Friday, October 25, 2013

Can’t Have Just One Sticky Bun

Try this award winning recipe from Fleischmann’s Yeast – Best Baking Contest  at The Big E and you’ll understand why you “Can’t Have Just One Sticky Bun.”

Best Baking Contest 1st Place recipe submitted by Crystal Russell of Willington, Conn.

Can’t Have Just One Sticky Bun
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons Fleischmann’s Instant Yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
12 ounces butter, chilled and cubed
2 eggs
1/2 cup cold milk

Caramel Topping:
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons Karo Light Corn Syrup
12 pecan halves

2/3 cup sour cream
1 cup brown sugar
Cinnamon, for sprinkling

For Dough: Mix the dry ingredients together in a stand mixer with dough hook attachment. Add butter and mix until crumbles form, and then add eggs and milk until dough forms. Remove from bowl and place onto a floured surface. Roll into a rectangle about a 1/2-inch thick. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, roll the dough out into a bigger rectangle until the dough is about 1/8-inch thick.

For Caramel Topping: Heat brown sugar, butter and corn syrup on stovetop until bubbly. Pour hot caramel directly into muffin tin cups. Top caramel with pecan halves. Let caramel cool to room temperature.

For Filling: Spread the sour cream over the rolled out dough, leaving an inch at the bottom filling free. Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon over the sour cream. Starting at the top, roll the dough down until you get to the bottom. Wet the bottom filling free area with water and finish rolling. Cut into 12 sections. Place a section in each muffin tin that has cooled caramel topping already in the bottom of the cups. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes or until done. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Let’s Celebrate Kettle Corn!

October is National Popcorn Popping Month! To celebrate, we wanted to profess our love for a Big E favorite – kettle corn.

It’s no surprise that the sweet and crunchy treat is beloved by the masses of fairgoers who come through our gates. I am a member of the kettle corn fan club as well. Each year I get in line to buy myself a bag at least once. I usually get a medium sized bag thinking it will last me a few days – but that is never the case. Before I know it, all I have is a few un-popped kernels scattered across the bottom of my bag. What’s worse, it has only been a half-hour.

I’ve come to find that I’m not the only person who has this problem. Many fairgoers stock up to get themselves through a few days at the very least. This past year I stood in line behind a family that bought six large bags of kettle corn. In hindsight, they were probably saving it to celebrate this awesome month.  


Luckily for all us aficionados, the popular snack was sold from multiple vendors this year – Henry’s Old Fashioned Kettle Korn, Cloud Nine Delights (New Hampshire Kettle Corn), Pioneer Valley Poppers Kettle Corn, Good Ole Boy Kettle Korn and Kettle Korn Express.

Liz Roman, our embedded reporter at The Big E this year, even did a kettle corn showdown to find out who had the best kettle corn on the grounds. Visit the link at the bottom to check out what she had to say!

Now that you’re craving kettle corn, join in the festivities of this national celebration and pick up a box of Orville Redenbacher’s or try your luck at making some at home.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Who Knew Butter Could Be Art?

Butter sculptures at The Big E are like peanut butter to jelly. Although the butter sculpture was only made an annual tradition in 1996, the popularity of this attraction makes it difficult to recall a time when butter art was not part of New England’s Grandest Fair.

The sculptors behind the extraordinary, 17 year butter montage are Jim Victor and Marie Pelton. The team creates original food sculptures across the United States at state fairs, corporate events and even for private clients. While their primary medium at The Big E is butter, they have used a wide array of edible items in their other work. 

75th Anniversary Butter Cow
Now, before New England’s Grandest Fair even existed, Eastern States Exposition hosted the National Dairy Show in 1916. One of the attractions – a life-sized butter cow.

When the time came for The Big E’s 75th anniversary celebration in 1996, the administration began envisioning something special to mark the occasion. A decision was made to recreate the 1916 cow made entirely out of butter. Jim Victor was hired for the job, which became a smash hit among fairgoers of all ages. Marie Pelton joined the team in 2001.

The butter sculpture starts out as a theme or topic and over the first week and a half of the Fair, it is brought to life. Being an avid fairgoer, seeing the butter sculpture each year was a treat. It is always cool to watch the creation take shape and take guesses on what it would be.  

