Tips for Prize Winning Recipes
The following advice comes from eleven judges of state-fair food contests. All are state-certified to judge with college degrees in home economics and career experience in foods. Following a recent state-fair, the interviews with the judges disclosed the following tips.
- Remember that we eat with our eyes first; make it attractive when entering a competition.
- Always use fresh ingredients. Spices lose flavor after about six months; poppy seeds become acidic within six months unless refrigerated. This will extend their freshness to a year. Note the expiration date on baking powder.
- Measure accurately when baking and know the difference between measuring sifted flour and "flour, sifted". The latter you measure before sifting.
- Get your ingredients, bowls and utensils together and read the recipe before you begin preparing it. Make sure you understand the recipe. If it fails, try to figure out why; it could be humidity, over-mixing, under-mixing or an inaccurate oven temperature for a few examples.
- It is all right to freeze high-fat cookies, such as sugar cookies; the cookies may be more flavorful with time. This is how contestants are able to enter multiple contest categories; they bake ahead and freeze. Be sure cookies are completely cool before freezing them in airtight containers so they do not become soggy when thawed. Thaw over night in open air to remove excess moisture.
- When making quick breads, grease the pans only halfway up or the dough will climb to the top and form an unattractive ring. When making yeast breads, let them rise twice and punch down the dough before forming the product, then let rise a third time for best flavor and texture. This will also help combat the effects of high humidity.
- Herbs should not be overpowering. They should be subtle.
- When canning, simmer fruit in hot syrup and move it around in the jar, using a knife, to remove air bubbles before processing. Less fruit will float to the top. In addition, make sure fruit is not over ripe to avoid fuzzy edges.
- Muffins should have rounded tops and no tunnels. A cone shaped top and tunnels indicate over-mixing. High-powered mixers will mix things faster.
- When separating eggs, remember they separate better cold, but beat into higher peaks when warm or at room temperature.
- A Bloody Mary mixture in a bread-machine bread.
- Cinnamon-hazelnut creamer in a sweet-roll frosting.
- A combination of strawberries, rhubarb and Granny Smith apples in a crisp.
- Peanut butter in barbecue sauce
- Finely shredded grapefruit peel in a chiffon cake.