[Previous Baking Columns
Krispy Kreme Kraters (Plus: Amazing Joe Doughnut Recipe)
Now that school is out for the summer, I can turn my attention to where it really should be—my test kitchen.
The fun thing about baking is that if you follow the directions exactly as they are written, there is a better than 50-50 chance that everything will work out just as it is supposed to.
Unfortunately, in other aspects of life, things don't always happen that way no matter how attentive to detail you may be.
The secret to winning ribbons is, no surprise, entering a large percentage of chocolate goods. People win for zucchini bread, I know. But the more certain prizewinner will have chocolate as its principal ingredient.
This year, I'll be entering three versions of America's favorite treat, the brownie.
Ten years later, a Boston-based confectioner replaced the molasses with chocolate and a legend was born.
Europe has nothing that compares to the brownie. That's why, according to pastry chef Steve Kic of Washington D.C.'s Zaytinya, the great European masters like Pierre Herme and Ferran Adria have embraced the brownie.
Why enter brownies, you ask? The answer is simple. Everyone likes brownies and they are easy to make.
I've made them with junior mints, dried cherries, toffee chips, ancho chile powder and coconut cream and rum instead of butter and vanilla.
But the brownie debate ultimately gets down to this: do you like your brownies fudgy or cakey?
To me that isn't much of a debate. I have never heard anyone say, "I like mine cakey." After all, if you want cakey brownies, you might as well bake a cake.
Cookbook author and Brownie Queen Maida Heatter, a much more reliable source than me, says this about cakey/fudgy: "No one I know likes cakey brownies although I keep seeing things in recipes that say, 'If you like cakey brownies.' I don't know why though."
For those who can't make up their mind, King Arthur Flour has developed a recipe for "On The Fence" brownies that it published in its essential new book, "The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: The Essential Cookie Cookbook."
Here are a few brownie tips that I've culled from here and there that I'll use in this summer's fair bake-offs.
Since competitive baking is more intense than you might imagine, I'm looking for every possible edge.
Right now, I'm optimistic about my chances. But as the old saying goes, "Many a slip twixt cup and lip."