Guys, bad news. I’ve been bitten, badly. By the competition bug, that is. I’m telling you, these baking contests are dangerous and addicting. I don’t know what it is about them…maybe they bring out the Type A freak in me that loves precision and detail? Who knows!? Nevertheless, as I was walking out of my first one, third place medal in hand, I was already planning my next…the Terryville Lions Country Fair. Now, having looked at my summer bucket list, with two more projects to go… I’ll definitely be finishing after the school year starts. BUT, it will get done. This little detour however, was just too good to pass up!
Now, for my next contest, I had a few options. I could have tried the state-level six layer cake again, but to be honest, I’m a little over that cake (and the heart palpitations that come with building it), at the moment. Another contest that can be found at almost any local fair, which eventually leads to a state competition, is the King Arthur Adult Baking Contest. This one is a little different though, where each fair has a different recipe that competitors need to follow. For the Terryville fair, bakers were tasked with baking Pumpkin Gingerbread with an Orange Glaze. Even though I’ll be the first one to say that August is a little too early to start celebrating the magic of pumpkin, let’s just call this a warm up.
One thing that I really like about this recipe, is that there is room for creativity in it. For example, it can be made into two loaves or muffins. In addition, the glaze is optional, because the cake is delicious enough with or without it. And, last but not least, bakers can choose to throw some extras in there to enhance the yumminess: either chocolate chips or pecans. So, without further ado, let’s get to baking…and hopefully, winning!
The recipe starts simply by beating the butter and brown sugar together.
Next, all of the dry ingredients go in and are mixed until everything is incorporated. The mixture should look crumbly since there haven’t been many moist ingredients added. One of the dry ingredients is one I’ve never used before: crystalized ginger. It’s minced up because, eaten alone, it can have a pretty strong flavor. But, mixed together with pumpkin, it’s super complimentary.
This is where I made my add-in decision. Bakers could choose between pecans or chocolate. While I LOVE chocolate (obviously), I thought nuts would pair better with pumpkin, ginger, and orange. Don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of time for chocolate later…like next week.
Up next, the wets. In this case, those include eggs, pumpkin and molasses. The molasses adds a really great sweetness to this bread…another reason why I chose to go with nuts over chocolate. Those are mixed in until the mixture is uniform.
At this point, you can choose to either make 2 loaves or 24 muffins. I went with loaves, because they’d be more fun to decorate with the glaze, and since they’re bigger, there would be less of a chance that I’d accidentally dry them out. Because I’m all about precision, I used a handy scale to split the batter evenly.
When baking, I really tried to pay attention to done-ness. That seems obvious, right? But, the feedback I got from the last competition ironically said that my cakes were too moist. I probably under-baked them because I was too afraid of burning them! This time, I really went for a happy medium. The recipe said 50-55 minutes, so I went with 55 minutes, with a rotation half way through the time.
While the bread was cooling, I made the glaze. Technically, it was optional. But, come on, go big or go home! Plus, I thought orange and pumpkin was a really interesting flavor combo, so I had to try it. To make the glaze, you literally dump all of the ingredients in a bowl, and whisk. Done.
To decorate, bakers had the option to brush the glaze on when the bread was still warm for a glossy finish, or wait until it was cooled to achieve a thick white finish. I wanted to experiment with a drizzle design, so I went with the latter.
Well, fingers crossed…again. Next week, back to non-competitive baking. I don’t know if my currently brown (quickly greying hair) can take another. The results will be on Facebook soon! Until the, stay tuned and stay hungry 🙂