulated sugar, plus 1 cup for dusting

1 cinnamon stick

4 whole cloves

2 cups fresh cranberries

In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves. Cook over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.

Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes before stirring in the cranberries. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, set a wire rack over a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the berries onto the rack and set aside for 1 hour. Meanwhile, line another baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the remaining 1 cup sugar in a shallow dish. Working in small batches, roll the cranberries in the sugar until they are completely coated, then transfer to the clean parchment-lined baking sheet. Make sure berries are in a single layer and not touching each other.

Allow to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour or until dry. Frosted cranberries may be stored in an airtight container for several days.

The above recipes are from the book: THE FAERIE HANDBOOK by Carolyn Turgeon and the editors of Faerie Magazine. Copyright © 2017 by Carolyn Turgeon. Reprinted courtesy of Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

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