What was the most difficult challenge that you faced during any bake? And how did you overcome it?
I was my own biggest challenge. So often I would over think things that I had been making for years. Sometimes I read a new recipe four or five times and still had a hard time believing the words that were written and what they were asking me to do. There were times that I didn’t trust my own taste-buds and should have. There were times when I asked other people in my house for opinions about things being done enough, after already having a firm opinion. These would only lead to second guessing and frustration. If I was lucky, the end results wouldn’t be compromised enough for anyone but myself to notice. At times, it made a big enough difference that I wouldn’t submit that baked good and would start over and pick a different challenge for the week, choosing one of the other three possible submissions. There were a couple times that I was so crushed about that particular bake that I would tell my husband to do what he wanted with the results, but to know that if the failed attempt wasn’t out of the house by the morning it would end up in the garbage. Two of the most used sentences in my vocabulary during these 10 weeks of baking challenges were, “How does this taste?” and “Does this taste OK?” Often, I would use my husband and four kids to affirm what I already knew, finally believing that it tasted "right" when they asked for their very own pie…or cake…or tart…or cookie…or etc. How did I overcome myself? I don’t think I did. There will always be that nagging sensation with almost everything I bake, that it wasn’t quite as good as my grandmothers. The one exception might have to be my Cheddar Apple Pie…I am stinking proud of that dessert.
Which Wisconsin twist were you most proud of, and why?
This question feels a little like asking me which of my four children I’m most proud to be the mom of. So, in keeping with one for each child, I will pick my top four proudest moments of these weeks. The first week was huge for me. The success of the cranberry mousse mirror-glaze cake was like a potato gun, propelling me through several of the following weeks. I love the taste of the cranberries. The hard gelatin sailboat cutouts were amazing. The mirror glaze was beautiful. The batter week was the next shining Wisconsin proud moment. Why? Because lacy corn-on-the-cob hearts with two different batters, that’s why. I would be remiss not to include the cheddar/apple standalone pies of Wisconsin Week. If only the picture could share the amazing tart, sweet, sour, creamy, firm, crunchy, buttery, flaky, silky taste that these simple looking pies hold. Last but so very not least, the picnic. I could fill a few pages (maybe quite a bit more) with explaining what it took to bring this satisfying Wisconsin-themed spread together. Rounding it down, I will sum it up with words like: planning, patience, research, organization, work, family, love, and support…so much support (Thank you David!).
If you were to draft a baking challenge for Wisconsin bakers, what would you like them all to make? And what would you be looking for if you were the judge?
I really enjoyed having three options to pick from for each week. One of the options would be to re-imagine the Bandy Old Fashioned in tart form using popular Wisconsin ingredients. Keeping the idea of sweet/sour/bitter with brandy but to try other fruits and textures. The second would be to show your idea of the best cheeseburger in croissant form. What did you grow up with? What was the secret twist on making the burger, the perfect burger. The third would be to make jam shine. Center a pastry on your favorite local or homemade jam. This last one comes from the many hours I spent as a child helping and watching my grandmother and her friends canning. So much peeling and mashing and boiling went along with kitchens full of warmth and friendly banter.
How did you do?
I participated in all 10 Great Wisconsin Baking challenges this summer – I’m a Star Baker!