Chocolate is not simply a tasty treat; for some, it is the main ingredient for creating masterpieces, and developing the ultimate recipe or concept is serious business.
“We would start in November practicing with recipes,” said Becca Wiggins, a 35-year-old Bryson City resident. Wiggins and her sister, Fran Brooks, 38, have participated in three of the past four chocolate cook-offs that benefit Bryson City’s library.
The duo would begin by flipping through cookbooks looking for unique ideas, and once they settled on a plan, the sisters practiced until they perfected the recipe. And they don’t go for conventional chocolate cake or brownie recipes.
They look for “Something that tastes good but would be hard for someone to make,” Wiggins said.
For last year’s cook-off, Wiggins and Brooks designed a “chocolate-rita.” Just like it sounds, the margarita-inspired sweet is comprised of peanut butter crème, chocolate sauce and a cherry. The dessert is topped off with a chocolate molded into a lime slice that is actually flavored like the green citrus fruit.
“We do more molded chocolates,” Wiggins said. “Something a little bit more fancy.” They have also won with mousse-filled chocolate cones decorated with pink polka dots or brown, white and pink stripes.
The sisters have won three years in a row and now are banned from competing. Instead, they will stand on the opposite side of the display tables and judge others’ molded and baked goods.
“I’m going to miss competing because it was such a creative thing that we would always do, and we would always do it together,” Wiggins said.
The pair at one time discussed opening a bakery so people could enjoy their baking any day.
“But we really don’t have time,” Wiggins said.
Brooks is a certified public accountant and Wiggins works as her assistant. The business keeps them busy year-round.
A Family Tradition
A common thread among some of the contenders is that their mothers played a role in developing their love of baking.
“We were always interested in baking,” Wiggins said. “We grew up baking, and our mother encouraged it.”
Like Wiggins and Brooks, former competitor Susan Coe began baking when she was a young girl.
“My mother baked,” Coe said.
Now, Coe bakes her own bread and pastries, and that talent helps her raise money for another love — the local library.
“I am a supporter of the library (and) it sounded like it would be fun to do,” she said.
Coe won first place during the competition’s first year with her chocolate mint Neapolitan. She went a couple years without competing because as member of the library board she was ineligible. Coe said she is contemplating participating again but only if she can come up with something worthy of the contest.
“The competition has gotten much fiercer,” Coe said.
Anywhere from 10 to 15 people participate in the cook-off each year, and entries are judged on taste, texture, aroma, creativity and aesthetics. Each competitor is required to make at least 150 samples of their creations for the judges and the chocolate lovers who attend.
For $6 or less, attendees receive a “plate full of samples,” Wiggins said.
“I think it’s an excellent fundraiser,” she said. “It’s something a little different.”
Coe suggested that people interested in attending the event and tasting the delicacies buy tickets in advance or arrive early. There is always a line out the door, she said.
“It’s been a sell-out pretty much every year,” she said.
Eat sweets for a good cause
What: The 5th Annual Friends of the Marianna Black Library Chocolate Cook-Off
When: 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11
Where: Bryson City Presbyterian Church on Everett Street
Cost: Adults $6; Friends of the Library members and children under 16, $5; free for kids under 6.
The deadline for entries to be received is Saturday, Feb. 4. The table fee is $10 per entry type. Download the contest application at www.fontanalib.org/brysoncity, or stop by the library. The judged portion is based on taste, texture, aroma, creativity and aesthetics. Trophies and cash prizes will be awarded.
Haywood chocolate bash seeks volunteers
The Haywood Volunteer Center is looking for people to help coordinate its own Taste of Chocolate competition. The Taste of Chocolate, which will be held on May 8, is the Volunteer Center’s main fundraising event for the year.