By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
ADA — The world’s next baking dynasty may be honing its skills in Ada.
The Hardin County village, known for Wilson footballs and Ohio Northern University, is also home to Erin Chrissobolis and her son, Timothy. The duo won the seventh annual chocolate bake-off held earlier this month at the Ada Public Library.
Erin took first place in the adult category with a delectable Chocolate Oreo Cake, while 10-year-old Tim swept the youth division by baking a flavorful Brownie Cake with Speculoos Cookie Butter Frosting.
“It was fun,” said Erin. “We made a mess (in the kitchen), but we had a good time.”
Cooking and baking aren’t anything new to this mother-son duo. Ever since Tim was little, he’s been helping out in the kitchen.
“I would, like, crack the eggs or get the butter out,” he said.
But it wasn’t really an interest in creating a chocolate confection that convinced Tim to compete in this year’s bake-off. It was the prize, said Erin — a one-pound box of candy from Dietsch’s.
“I just wanted the chocolate,” Tim confessed. “I wanted to win the chocolate.”
Erin found the two winning recipes online. Her cake recipe was listed on the Live, Love and Sugar website, and Tim’s brownie recipe came compliments of the Brown Eyed Baker. Erin picked the recipe because Tim likes cookie butter.
The spread is made from pulverized cookies, she explained. This one in particular features spice cookies called speculoos, which are traditionally baked as a St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6) treat in the Netherlands and Belgium, and around Christmas in Germany and Austria. Erin buys cookie butter at Trader Joe’s, and the spread gives the frosting a subtle flavor of cinnamon and cloves.
“I think probably what set our recipes apart was they were unique,” said Erin. “When you listened to the judges’ comments, they’re like, ‘Oh, we appreciated the crunch in the icing’, or for Tim’s, the flavor of his icing.”
The family moved to Ada three and a half years ago from Melbourne, Australia, when husband and father Sophocles accepted a position as an assistant professor of pharmacology at ONU’s School of Pharmacy. Erin said the library soon became one of the family’s favorite destinations.
“Tim and I have always been very active participants in the library. We love our libraries, every place we’ve lived,” she said.
She now serves on the library’s board of trustees.
This is the first year the Chrissobolises have competed in the bake-off. Tim made the entire recipe on his own, except, he said, for help getting the brownie out of the oven.
“When we were still living in Australia, we actually had a tradition where we would assemble cookie plates for all of our neighbors. And then we would share with them the story of the candy cane because some of the Christmas traditions are a bit different,” Erin said.
Friends brought cookies and Erin made sugar cookies that they’d all decorate together.
“That’s probably Tim’s early baking experience, so he’s done that for a long time,” she said.
A fourth-grader at Ada Elementary School, Tim enjoys swimming, soccer and tennis in addition to time spent in the kitchen. He’s also a Cub Scout.
“He has to teach his den how to make something, so he’s going to teach them popcorn chicken,” Erin said. “Now they have their Whittling Chip, so they’re allowed to use knives, so he’s learning how to use his kitchen knives.”
Tim says peanut butter blossoms are his favorite item to bake. Erin enjoys making cakes, though she feels her “decorating skills leave a bit to be desired.”
Her snickerdoodle recipe is popular, though, especially with Tim’s friends. He takes the cookies to school each year for his birthday treat.
“Everyone always asks, ‘Can I have another one?'” he said.
Instead of cinnamon and sugar, Erin likes to roll the cookies in colored sugar. She uses different colors depending on the holiday. The colored sugar also makes the outside a bit crunchier when it’s baked.
“Honestly, I like cooking mains over desserts, but every once in a while we’ll pull out a dessert,” she said.
Erin uses the cooking magazines at the library for ideas and plans her menus a month at a time.
“Which is good because I get the heads up when she makes something I don’t like,” said Tim.
The family has adjusted nicely to life in a small town.
“Melbourne was 4.5 million people, so coming back to the States, we can walk everywhere now. Or a traffic jam in Ada is the trains coming through town and you’re the third car back,” Erin laughed. “So that’s kind of been a nice change.”
The library bake-off has been around since 2013. Youth services coordinator Natalie Walton said this year’s event attracted 11 entries. Each offering was given a number prior to the taste-testing so the judges wouldn’t know who made what as they tasted the array of cakes, brownies, muffins and cookies.
Tasked with judging were Jackie Sperling, Liz Vogt, Nancy Wyche and Sam Bell. Before revealing the winners, Sperling commented on each entry, saying that one of her criteria had been deciding, “Would I take seconds or go home with it?”
Erin and Tim said they both want to compete again.
“Now that I know what goes on, maybe word-of-mouth can help spread it a bit more so even more will participate in next year’s contest,” Erin said.
She thought it would be fun to throw a challenge out to other libraries, as well: “Maybe in the future we could have an Ada-Findlay bake-off.”
Brownie Cake with Speculoos Cookie Butter Frosting
For the cake:
½ cup unsalted butter
3½ ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
11/3 cups lightly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder
3 eggs, at room temperature
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
For the frosting:
¾ cup speculoos cookie butter
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
Chocolate shavings, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Remove pan from heat, add dark chocolate, let sit for 30 seconds, then whisk until smooth and glossy. Add the brown sugar, vanilla and espresso powder and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the eggs, 1 at a time, then sprinkle in the flour, baking powder and salt. Use a rubber spatula to fold it all together until there is no flour visible.
Spread the brownie mixture in the prepared springform pan and bake 20-25 minutes, or until the cake has puffed slightly and the top is shiny and just barely cracked. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before removing the sides of the springform pan.
To make the frosting, use an electric mixer on medium speed to mix the speculoos cookie butter and unsalted butter for a full minute, until it’s light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, salt and cream and beat for another minute, or until the mixture is fluffy and spreadable.
Spread the frosting on the cake, garnish with chocolate shavings, and cut into wedges to serve.
Leftovers can be stored, covered, at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Makes 6-8 servings.
— Recipe from www.browneyedbaker.com