Each year, hundreds of pounds of butter are plastered on wire frames to create the scene. In fact, over 600 pounds of butter, donated by Agrimark/Cabot Creamery, are used for each design. During the Fair, the work all takes place in a specially designed cooler located under the Mallary Rotunda.

"Grown in New England"
2013 Butter Sculpture
Over the past nearly two decades, we have seen Dr. Seuss’ “Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?” memorialized in butter, a daredevil cow on a motorcycle and even a scene from Norman Rockwell’s “The County Agent.”

This year’s butter sculpture followed the theme, “Grown in New England,” sponsored by the Massachusetts Dairy Promotion Board. It featured a farmer with specialties from each New England State – cheese, lobster, wine, trees, milk, ice cream and bees.  

Don't miss out on seeing The Big E's most unique attraction next year! 

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Big E Cream Puff

If you’re wondering what a Cream Puff is, there’s a good chance you’re not from around here.

The Big E Cream Puff is an irresistible sweet pastry shell stuffed with a creamy filling. It has been the Fair’s signature dessert since its debut in 2002. Even after 11 years, the tasty treat is as popular as ever with approximately 50,000 sold over the 17-day extravaganza.

The Cream Puff is so perfect that the recipe has not changed once since its first appearance at The Big E. Every batch is measured perfectly to guarantee that each one tastes exactly the same.

During the Fair, the cream and thousands of shells are prepared daily for the oversized desserts. This past year, 2,244 gallons of heavy cream and 34,920 eggs were used in the production. Due to the massive demand for the desserts, preparation work for the Fair begins close to a month beforehand.

All of this work is done in the state-of-the-art Cream Puff Bakery run by Ray and Dolores Billie, founders of Billie’s Baked Potatoes. The Bakery, located inside the New England Center, is enclosed by large glass panels so fairgoers can watch the production process as they wait for their treat. The Bakery is also equipped with a takeout window for early morning and late night customers.

In case fairgoers have an emergency Cream Puff craving and can’t make it to the Bakery; there is a more centralized shop open in the Food Court. Clearly, the Billie’s have a booming business.

Recipe for Cream Puff Craving

With all that talk about Cream Puffs, why not make some yourself? While we don’t even know the secret recipe for The Big E Cream Puff, here’s a tasty alternative to hold you over until next year!

1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs
1 egg yolk

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Additional confectioners' sugar for topping

Dough: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large pot, bring milk and butter to a boil. Add salt and flour all at once. Stir the mixture until it forms a ball. Remove from the heat let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Scoop ¼ cup size balls from the dough and place them on a baking sheet 3 inches apart. Combine the milk and egg yolk and brush over the dough. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Immediately cut a slit in each for steam to escape. When the shells are cool, split the pastry in half and hollow out the shells.

Filling: In a large bowl, beat cream until it begins to thicken. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until thick. Fill the cream puffs just before serving. Dust with confectioners' sugar. Refrigerate leftovers. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Get Some Halloween Inspiration from The Big E

Triple Scoop Ice Cream Cone 
Forget about the mess of pumpkin carving – grab some paint and start a new Halloween tradition of decorating them instead! It’s a lot of fun and if you have a knack for it, why not enter them at The Big E next year?

Each year, the Fair holds an annual Decorated Pumpkin contest in Farm-A-Rama. You don’t even need to grow the pumpkins – all you need is art supplies and imagination.

The contest has been a Fair tradition for as long as I remember. People get pretty artistic with their work, designing anything you can think up. In the past we have seen snowmen, Mrs. Potato Head, hen and chicks, Winnie the Pooh, a queen bee, Harry Potter, Papa Smurf, Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc., Dr. Suess’ the Lorax, a lot of birds, and so much more. 

He ate the whole Big E!
Longtime exhibitor, and my father, Mike Pietruska, has been entering decorated pumpkins in the contest since 2000. Every year, his pumpkins depict The Big E’s First Aid nurses saving the day.

While some participants make their pumpkins almost unrecognizable with clay, feathers, and other modeling materials, Mike likes to keep his pumpkins looking like pumpkins.

Mike adds his own brand of creativity to the pumpkin contest with the outlandish characters and zany scenes he constructs. If you search back through photos of the contest history, it is easy to pick out which displays are his.

