Today you'll find me at the DuPage County fairgrounds in Wheaton judging the annual foods competitions. The exhibits showcase local culinary talents ranging from first-time entries to seasoned veterans. I always have fun seeing what fellow baking and cooking enthusiasts are up to.
While the baked goods and decorating divisions always catch my eye, homemade jams, salsas and candies entice me with their vibrant colors and aromas. For great family fun I recommend putting the county fair on your summer agenda. Stop by the foods building and don't miss the creative takes on incorporating this year's fair theme, Let's Get Together, into a cake design.
Organizing the sweet course for a recent family gathering got me thinking about infusing fun into the usual summer dessert offerings. Warm weather immediately brought cool thoughts of ice cream pies to mind.
I like to craft ice cream pies with high quality products such as Ben & Jerry's and Haagen Dazs. These manufacturers make ice cream like I would make it, with high quality ingredients and no artificial flavorings. The varieties tempt the taste buds with imaginative combinations of flavors and inspired stir-ins.
Making ice cream pie gives bakers a reprieve from the oven during the hot summer season, while not compromising our culinary reputations. Just a few minutes of prep tastes like hours in the kitchen -- how's that for a good return on your investment.
Ice cream pies with to-die-for combinations always attract a crowd at parties. By cutting each pie into 10 (versus a traditional eight) slices, guests can satisfy their taste buds without sacrificing their waistlines.
For my party I created three different ice cream pies and asked guests to vote for their favorite.
Pie No. 1: Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey spread in a graham crust with Ben & Jerry's Boozy Banana on top.
Pie No. 2: Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Therapy as the bottom layer in Oreo cookie crust topped with Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream.
Pie No. 3: Ben & Jerry's Peach Cobbler in a graham cracker crust topped with Ben & Jerry's Crème Brulee.
Much to my surprise the peach cobbler/creme brulee mashup won hands down. The chocolate and vanilla had my vote and I anticipated spiked Chunky Monkey to do well, but it placed a distant second to the peachy pie. The outcome of this contest certainly surprise this seasoned pastry chef!
Try the blue ribbon winner, Peach Brulee Ice Cream Pie, for your next party and enjoy a much deserved break from baking this summer.
• Annie Overboe, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, lives in Villa Park. Write her at email@example.com.