Klugers Dec2016

  Winners of the 2017 Homewood Chocolate Fest 
  Bake-Off are, from left, Hailey and Patricia Stepp, 
  third place; Michelle Estes, first place; and Lee 
  Brauer, second place.
(Photo by Eric Crump/
  H-F Chronicle)

Chocolate lovers had their fill of “sweetastic,” “delicious,” “terrific” treats at Homewood’s 15th annual Chocolate Fest on Saturday, Feb. 18.

It didn’t matter if they left the Homewood Auditorium with mouth-watering treats from the dozens of vendors or got in line for samples provided by the chocolate bake-off contestants. The consensus was: It was all good!

And, Chocolate Fest raised more than $800 for TALK,  the Theatre & Arts Leadership Kouncil, a local teen arts organization.

  Myles Mosby, 3, works to 
  grind cacao beans at the
  Homewood Science Center 
  booth, which featured
  lessons in how ancient
  Aztecs made chocolate.
  Myles gets help from James
  Hart students Marissa 
  Esparza and Patrick Hutton. 
  Myles came to the festival 
  with Tiffany Miles, both of 
  Shererville, Ind.
(Photo by 
  Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

Edward Owens of Flossmoor was enjoying the Girl Scouts thin mint brownie sample from the bake-off.  Kim Bernstein, formerly of Homewood, said a caramel treat was delicious. Carline Cajuste of South Holland wasn’t sure what the chocolate bite was from her bake-off tray, but it definitely was to her liking.

The Homewood Science Center’s modern day Aztec hot chocolate was “spicy and earthy,” said Owens.  Greg Bunn of Chicago said the drink had “quite a kick to it.” That’s because the recipe called for cinnamon, chili pepper, vanilla and cacao, with a touch of sugar and cream, said Holly Kelsven, the center’s marketing and events coordinator.

Around the periphery of the auditorium, guests could choose from hand-crafted caramel, cookies, cakes and candies from local and regional vendors. 

  Ashish Shah of Orland
  Park gave each of his
  1-year-old twins, Kayson
  and Colton, a morsel of
  chocolate to taste.
  by Marilyn Thomas/H-F 

In the center of the floor, the 13 bake-off contestants had their creations judged for appearance, taste and creativity. The winners were Michelle Estes of Homewood in first place, Lee Brauer of Homewood in second place and Patricia and Hailey Stepp of Lansing in third place.

After the judging, their handiwork was available to guests who filled their cardboard trays with treats. Some were richly dark from the amount of chocolate in the recipe. Others started with chocolate that was topped with nuts, glazes and frostings. Still others found a way to dip the baked goods in chocolate.

Rachel Michelle of Flossmoor entered her Triple Chocolate Coma Fudge Cake in the bake-off. It’s a recipe she’s been perfecting for three years.

Stepp, of Lansing, won in 2016 for her Reese’s brownie. This year, she and her daughter entered a chocolate brownie topped with a special cherry frosting made from maraschino cherries.

“I like to take traditional recipes and take them up a notch,” she said.

The Homewood Public Library’s entry by library director Amy Crump, was a Dixie Doodles cookie from an orange-basil recipe. She dipped the cookie in chocolate.

Greg Weiss assisted her in formulating the recipe. He’d suggested adding basil “because it’s from the mint family and it goes with chocolate and citrus.”

Pattie Tydd of the Homewood Woman’s Club won the contest in 2015. This year she entered a chocolate pound cake with little chocolate chips for 

“It’s just a plain pound cake,” she said, although those sampling it thought it was anything but plain.  Tydd said she’d been experimenting with a recipe to try and get as close as possible to a Sara Lee pound cake that’s no longer available.

Judge Aimee Shugarman, who gives tips through her “Shugary Sweets” blog, said everything she tasted was “delicious and decadent. I’ve been training my whole life for this day!”

Kelvin McClinton, a district supervisor for White Castle Restaurants, said he was really excited to serve as a judge. White Castle won the bake-off last year for its brownie on a stick.

“I love sweets. I’m a sweet-aholic. I’ve already signed on to judge next year,” he said. 

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