Like father, like daughter. I have even entered a few pumpkins. From 2004-2007, I created a watermelon Jack-O-Lantern I titled “Wat-O-Melon,” a Halloween cow and pig and “Pumpkin Bowling Association” complete with bowling lane, ball and pins. My personal favorite was a three scoop ice cream cone.

Have something in mind already? Practice decorating pumpkins for this upcoming Halloween and show off your talent at the 2014 Big E! 

Check out a collection of decorated pumpkin entries at The Big E on our Pinterest page!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Tales From Haunted New England

Creepy tales by candlelight
Looking for a way to get in the Halloween spirit? Get all of the thrills and chills of Halloween with “Tales from Haunted New England” at Eastern States Exposition’s Storrowton Village.

We all have our favorite Halloween activities, from haunted houses to costume parties, but I think spooky storytelling by candlelight takes the cake for classic creepy fun. If you agree, then add “Tales from Haunted New England” to your agenda this season. This enjoyable and bewitching tradition will take place Friday, October 18 at 7pm in the Village’s historic meetinghouse.

Dennis Picard, director of Storrowton Village Museum and our resident storyteller, opens his “Peddler’s Pack of Spooky Tales” for this event. Come listen to his ghostly stories from days of the past in the eerie setting of the 19th century village.

The hour-long program of folklore will feature supernatural accounts from Montgomery, Belchertown, the Mohawk Trail State Forest and Hatfield, Mass. Come hear the story about the mysterious disappearance of the Belchertown Pedlar, the witch of Hadley and many more legends of “murder and mayhem” in the region. These stories are sure to make your bones shake!

Don’t miss out! “Tales From Haunted New England” has been a popular family favorite Halloween attraction for the past 22 years. Contact Storrowton Village Museum at 413-205-5051 to make your reservation today!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bisquick Tomato Tart

Even though tomato season is nearing an end, try to scavenge up what you can for this delicious recipe from the 2013 Bisquick Family Favorites Recipe Contest at The Big E!

If you like this, make sure you stay tuned for our upcoming blog on the Fleischmann’s Best Baking Contest winning entry! Also, check out our blog from October 2 on Grandma’s Favorite Caramel Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies. Yum!

Bisquick Tomato Tart

Bisquick Family Favorites Recipe Contest 1st place recipe submitted by Anne Crouss of Feeding Hills, Mass. 

1 1/2 cups Original Bisquick mix
1/4 + 1/8 cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed
4 to 5 tablespoons boiling water
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Tomato Filling:
15 black and/or green bar style olives, chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups shredded Italian Fontina cheese
3 large tomatoes, sliced 1/8-inch thick, well drained on paper towels
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Fresh thyme sprigs

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Prepare the crust by mixing Bisquick mix, butter and crushed fennel seeds in a small bowl. Add water and stir vigorously until a soft dough forms. Press into a 12-inch tart pan and bake for 8 to 10 minutes until light brown. Reduce heat to 400 degrees F. Brush bottom of tart with a lightly beaten egg white and bake until golden, approximately 10 minutes. Cool slightly on a wire rack.

Prepare tomato filling by mixing olives, onions, thyme and olive oil together in a small bowl. Sprinkle cheese over bottom of cooled crust. Arrange the tomato slices in slightly overlapping circles over the cheese. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. Sprinkle olive and onion mixture on top of the tomatoes.

Bake in the 400 degree F oven for approximately 20 to 25 minutes, when the cheese is melted and the tomatoes are golden and bubbly. Garnish with thyme sprigs and serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Slide On Down to The Big E

I don’t know about you, but when I think about The Big E, the Giant Slide is one of the first things that crosses my mind. The slide is a tried and true characteristic of New England’s grandest fair and a ride down is the cherry on top of a great day.

Who doesn't love the classic appeal of a giant slide? Being one of the few rides with no moving parts, the slide truly captures the simple joys of a state fair.

For those of you who aren't familiar with this iconic structure, it is a big yellow slide on the East side of The Big E fairgrounds. Unlike most modern rides, there aren't any seatbelts or body restraints. All you need is a burlap sack to sit on and the common sense not to try and stand up.

The trek to the top of the slide might present a slight obstacle, being that it is 46 feet tall, but the 135 foot descent down is well worth it. Granted, it probably only takes less than 20 seconds to ride down, but there is something about the sensation of sliding that people just love. I would go on it time after time if I could. It is fun for all ages!

The Giant Slide was brought to Eastern States Exposition in 1969 when it was owned and operated by a man named Jack Barham. The Big E’s slide was one of about 30 built. Our slide’s sister has a permanent residence at the Minnesota State Fair.

When the design of the slide was completed, the scaffolding, stair and decking components were manufactured. The parts were all made by separate companies, including Boeing Aircraft. At the time, Boeing was the only company that was able to manufacture the grooved aluminum exterior.

The slide surface, or “skin,” was specifically designed with four waves to prevent riders from picking up too much speed. The grooves were added to keep people on a straight path and prevent collisions. Also, since it is a metal structure, the slides were painted yellow given that the color attracts the least amount of heat. 

When originally constructed, the slides were meant to travel from one location to another. The Big E’s slide became an exception, remaining on our grounds year-round. The Exposition eventually purchased it in 1972 and have been operating it ourselves ever since.    

Initially, the Slide was located at Gate Five, where the Flag Plaza now stands. It was positioned there until the front entrance to the fairgrounds was reconstructed in 1983. The slide was then moved to the East side of the grounds, behind the Better Living Center. In 1996, it was renovated, moved and centered in its current location.

The slide is now called the McDonald’s Giant Slide, after the restaurant chain became its official sponsor in 2012. Despite the sponsor addition, the Slide remains the same traditional thrill that has been a signature attraction of The Big E for the last 44 years.

The family favorite ride has even been the site of several marriage proposals. If that doesn't shout how much love we have for this Big E symbol, I don’t know what will.

Next year when you come to The Big E, make sure you take a ride down the Giant Slide.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Shear Fun at the Fiber Festival!

Looking for unique holiday gifts, warm scarves, cozy sweaters, or the materials you need to make them? Don’t miss the Fiber Festival of New England at Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Mass., November 2 & 3.

Show hours are Saturday, 9am-5pm and Sunday, 9am-3pm. Admission is $5 for adults and free for children 12 and under. It’s a wonderful time for the whole family! Show off your handmade garments and accessories during the Fiber Fashion Show. No pre-registration is required, and those interested may contact Kathy Rasys at (413)245-9463 or via email at  

It’s a perfect occasion to begin your holiday shopping with over 200 vendor booths to visit. Learn how to spin, knit and weave one-of-a-kind pieces. There will also be a fleece sale, demonstrations, live animals and much more!

Eastern States Exposition and the New England Sheep and Wool Growers Association will co-produce the 4th Annual Fiber Festival of New England! Tickets are available now at Go to the for more details and directions. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Grandma’s Favorite Caramel Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

This past year, The Big E hosted a series of national and local cooking contests in which participants entered their original recipes in hopes to win the grand prize. The national cooking contests featured at the 2013 Big E included Gold Medal Flour Scratch Bakers Cookie Challenge, Fleischmann's Yeast Best Baking Contest and Bisquick Family Favorites Recipe Contest. In addition, the two local contests were Domino Sugar Cake Decorating Contest and Domino Sugar Cupcake Contest.

Sad you missed out? Well, you’re in luck! These winning recipes are too good to keep to ourselves, so we are going to share them with you!

Grandma’s Favorite Caramel Salted Chocolate Chip Cookie

Gold Medal Flour Scratch Bakers Cookie Challenge 1st place recipe submitted by Frances Tessier of East Hartford, Conn. 

1 stick butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups Gold Medal All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt (plus additional for sprinkling)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 bag chocolate chips
2 – 3 caramello bars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a nonstick cookie sheet.

In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugar together until creamy. Add the vanilla and eggs and mix until well blended.

In a separate bowl, blend together the Gold Medal all-purpose flour, salt and baking soda. Add dry ingredients to the wet and mix thoroughly. Add 1 bag chocolate chips to dough and mix.

Scoop a small spoon of dough onto the prepared cookie sheet. Add a caramello square to the center of each dough ball. Next, cover the caramello square with more cookie dough and push down and around to seal. Sprinkle kosher salt on top of the cookie dough and bake for about 10 minutes until done.

Yields: approximately 12 cookies