Competition in the kitchen

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It’s finally summertime.
That means there are all kinds of activities to look forward to, like bonfires, swimming and spending time with family and friends.
But I have another special event I have looked forward to every summer since I was 9 years old – the baking competition at the Columbiana County Fair.
I started baking with my mom and grandma. It was a way to get the family together, not only by making the food, but also by eating it.
After I started 4-H and took some cooking projects, I started to enjoy baking even more.
There are not many 22-year-olds who participate in the baking competition at the fair, but that has never deterred me. Every year I go into it wanting to beat all those grandmas who make up my main competition.
They may have been baking longer than I’ve been alive, but that doesn’t mean I can’t beat them.
When I get ready for the fair, the first item of business is choosing what items I will bake. The items I enter vary from year to year depending on what new recipes I find and what worked well the previous year.
I have some recipes that have been handed down from my grandma to my mom and now to me. These hold a special place in my heart because I feel like I am carrying on a family tradition when I make them.
My great-grandma’s black raspberry pie recipe is one that I enter every year. And every year it has won because great-grandma’s recipe is one of a kind. Nobody else’s pies can stand up to its flaky crust and perfectly sweetened filling.
My cookie and brownie recipes vary depending on whether or not I find new ones that I like better throughout the year.
I recently began a job at the J.M. Smucker Co., so this year I’ve had access to even more great recipes and the products I need to bake them. I have a feeling those fair judges will be on the edge of their seats this year.
I usually try to bake each fair item at least three times before entry day so I can work out any problems. This is important because the last thing any baker wants is for the recipe to fail on the day of the competition.
I typically eat just about everything I bake in order to see if the ingredients were added in the correct amounts. It’s hard to judge that by what others say.
In the past, these trial runs have prevented many mistakes on entry day. One year I tried to make fudge that always came out more like soup than candy. So at least I knew not to waste my time on making that for the fair that year.
Once the prep work is done, all that is left is to make the items for the fair and then wait for the results. I have been pretty successful in the past and mostly walk away each year with at least three or four blue ribbons and a few second and third places.
No matter how old I get or where life takes me, my baked goods and I will probably find our way back to Lisbon every summer.
I like baking because it is part of a family tradition and it is something that makes people happy. I mean, you never see anyone frown when they are biting into a soft, chewy, first-prize peanut butter cookie. It’s an easy way to spread some happiness and make someone smile.
Winning awards for my baked goods is great, but it’s the satisfied smiles that really make all the work worth it.
(Anna Baltputnis was born to bake. She is looking forward to friendly competition at the fair this year).

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