Preparation for the bakery competition starts months ahead. Even in the final few weeks before the competition, you will be preparing and making products. The last few hours are most crucial, as you will be getting everything sorted out for the big day. It can be pretty daunting if you have never entered a competition before, but proper preparation will minimise panic situations. It is completely normal for the anxiety to intensify especially on the day before the event but here are 7 tips that I hope will help minimise your worry. I might not be an expert at these competitions but since it is my 3rd time competing for the ABST, I thought I’d share my thoughts.
1. Read the guidelines
Read, read, read! This is a vital step in a competition. Make sure that you read the rules and specifications of your chosen category before you start preparing anything.
2. Sketch ideas
If you have an interesting thought or idea, just jot it down or sketch it on a piece of paper. If you find it difficult to think of ideas, you can always search for some inspiration on social media!
Once you have got an idea of what you would like to take part in, make sure that you plan out your preparation time. Make a note of the days/times that you hope to practice making the product and stick to it.
4. Get a second opinion
It is always a good idea to get a second opinion from your teacher, lecturer, family member or friend. They will look at your idea from a different perspective and give you their views.
5. Stay focused
Set yourself some goals and try your level best to stick to them. Practice as much as you can because “practice makes perfect”!
6. Prepare what you need the day before the competition
The morning of the competition can be stressful, so avoiding rushing around as you may forget the things that you need for the competition. Organize yourself the day before. It is a good idea to make a check list of all the things that you need to bring along with you. This will help put your mind at ease.
7. Learn from your mistakes
If you win 3rd, 2nd or 1st place, then well done to you in advance! If you don’t win a place, well done anyway for trying! Even if you don’t win a place this time, there will always be a next time, so don’t give up.
Finally, once the competition is over - have fun! Meet new people, make friends, cool off in the pool and just enjoy the rest of the conference!
Thanks for reading!
Hello, and welcome to my first blog!
I am currently undertaking an NC in baking, which covers more than just bread, in fact it covers almost everything baking related, but I’ve carved out a little time each Monday morning to hone in on a tasty sourdough loaf.
I initially used the starter and sourdough recipe from Richard Bertinets book, Crust. This turned out to be way too wet, and over proved rapidly in the conditions of our bakery, so I have been keeping a record of changes I’ve made to the original recipe trying to get the right workable dough. The starter Ihave not altered at all.
So, for the recipe I have experimented it to a point where it works for me, it is vastly different from the original. I have reduced the starter by 50%, reduced the water by 10%, increased the salt by 1%, but am also considering changing the salt altogether, to try and find one that doesn’t disappear in the final loaf, I did not alter the flour quantities, although I did whilst practicing, to varied results, in the end keeping it as a constant worked better.
The recipe as it stands –
Refreshed starter left in fridge for two days to increase flavour(this works well up to five days)
700 grams strong white flour
90 grams rye flour
200 grams starter
600 grams tepid water
2% salt (18 grams)
The method I am following at the moment has also developed since finding out control methods from my tutor like, taking the temperature of the flour, air, and using the expected dough temperature, plus an estimated mixing temp to discover a good water temperature, this has helped with the proving consistency.
I start by incorporating all the flour with 80% of the water and leaving it to autolyse for 40 minutes. I then add the rest of the water and starter, mixing thoroughly. I then turn it out onto a table and using the slap and fold technique, knead for roughly ten minutes, this has lessened as my knowledge of the technique has increased, at this point I add the salt, by pressing it into the dough, then continuing to knead until it comes away from the table cleanly, and it is smooth looking on the surface.
It then goes through two hours of relaxing and two times folding in a warm proving area, after this I place each dough in heavily floured bannetons, and place in split plastic freezer bags. This then spends sixteen to eighteen hours retarding at 16 to 18c.
To bake, I dusted peels with fine semolina, set oven to 250c, and baked loaves for roughly 30 mins, if loaves still feel a little heavy but are coloured well, I will reduce the oven to 160c and leave the loafs for a further 15/20 minutes. I also steam the oven before the bread goes in, and after 10 minutes of baking. With a 180 degree turn of the loafs half way through the bake.
This is as far as I have got, and the loaf produced has a nice crust, soft and elastic crumb, with a nice, but not too strong, sour flavour.
I am considering a slight increase of the starter to try and achieve more of that characteristic big hole crumb everybody loves so much. That is for the next attempt but have been happy to learn more about the feel of dough, ways to have more control, and how a different environment can alter the outcome drastically.
If you had the chance to read this blog, and love your sourdough, I hope some of my journey gives you tools to improve your outcome, or at least start to experiment a little with your own journey. If you have any advice, I would love to hear it.
Till the ABST conference,
All the best, and happy baking!
Bakery students from around the UK and Ireland sharing their experiences