When Kristin Troester left America’s Best Raisin Bread Contest, she brought home more than the new recipe and baking knowledge she was looking for – she also clinched an award.
Troester, of St. Peter’s Bakery in St. Peter’s Village, won the judges’ prize, a silver medal finish, in the artisan category at the California Raisin Marketing Board’s sixth annual competition, held at the International Baking Industry Expo in Las Vegas in October.
Troester’s sister, who also works at the bakery, had participated in the competition last year and convinced Troester to enter it with her this year. Together they entered two breads, one under each of their names. Both were accepted into the contest.
“It was pretty exciting because we wanted to develop a new bread,” she said. “So this kind of helped push us that direction. We do have a bread that has apples, raisins and walnuts in it, but we wanted to do one with more dried fruit in it.”
That’s what helped motivate them to develop the Sultana Sunflower Bread, which won the award. It contains apricots, raisins, craisins and currants, all soaked in triple sec, as well as raisin paste, and toasted sunflower seeds to add a pleasant crunch to it.
Troester said the ingredients were picked based on what flavors best complimented the raisins and kicked up the flavor a notch.
To compete, the weight of the raisins must be at least half that of the flour – so if it has 1,500 grams of flour, it must also contain 750 grams in raisins. The contestants submit their recipes with photos (including cross-sections of the bread), and from the total applicant pool, the judges choose 12 in each of three categories – breakfast, commercial and artisan – to compete.
At the contest, each baker has two days to make their bread from scratch. On the first day, they prep, and then they finish and bake it for the judges the second day.
“The contest is really geared toward the working baker,” said Larry Blagg, the senior vice president of marketing for the California Raisin Marketing Board and the creator of the contest. The judges look at the technical skill, the bakers’ abilities to explain their processes and products, and the technique they used, as well as the quality and taste of the bread, he added.
“We’re always looking for new ingredients or something different, a new twist on what the product is,” he said.
The judges include World Cup of Baking silver medalist and former National Bread and Pastry Team Champion Ciril Hitz, “On Baking” co-author Klaus Tenbergen and Bread Baker’s Guild of America board member Melina Kelson-Podolsky, all highly respected certified master bakers.
This year’s contest had a record 126 applicants.
“It’s a cool opportunity because it’s world-known,” Troester said. “The competition in itself has kind of helped me see what else is going on in the field.
“Because I work in a very small village where there’s not a stop sign or a stop light, you kind of forget that the rest of the world is out there,” she added with a laugh. “So it’s just a great reminder of what’s going on in the field and it sparked the desire to learn and grow more in what I do, since there’s always room for improvement.”
Troester said competitors could talk to each other throughout the competition, taste each other’s products and talk to the judges, and that open atmosphere made it even more of a learning experience.
Most of all, though, she’s happy to share her new recipe with customers. St. Peter’s Bakery now sells the award-winning bread in their shop and at farmer’s markets.
For more information on the bakery, located on St. Peter’s Road, visit their website at www.stpetersbakery.com or find them on Facebook.