by Linda Cloutier

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ghirardelli Chocolate Championship at the Colorado State Fair

It feels like it's been forever since I've done anything competitively (I've decided that submitting a picture to a web site DOES NOT count) and I realized this week that I've missed it. As I wrote about before, the Colorado State Fair opened yesterday, and last evening I had the pleasure of entering my Hazelnut Mocha Custard in the Ghirardelli Chocolate Championship.

The rules stated that all recipes had to be original; must include Ghirardelli chocolate and no more than 10 additional ingredients; from scratch, without using mixes or prepackaged items. Entries had to include 3 copies of the recipe and proof of purchase for the chocolate.

I've been perfecting the recipe over several weeks and was very pleased with it. When it was time to make the final, do-or-die version to be presented to the judges I felt confident about it and things proceeded nicely. What I hadn't anticipated was that there wasn't any extra custards to do a "just-to-be-on-the-safe-side" taste test so I had no idea if they had come out as good as the last time I made them. Sure-fire way to instill insecurity right there!

Upon arrival, I set up my dessert and took a few pictures.

Planning the presentation was as much fun as creating the recipe. Pier 1 has a fantastic Tasting Party line and after much angst and drama, I decided on the red and white custard cups. The were the perfect size for an individual serving and more unique than a traditional ramekin. I also got a set of absolutely darling itty-bitty tasting spoons. Served on a white tray lined with a red rose patterned felt cut-out placemat with a red napkin. Pretty!

There were four judges, one of whom was the Ghirardelli NATIONAL Champion. Initially, they walked around and looked at all the entries. The entries varied greatly, and included a cake, two different cheesecakes, parfaits (also mocha hazelnut, so much for my creativity), scones, brownies, stuffed and chocolate covered strawberries, a chocolate chip cheesecake ball, and ice cream. Everything looked fantastic!

The judges (tough job, right?) sat down and were presented with each recipe and dessert, one at a time. They really scrutinized the recipes, reading through each one carefully. They then looked closely at the items from all angles, smelled them, and finally cut or served them to be tasted. They all kept their poker faces throughout the process so there was no telling what they thought of each dessert during the tasting.  Talk about nerve-wracking! I was twitching and fidgeting, nervous as all get out! How do those people on Top Chef go through that every week?

The whole process took quite some time. It was well over an hour and a half after they started that they were finally finished and announced the winners. Soooo...

Third place...Cheesecake-stuffed, Chocolate-covered Strawberries...

Second place...Hazelnut Mocha Custard! Yay...happy dance!

First place...Who cares? I won second! No, just kidding! It was the ice cream.

And what were the prizes? Absolutely fabulous!

A Ghirardelli Chocolate apron, an AMAZING gift basket, $50 (for 2nd place) and a really pretty red ribbon! Here's a closer look at the gift basket, which included 5 bags of chips, 6 different 4 oz bars of chocolate and 2 containers of cocoa.

All three winners had their pictures taken wearing our new aprons. Everyone was so nice. We spent some time chatting with some other entrants during the judging and afterwards shared samples of our treats with each other. All in all, a very pleasurable evening!

Next week...C & H Sugar Cupcake Challenge! 

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations!

    I am sooooo just like you. I used to enter competitions all the time and one day it just stopped. The past couple of years I have entered the cake shows in my area and earlier this year I entered the NCACS cake show. I also entered biscuits in our local Dream Team competition. Oh, how I missed it all and am happy to be back at it again.

    Good luck next week!