Tasty treats such as these provided by Lisa Ciraldo-Freese, one of this year’s judges and owner of the Chocolate Soup Pastry Café, will be featured during the first Holiday Dessert Bake-Off. The bake-off will take place from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the Steamboat Pilot & Today offices.

Photo by John F. Russell

Tasty treats such as these provided by Lisa Ciraldo-Freese, one of this year’s judges and owner of the Chocolate Soup Pastry Café, will be featured during the first Holiday Dessert Bake-Off. The bake-off will take place from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the Steamboat Pilot & Today offices.

Local Steamboat cooks share tips and recipes for seasonal desserts

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To register

To register for the Steamboat Today Holiday Dessert Bake-off, visit www.exploresteamboat.com and fill out a registration form, stop by the Steamboat Pilot & Today office at 1901 Curve Plaza or call 871-4218.

— Dianne Stoyko has been making sweet holiday gifts for about 30 years and uses some of the same timesaving techniques her mother has used for much longer.

“One of my tips is don’t start making Christmas cookies too close to the holidays with a new recipe,” Stoyko said. “Make something that you’ve made before so you don’t get frustrated, and try to make simple ones.”

Simple recipes with quality ingredients make their way into Stoyko’s kitchen well before the height of the holiday season. She looks for themed plates and tins at sale prices just after the holidays the year before, packs them with ready-to-go cookies and other treats and puts them in the freezer in advance.

“I just have my cookies ready, and if I’m going to somebody’s house or I have an unexpected guest, I can just go in my freezer and I’ve got cookies,” Stoyko said.

Stoyko was one of 30 people to enter the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s inaugural Holiday Dessert Bake-off by Tuesday afternoon. She plans to make her chocolate bonbons — a candy kiss surrounded by chocolate and drizzled with more chocolate — for the competition, which invites community members to submit recipes for their favorite treats.

Registration for the contest is open through the end of today. Participants may submit one entry per category in four categories: pies, cakes, cookies and miscellaneous desserts.

A recipe for each entry is required and can be submitted online or at judging Thursday morning. Registered participants must bring their prepared desserts to the Steamboat Pilot & Today office from 7 to 10 a.m. Thursday for judging and a chance to win one of six $100 gift certificates to City Market or Ace at the Curve.

“Steamboat Today” morning show host Harper Louden, Chocolate Soup Pastry Café chef and owner Lisa Ciraldo-Freese and Rex’s Grill & Bar chef Vicki Connacher will judge the entries for best pie, best cake, best cookies, best miscellaneous dessert and best presentation.

Community members will have a chance to taste all contest entries and vote for a community choice winner at a coffee, dessert tasting and open house from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. Editor Brent Boyer, Publisher Suzanne Schlicht and other staff members will talk with community members during the event.

Sweets make simple gifts

Stoyko prefers simple recipes that can be made well in advance. Her recipe for a revised haystack uses Chinese noodles and chocolate:

Melt together one package of semi-sweet chocolate chips and one package of butterscotch chips.

Mix one package of Spanish salted nuts and half a package of Chinese noodles into the melted chocolate mixture.

Lay the noodle, nut and chocolate mix on wax or parchment paper, let the mix dry and put in into the refrigerator.

Ciraldo-Freese likes candy-cane truffles for her make-ahead gifts:

Chop about 20 ounces of good quality dark chocolate and place in a mixing bowl.

Heat 10 ounces of heavy cream, 1 ounce of butter and about 1 teaspoon of natural peppermint extract. Just before the mixture comes to a boil, remove it from heat and pour over the chopped chocolate.

Gently fold the chocolate and cream mixture together. Let it set up and cool. Once the mixture is cooled, scoop out a truffle-sized amount and roll into a ball. Roll the truffle ball in crushed candy canes or chocolate. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.

For more holiday recipes from local cooks, go to www.exploresteamboat.com Friday, and watch the “Steamboat Today” morning show from 7 to 9 a.m. Friday on Steamboat TV18. All Holiday Bake-off recipes will be featured in a photo slide show at www.exploresteamboat.com, and the contest judging will be highlighted on the morning show.

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