Chocolate lovers paradiseChurch festival will benefit child rescue center in Africa
Posted: February 6, 2013
The Winchester Star
Winchester — Chocoholics beware — temptation will abound Saturday at the seventh annual Chocolate Festival.
As soon as people walk into the fellowship hall at Braddock Street United Methodist Church where the festival is held, they will be met with an abundance of chocolate, said Megan Pugh, event coordinator.
Tables along each side of the room are filled with chocolate goodies — cakes, cookies, cupcakes, candy, fudge, bread, brownies, pies and even a chocolate fountain.
“When you come in the room, the aroma is wonderful,” said Pugh of Winchester.
The festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the church, 115 Wolfe St.
Admission is free, but proceeds from all items sold at the festival go to the Child Rescue Centre in Bo, Sierra Leone.
The Child Rescue Centre supports a large number of children who would otherwise be homeless, said Jennette Cosola of Frederick County, a member of the church. The center provides the children with “food, housing, education, and a Christian upbringing.”
“It is such a worthwhile cause because it goes to the actual day-to-day lives that these kids live,” said Cosola, who has visited the African center three times.
Helping out a worthy cause while stocking up on chocolate is a pretty good way to spend an afternoon, she said. Plus, with Valentine’s Day only a week away, the festival provides a great opportunity to find gifts.
There will be a variety of ways for people to get their fix of chocolate at the festival, Pugh said. A long line of bake sale tables will be filled with individually wrapped goodies that have been made and donated by church members.
One table will be loaded down with nothing but cakes for the cakewalks held throughout the event, she said.
“That is a big activity that is enjoyed by people of all ages,” Pugh said. “Everybody wins something.”
Some of the fanciest cakes often end up on the silent auction table along with other donated items, including a 5-pound Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar. Other silent auction items include tickets to a concert featuring Rascal Flatts and The Band Perry, a Vera Bradley clutch handbag, P. Buckley Moss prints, and an ergonomic chair.
So people don’t need to worry, because “there is no shortage of chocolate,” she said.
While several church members have tried-and-true favorite items they contribute — Pugh always makes two kinds of fudge as one of her donations — others use the opportunity to try out new recipes, she said. With more than 60 people contributing items, each year brings new surprises.
Two years ago, Natalie Ridgell of Winchester brought chocolate-covered bacon as one of her dishes, and she probably will again this year. It was different from the other items there and gave people a chance to try something out of the ordinary, she said.
She fried the bacon last time, but this time she plans to bake it, break the strips into slightly smaller pieces, and dip them in melted chocolate.
“It is that salty and sweet combination people are looking for,” she said.
Items that have been dipped in chocolate are a fun, easy way to cook with chocolate for people who aren’t the best cooks, Cosola said. For that reason, she usually likes to go the candy route with items, such as chocolate dipped pretzels.
When she can find juicy fresh strawberries, Pat Boxwell of Winchester makes dark- chocolate covered strawberries for the festival. She frequently experiments with dark chocolate because of its beneficial properties — it is high in antioxidants and certain vitamins and minerals.
“I usually use the microwave for melting chocolate when I do chocolate-covered strawberries because I can watch it closely,” she said.
When melting chocolate, it is essential to avoid mixing it with water, which will ruin the batch, she said. It “seizes” or turns into a grainy, clumpy mess in the bowl.
In the last few years, besides dipping items in chocolate, Cosola has also become proficient at making homemade peanut butter fudge for the festival, usually producing about 10 pounds to sell. The recipe came from a friend, and she admits her “first attempt was awful.”
Then the friend made it with her, and in the last three years, she has gotten it “down to a fine art,” she said.
“It is about watching closely for when it starts boiling and then quickly adding the ingredients,” Cosola said. “I did it slowly, and she showed me you have to whip it really fast to get it nice and smooth.”
Pugh learned how to make her chocolate fudge and chocolate walnut fudge the year the festival started and has been making it ever since. She usually makes about 36 pounds of it to sell.
Another of her favorites to make is Black Magic Cake, “a deep, rich, moist chocolate cake.”
“If someone says chocolate cake, that is what I make,” she said.
The key to the cake for Pugh is the coffee in the recipe. The stronger the brew the better because when added to the buttermilk also in the recipe, it greatly enhances the chocolate flavor, she said. The coffee needs to be cool before it is combined with other ingredients.
Brownies are always a hit at the chocolate festival and come in all shapes and sizes, Boxwell said. Many people like thick, gooey brownies, while others want them more solid.
Either way, she said it is important to take them out of the oven before they are finished cooking. Brownies keep cooking after they are away from the heat, she said, and they will become dried out if they cook too long.
To keep the brownies looking nice, cut them with a plastic knife after they have cooled, Pugh said. “That is how to make them look like they have not been cut with a chainsaw.”
In addition to all of the chocolate items for sale, church members will sell non-chocolate foods such as pizza and tossed salad for lunch and crafts from Sierra Leone as fundraisers for the rescue center.
The inclement weather day is from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Braddock Street United Methodist Church’s seventh annual Chocolate Festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the church, 115 Wolfe St. Admission is free. For more information, call Megan Pugh at 540-533-8120.
— Contact Laura McFarland at firstname.lastname@example.org