This was the very biggest surprise I’ve ever gotten, all wrapped up with a Blue Ribbon and a very good lesson about not giving up. This entry into the Blue Ribbon Country Fair, held at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, came thisclose to not even being entered. It’s a bit of a story…
In my post about my Red Ribbon Apple Maple Bacon Coffee Cake, I told you about how my friend, Donna, wanted credit for my ribbons. Since then, she’s informed me that she, henceforth, wished to be referred to, by me, as “Your Royal Highness.” So, Her Royal Highness, while she gets credit for my honors, also gets the blame for the angst created by entering a food competition for the first time. EVER!
Since there was a LOT of angst, I think she might be the one who owes me. Something. Big.
While I am a bit of a rebel and will break as many rules as I follow, especially in cooking, I was intent on following the rules of this competition to a tea…cake…errr…yeah.
The ladies at the Heritage Center deserve a medal for putting up with me and my million questions about their rules. The rules? Well, they were kind of nebulous. And limiting. But, by doggie, I wanted to follow them.
So, how did this create angst? Well the rules of the Tea Cake category read:
Traditional Tea Cakes — Plate of 6 — A tea cake is a quick, easy-to-make, small, dropped, cake-like cookie, that’s ready to serve warm from the oven in less than 30 minutes. It is traditionally served with an accompaniment of tea or milk. Open to all ages.
I’m right here to tell you…NUH UH! Well, not entirely nuh uh…but! In the South, there are THREE very acceptable traditional tea cake types. There is a rolled and cut cookie, a drop cookie AND a mini muffin tea cake; the mini muffin variety being the type I’ve been most familiar with baking and eating.
Immediately, I thought,
crap! wait just a doggone minute! Can’t I do a mini-muffin-type-tea-cake? I want to do a mini-muffin-type-tea-cake! How am I going to make my mini-muffin-tea-cake-like recipe into a drop-cookie-tea-cake-like recipe?
Then, I thought, can it. I’m gonna just make two coffee cakes. So, I made this recipe (prior to tinkering) into a coffee cake to have the guys at the shop taste-test. EXCEPT! You can only enter ONE item per category and I was intent on making the Apple Maple Bacon Coffee Cake.
Square one. I needed to adapt the recipe to make it a cake-like cookie. Well, I didn’t have time. I didn’t even TEST my coffee cake recipe before I submitted it…I only HAD two weeks notice of this event to begin with…then a week of deciding what to do…then the week of the event…which ugh…craziness at work.
So, just three hours before the. very. last. minute. to deliver entries, there I was. In my kitchen. Looking at the mixing bowl and muttering and thinking how I could change the recipe to make it a cake-like-drop-cookie-tea-cake. After a bit of tinkering with the original recipe, I deemed the batter to be fine.
I made the first pan of six tea cakes. I put them on the cooling rack and glared at them in disgust. They didn’t look like I wanted them to look.
Less batter, more turbinado sugar, more almonds…I made the second pan of six tea cakes. I put them on the cooling rack and glared at them…and stuck my tongue out at them. They weren’t any better.
I pulled out my mini muffin tins, slapped the rest of the batter in them, put them in the oven, cursing the entire time. I thought to myself, “P, just forget these stupid drop-cookie-like-tea-cakes. Don’t even enter them! You aren’t happy with them. Just punt.” Or, you know, words to that effect, but not so polite.
Except, I thought, I had made the commitment to enter them. I was going to take the requisite six, leave them as an entry and forget it. I was already stressing enough about the coffee cake. I was done. So, I took them. And I entered them.
And the next day? Well, the next day you could have knocked me over with a feather when I got there and saw a blue ribbon. I was humbled…and proud…and I learned a valuable lesson. It’s fine to be a perfectionist, but sometimes it’s best to just be.
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- Pinch of salt
- 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- ¾ cup granulated white sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons grated orange zest
- 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
- 1 tablespoon Cointreau (or any orange liqueur)
- ⅔ cup Chardonnay
- 6 tablespoons turbinado sugar
- 1 cup ground almonds
- Sift together your flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the softened butter with the ¾ cup of sugar until light and really fluffy.
- Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating each well until incorporated.
- Whisk in the orange zest, orange blossom water, Cointreau and Chardonnay.
- Add the flour mixture in two steps, alternating with the wine, and mixing only until both are incorporated.
- Drop 2 tablespoons of batter at a time on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar and ground almond.
- Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown.