Belenite boasts Best Chocolate Baker award

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Katherine Hower, a resident of Belen, won the Best Chocolate Baker award in the cookies and candy division of the fourth annual Southwest Chocolate and Coffee Fest.

The event takes place at Expo New Mexico state fairgrounds in Albuquerque, and Hower entered her Magic Cookie Bars.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Belen resident Katherine Hower won Best Chocolate Baker at the fourth annual Southwest Chocolate and Coffee Fest in Albuquerque.

Gooey, chocolatey, rich and creamy, the candy cookie bars are a layered smorgasbord of graham crackers with melted butterscotch chips, a layer of dark chocolate chips, potato chips, shredded coconut, milk chocolate chips, marshmallows and sweetened condensed milk.

The candy bars are so delicious, it’s hard to eat just one, Hower says.

The original recipe comes from Bordens sweetened condensed milk, which Hower learned to make with her grandmother, Harriett, in the early ’60s.

“Her Christmas cookie tray always had Magic Cookie Bars,” Hower said, “but I had to add potato chips because my kids like salty sweet.”

Over the years, Hower has tweaked the recipe to perfection, and for the competition, she used Guittard chocolate. The Guittard Chocolate Company is one of the sponsors of Southwest Chocolate and Coffee Fest.

“It’s the most awesome dark chocolate, oh my gosh,” said Hower. “Guittard dark chocolate is 63 percent cacao, so it’s not as dark as bittersweet, which is 83. The darker it is, the stronger it is on your tongue.”

Hower honed her baking, frosting and cooking skills, but says she isn’t very good at decorating. That’s why she’s going to college and taking culinary classes.

“So I can learn all that fancy stuff,” she said. “I had boys. They could care less how it looked, as long as it tasted good. So, I never really learned all the piping and all that.”

One of the other contestants who really impressed Hower had baked cupcakes in little flower pots and decorated them in a garden motif with little Gummi Worms.

“It was so cool,” she exclaimed.

Hower is passionate about cooking, but baking in particular. Her dream is to open her own bakery in Belen on Becker Avenue.

“Just once, try (a cupcake) made from scratch. It will change your life,” she said. “I never feel I’m wasting time when I’m cooking for the people I love.”

Some community members are already familiar with Hower’s culinary skills. She has been offering locals samples of her work.

“I call it creative research ― I need opinions of all sectors, if something is too sweet or too something,” she said.

To find out where to purchase or sample Katherine Hower’s palette-pleasing creations, call 859-5001.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.