Wednesday, the Houston Press competed in a funnel cake competition against Maria Mendez of Univision and Cake & Confetti blogger, Meredith Staggers, for the chance to win a personalized funnel cake creation that will be featured at Wet'n'Wild SplashTown for the duration of the summer. And it's a good thing the World Cup already aired because we wouldn't want any networks crashing on our behalf.
A lot of thought went into the conception of this dish because the Press set out to not only win the competition, but crush the competition. First, who was the target market? Kids, nope. Parents, yep. Why? Because adults carry credit cards.
The original vision was to use a microwave to melt blackberry salt water taffy for 12 seconds, add Marshmallow fluff to the bowl and melt a further five seconds, combine the two, slip the mixture into a piping back and finally, blob at random on the funnel cake canvas.
Adults really love salt water taffy, it reminds them of the good old days, whereas kids are like, "what is that." But since, again, kids don't have money, the Press set out to target their parents. Finally, the blackberry taffy marshmallow blobs would be garnished with crumbled graham crackers. And that's how the idea for the "Hansel and Gretel" funnel cake was born.
But because the salt water taffy ingredient wasn't easy to attain; that idea got shut down. So, the Press dug up H-E-B president Scott McClelland's phone number with hopes to form a partnership between the two entities, so that we could source the taffy, and beat all the other media outlets. That idea was even more quickly shut down.
We then shifted the focus to a riff off the S'more (yawn), but using butterscotch instead of chocolate chips. Butterscotch chips, also too obscure, killed that idea too. Which is perfect, because it made the Press even more hungry to win. Back to the drawing board we went with a quick look at the list of ingredients that were readily available:
a. Strawberry Pie Filling
b. Blackberry Pie Filling
c. Peach Pie Filling
d. Apple Pie Filling
e. Cherry Pie Filling
f. Pineapple Pie Filling
g. Oreo Cookie crumble
h. Whipped topping
i. Chocolate syrup
j. Vanilla Soft Serve
k. Pineapple Soft Serve
And then it dawned on us… The blackberry pie filling could be used in place of the blackberry salt water taffy and "Hansel and Gretel" could still make its debut at the family waterpark.
Maria Mendez and Meredith Staggers waited patiently for the Press to arrive and when she did they all walked over to the competition kitchen at Wet'n'Wild SplashTown. We quickly surveyed our competitors components. Mendez had dulce de leche on her station, while Staggers had S'more materials, and that's when the Press realized two grave errors. America's common sweet tooth is helpless to both the dulce de leche and S'more combinations, flavors they know and trust. And secondly, the premise of the "Hansel and Gretel" fairytale was about two kids getting abducted by someone offering them candy.
But we decided to go for it anyway. The Press could not stop pacing, to which Mendez nicely noticed, "it looks like you're really prepared." The competition would last 30 minutes, to which we all scoffed, equally assuming it would take more like one (us) to five minutes (them.)
HP: Yeah, I don't know, I'm a little prepared.
MM: You keep writing stuff down.
HP: Holy shit, is she using sprinkles?
They both looked down at Stagger's setup as a kitchen worker delivered sprinkles.
HP: Should I use sprinkles?
MM: (Laughs) Maybe.
Now, the biggest decision was whether or not to use sprinkles. It would totally align with the "Hansel and Gretel" theme and sprinkles will kind of sell anything.
The competition began and the Press wildly raced to crumble graham crackers and strain them so they were all about the same size. We melted the marshmallow fluff and blackberry filling together over a double boiler, and then cooled it down in an ice bath. Kitchen workers scurried left and right for the materials we requested; a strainer, a sheet tray, a towel, a spoon to make a marshmallow fluff quenelle (that didn't end up happening.)
After a few consistency setbacks, and ten minutes in, the Press spied marshmallows on Stagger's station. We walked over and were even more pleased to find a shiny hand torch that was probably from Williams Sonoma. Stagger's included after the competition, "marshmallows aren't as fun when they aren't torched." Too true. Screw the sprinkles, with our second garnish visualized the Press moved quickly.
HP: Ooh. Can I borrow this? (Picks up torch.)
MS: "I don't know, should we let her borrow this?" (Said to no one in particular.)
HP: What do you mean, of course you should. (Staggers grabs the torch.)
MS: I don't know, what are you making?
HP: It's called "Hansel and Gretel."
MS: Okay, so what are you making?
HP: Well, I'll tell you this, it's not f&*$ing S'mores.
MS: Okay fine. So competitive.
HP: (Fumbles with torch) How the f&*% do you work this.
MS: Here. (Clicks it easily on.)
HP: Thanks. (Runs away with a handful of marshmallows.)
As finishing touches were made, the Houston Press slammed the plastic plate down on the pass and declared, "DONE." Pictures were taken, a lot of pictures were taken, and as the competitors walked around posing we noticed a piece of tape on Stagger's outfit. Do we pull it off? I mean ten minutes ago she wasn't going to let us use that stupid torch...
Yes, of course we pull it off.
Minutes later, and as the Houston Press wandered back around we didn't see our purse. Staggers walked up quickly saying, "Here, I grabbed all your stuff, hope you didn't worry."
And that's how we became friends.
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And you can be damn sure we worked our way into laying out at the wave pool afterwards. Thanks again, SplashTown.
Wet'n'Wild SplashTown Facebook fans can vote for their favorite funnel cake on Facebook starting Wednesday, July 25. The winning funnel cake will be announced on August 1 and will be available for purchase at Wet'n'Wild SplashTown for the remainder of the season.