A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure—nay, the honor—of judging one of the events that earns Somerville its quirky, eccentric reputation: the cooking contest at the city’s Fluff Festival. During this annual celebration presented by Union Square Main Streets, thousands of people gather in the streets of Union Square to eat, appreciate and talk about Fluff, the smooth and sticky marshmallow spread that was invented in Somerville in 1914 (and which happens to be kosher!).
The festival lived up to its name. There was a stage where festival-goers could participate in games like “Blind Man’s Fluff” and “Fluff Jousting.” The line for the “FluffaTron 3000” snaked down the street, with people waiting to enter a money booth full of white fluffiness instead of dollar bills. And among the attendees was a handful of “Pharoahs of Fluff,” who pledge to “spread goodness across the land” and unite their sweet subjects “as Fluff does unite two slices of bread.”
One of the most popular events of the day is the cooking contest, where Fluff fans incorporate the spread into a sweet or savory dish, original or traditional, that is evaluated for presentation, creativity and flavor. My esteemed fellow judges—one of whom is an astronaut who took Fluff with her to outer space—and I ate about 40 entries, from the traditional brownie topped with Fluff to the unique Fluff-stuffed ravioli with brown butter sauce and walnuts (better than you think!). The competition was tight, but after eating dozens of spoonfuls of sweets and consuming hundreds of Fluff-laden calories, we chose Kiersten Dockeney’s nutty, sweet Fluffernutter Pie as the best in show.
Kiersten’s a native Virginian who moved to Boston four years ago. After attending the festival for the past three years, she decided to make the fourth year her first dive into cooking competitions. Like so many others, Fluff was a staple in Kiersten’s childhood. She credits Virginia restaurant Boston Beanery with introducing her to Fluff, and says she ate so many Fluffernutters as a kid that she can’t think of the spread without its peanut butter partner.
After a week of brainstorming options, she decided on one that “leveraged Fluff in more than one component.” As a celiac, she couldn’t actually eat the pie with its gluten-filled crust, so she baked it blind and only once. “It was a fun challenge, if a little nerve-racking,” she said.
The judges liked the pie’s pronounced—but not cloying—sweetness, and its balanced peanut butter flavor. And with two distinct layers, a clean slice looks pretty on your plate. Its cool temperature was also a nice relief on what turned out to be a hot day.
Among her prizes, Kiersten won a tour of the exclusive, private Durkee-Mower Marshmallow Fluff factory in East Lynn. After the winners were announced, she celebrated in appropriate fashion—with a Fluff-topped hard cider.
Recipe from Kiersten Dockeney, winner of Fluff Fest 2014 Best Overall Recipe
9 graham crackers
¼ cup butter, melted
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
¼ cup heavy cream
½ cup Marshmallow Fluff
½ cup peanut butter
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
¼ cup powdered sugar
7 ounces sweetened condensed milk
½ cup Marshmallow Fluff
8 ounces Cool Whip, thawed
1. For Crust: In food processor, pulse graham crackers until texture of sand. Transfer to medium bowl and stir in butter until combined. Transfer to 9-inch pie plate and press into bottom and sides until evenly coated.
2. For Ganache: Bring heavy cream to boil in small saucepan, then remove from heat. Stir in chocolate chips until chocolate has melted. Stir in Marshmallow Fluff until smooth. Let cool slightly, then pour into pie shell in even layer.
3. For Filling: In large bowl, mix together peanut butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Stir in Marshmallow Fluff. Fold in Cool Whip until just combined. Pour into pie crust. Cover and refrigerate until set, at least three hours. (This pie can also be served frozen.) Slice into pieces and serve.