In the food industry, there is a term that I love called the “bliss point.”
The term describes that perfect balance between fat, salt, and sugar. It’s critical in baking because we will always crave more of it.
It’s the amount of consumption that maximizes our happiness. It’s that exact combination of deliciousness that stimulates our neurological pleasure zones so wildly that we never get the satisfaction signal. You know, the one that nudges you to stop eating.
This plays a critical part in all types of food consumption, including culinary art competitions. For some reason, baking competitions were one of those bucket list kind of activities for me.
I never considered myself a great baker. I didn’t have any formal training. My mom didn’t spend time teaching me how to bake or cook. What I learned, I learned on my own, by trial and error. My poor friends and family were the taste testers and judges along the way. I just wanted some sort of validation for all that hard work.
I have been competing in baking competitions for six years now. And fortunately, I always had the good fortune of winning. It’s a competitive thing. I don’t care about the money. I just want that blue ribbon to showcase on my bulletin board on the wall of my home office that nobody sees.
If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to win, here are a few things I have learned in order to obtain that coveted ribbon:
1. Be familiar with the rules and regulations. Especially deadlines. Also, pay attention to the quantity they are asking for. For example, if you’re entering a bread, you may need to submit the whole loaf. If you’re doing cookies, they may only want six. Have some understanding and knowledge of when the baked goods need to be dropped off and when the judges will be sampling them. Try to prepare your items the same day and bring them in right before the judging occurs, if possible. That way, the judges are tasting your items at their freshest. There is nothing more delicious than that fresh out-of-the-oven smell and taste.
2. Keep it simple. It isn’t necessary to select a fancy recipe or display of your baked goods. Find something you enjoy baking and that others enjoy eating. Then, try different variations until you feel it’s perfect and different from anyone else’s. This can be achieved with even the subtlest changes. Less is more.
3. Most judging is based on three things: appearance, texture, and taste. Make sure your items are baked thoroughly and look delicious.
4. Use organic ingredients whenever possible. Organic ingredients have more flavor and provide a better tasting product. There are deeper flavors when organics are incorporated into recipes.
5. Enjoy the experience. From prepping to finding out if you won, a baking competition is a great culinary adventure.
Here’s the recipe that I have won the most awards for:
Blissful Blueberry Muffins
Ingredients for topping
¼ cup organic flour
2/3 cup organic brown sugar
½ teaspoon organic cinnamon
2 tablespoons organic butter
Ingredients for muffins
1-¼ cup organic flour
¾ cup organic sugar
1 tablespoon organic baking powder
½ cup organic coconut oil
½ cup organic buttermilk
1 organic egg
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
1 to 1-½ cup fresh organic blueberries
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour, sugar, and baking powder. With a spoon, dig a hole in the center of the bowl to prepare for the next set of ingredients. Place coconut oil into a measuring cup, add the egg, and then add enough buttermilk to fill the measuring cup. Pour into the hole of the flour mixture. Stir until well mixed. Gently fold in blueberries to the batter. Fill muffin cups ¾ full, leaving a little room for the topping. Mix together topping ingredients and sprinkle over muffins. Bake 18-21 minutes.
Author: Melinda Campbell-Weber
Image: Andrew Booth / Flickr
Editor: Sara Karpanen