By Stacie Gruntman
I am not a professional baker and I wouldn?t consider myself a very good cook, although I do put in the effort. I also tend to use simple recipes and I ensure my recipes have the word ?easy? in it somewhere. Thus, I am no where near being a fancy baker. I can?t decorate cakes, I can?t make tarts (I fight with pastry) and I do not make rolled cookies as they are too much work. I would however, call myself a bake-aholic.
I love making cookies, brownies, baklava (my fanciest talent) and of course banana bread. Anything filled with sugar or that is at least a tiny bit sweet, I will attempt to bake if my cravings tempt me. So when I heard there was going to be a bake contest, with a cash prize, I made a very quick decision to enter. I knew just what would win, my grandmother?s brownie recipe. The cash prize was my true incentive to give up sleep and to give up my toddler?s nap time. I really try to get some rest during nap time, but for the $250, I was willing to use that time to make the best ever brownies..oh and I decided to enter the cookie category too. That doubled the incentive! So with my no fail brownies and the delicious banana chip cookie recipe, I was on my way to paying off Christmas bills.
I ended up making over 12 dozen cookies even though I only needed 3 dozen plus 4 cookies for the judges. I wanted to make sure that the cookies weren?t overcooked, undercooked or were any strange shapes. It ended up taking many hours but it was worth it! I had beautiful cookies and they were all a decent size. I figured if people were going to buy them, they might as well get a cookie worth their money. I taste tested my product and they were delicious. When I was finished, I put them in the freezer to keep fresh. One category down, one to go.
To enter into the contest, you had to provide 4 pieces, cookies or tarts for the judges and you had to provide three dozen pieces to sell for the food bank fund raiser. The size requirements were also pretty particular. For example, the squares and slices had to be a minimum of 2″ x 2″. In order to get enough brownies, I knew I would have to do something I had never done before; I tripled the recipe. A dozen eggs, 6 cups of sugar and 3 cups of butter sure do take up a lot of space when you mix them all together. I was worried my bowls would be too small especially after I added the remaining ingredients. Well, they were. But, with some improvisation, I was able to transfer here and there and get it all mixed together.
The night before the contest, I was up late icing the brownies, measuring the brownies, choosing the best cookies and finding boxes to place everything into. Before I went to bed, I knew I was going to be successful as long as I didn?t slip on the ice as I carried in my baked goods!
I was pleasantly surprised when I dropped off my 2 entries to see a colleague and I took that time to see how many entries were there already. I was a bit bothered by the extent of my competition, I will not lie, but I was happy that there would be competition and the food bank would definitely make some money selling all the delicious goodies.
The judging started at 5pm. It was a little slow getting going and I could see the anticipation on the other contestant?s faces. I myself was anxious, which I find a bit silly now since it was only a baking contest. I kept my distance with the fear the judges would say something terrible about my brownies and cookies.
After all the points were tallied, I went over to see the results. Did I win? I had to search the table. I could not see my recipe amongst the winning cookies and I never even tried to enter the tart category. My last hope was my brownies. I leaned over a few shoulders and saw my recipe on the table. My stomach fluttered with excitement. Could it be mine? Did I win the money? As I looked closer I realized that I didn?t win. However, I did get 2nd place! WOW! That is fantastic! I was so excited and I felt like I had won the lottery. All that kept going through my head was, ?My grandmother will be so proud!?. She is the one who gave me the recipe. So thank you grandma, I took 2nd place this year. Perhaps I will try my hand at something else next year and maybe, just maybe, I will win.