Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Review: 5th Annual Totally Fabulous Vegan Bake-Off

On 2 February 2013, I joined 45 other bakers in the 5thAnnual Totally Fabulous Vegan Bake-Off.
As an amateur baker, I had to prepare 100 bite sized portions of my entry – a delicate orange chocolate biscotti which was included in the category of 'Charming Vegan Cookies'. Preparing that many samples was an interesting but comforting challenge for me. It took me the better part of a day and much to my chagrin I had to prepare an additional batch of candied orange peels late in the day.
The event was sold-out and over 5000 samples were consumed within hours of the doors opening. The Toronto Vegetarian Association did a wonderful job coordinating and preparing the event. Information was seamlessly passed to bakers and the event went off without a hitch.
The two major problems I had with the event were the unprofessional nature of the announcers (I don't care that your roommate entered, or your boyfriend, or your brother – keep it to yourself!) and the odd judging organization. Entries were only tasted by judges if they won first place in their category. I believe that fair judging requires the judges to sample every entry in each category as many individuals brought with them a mired of friends and groupies with which to pad the votes.
Regardless of the odd judging hierarchy, when I returned home I immediately began to dream about the possible entries for next year's bake-off. I entered with a biscotti because I believe it tastes pretty darn good but also because it was quick to bake and easy to transport. However, I do not think it showed that well in an atmosphere were there were no hot drinks into which to dip the biscotti. I think I will plunge a little deeper into my baking repertoire for next year – perhaps with a flood iced cookie which is 3-D in nature. 
This was my first cooking competition of any kind. Entering a food competition has been on my to-do list for many years and I am glad that I have finally accomplished it! I really approached this competition with a 'fun run' mentality. It was something new, something different that I am glad I accomplished. I also liked the challenge of making 100 samples.
Advice for newbies to the Bake-off?
  1. Plan ahead! I should not have had to make additional candied orange peels the day before the event as it would have been simply a matter of counting how many batches I would need to hit the 100 mark.
  2. Take the 'bite sized' seriously. My biscotti were gratuitously large!
  3. If making 100 treats AND a beautiful display worries you – go simple and classic for the display. This year's runner-up in the display simply placed two treats and a piece of fruit on a square white plate.
  4. Have fun! Remember it's a 'fun run'!
Unfortunately my entry did not pull a win – but I plan on blaming that on the lack of coffee – for what is a biscotti without a hot substance into which to dip it?
Keep an eye out for this awesome event next year! It's a too tasty to miss!

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