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I want to be a Blue Ribbon baker...

Posted Aug 17 2012 11:25am

...so, I'm entering things in the Minnesota State Fair !

(Oh, hello by the way. I'm still alive and kicking. I thought I was ready to return to blogging in the spring, but as it turned out, I wasn't. So I took more time away, and now, NOW, I'm really feeling the itch.) 

I have had a lifelong love affair with county and state fairs, a result of my 4-H Club upbringing. So when I moved to Minneapolis in 2004, I was thrilled to discover that the State Fair is a big effing deal in Minnesota. People are serious about entering the fair, attending the fair, photographing the fair, and eating at the fair, and the city of St. Paul pretty much gets taken over by fair traffic. It's really a season all of its own, in my opinion, a lovely punctuation mark between summer and autumn, a way to celebrate the bounty of the harvest season and the energy of summer before slipping in to the cooler days and slower pace of autumn. 

Rewind to last August, when my friend Amanda and I were walking through the Creative Activities building at the fair. We came upon a small glass case filled with a handful pale, saggy baked goods, looked at eachother with a sad gaze, were both kind of like, "WHAT are these sad looking things?!" Then read the labels more closely, and much to our dismay, discovered that they were the gluten-free contest entries. It was at that very moment I decided that I needed to enter the fair in 2012. Those gummy looking baked goods, white as the undriven snow, could not be the only gluten-free representation at the fair. I owed it to the gluten-free community to provide something more! Like, how is anyone EVER going to want to go gluten-free when those are the baked goods they think they will have to eat for eternity? Especially when there are cases and cases and cases of glutenous treats surrounding them. Psssh.

Okay, so fast forward to the first week of August, just a couple weeks ago. State Fair registration has begun, and of course, I'm registering on the very last day possible because I was a space cadet and didn't really realize that HEY it's August already and HEY it's time to make stuff for the fair. 

I decided to enter five baked goods and one cross-stitch pillow. See? Here's the proof, there's no turning back now.

Unfortunately, I was supposed to turn in my cross-stitch pillow this week for judging and I completely blanked. I guess my unicorn cross-stitch pillow will not have an opportunity to shine. C'est la vie! Maybe I'll just have to post it on the blog instead, and I will have to rely on my baking for my state fair fun this year. 

There are some rules and regulations to be adhered to, of course, but my recipes totally fit the bill and I've been baking away to confirm and refine a few things. I am making two kinds of banana bread, one to be used in both the gluten-free and regular quick bread contests, and another one to be used in the honey & bee culture honey quick bread contest. I will also be making sprouted buckwheat crackers and some kind of cookie from my collection, yet to be determined. Tomorrow night I'll be doing the final bake-off for Sunday morning, when I will be taking all my entries in to be judged! 

Preparing for this is taking me back to my childhood days of being a 4-H member, scrambling to get my entries ready for judging. I never had animals to show in the fair, since I was a city kid. Keep in mind, I use the term "city kid" loosely for my childhood self - I grew up in neighborhoods that danced between city and town lines, walking sidewalks that dropped off when they hit corn fields. Nonetheless, my family didn't have fair-appropriate animals, so I kept on the long familial tradition of 4-H with sewing, baking, cooking, and arts and crafts projects. My rhubarb pie was blue-ribbon winning on more than one occasion at the county fair, and more than once I had a sewing or art project make its way to the 4-H building at the Wisconsin State Fair. I was such a successful little 4-H member.

Anyway, I'm pretty darn excited, and I can't wait to stand in line with all the people who are as cuckoo about baking as I am, all of us carting around our lovingly prepared treats. After they are tasted and judged, all the baked goods get put in to big glass cases, where they sit on display for about two weeks while thousands and thousands of people walk past them and take photos. I can't wait to go look at my stale baked goods trapped in a glass case! I'll be sure to let you know how it all turns out.  

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