The day I entered the Emsworth Show.

Winner of the Phillips Tankard
Winner of the Phillips Tankard.
Vegetables!
Vegetables!
More vegetables!
More vegetables!
GIANT vegetables!
GIANT vegetables!
I want to learn to knit so I can make one of these.
I want to learn to knit so I can make one of these.
The failed tray bakes.
The failed tray bakes.
First prize in the '4 Decorated Biscuits' class
First prize in the ‘4 Decorated Biscuits’ class.

So the Emsworth show, for those of you who are not in the know, is something of an institution in these parts. It happens every August Bank Holiday Monday come rain or shine and it is magnificent. http://www.emsworthshow.org.uk/ You can pretty much find everything you could ever imagine at a village fete at the Emsworth show and then you can also find much more. One year my friend Pippa came to visit and the bee keeping society made a pretty concerted effort to recruit her to bee keeping. They didn’t, unfortunately, succeed. I always love the dog competition and the birds of prey but my favourite is undoubtedly the marquee and everything that it contains. From Victoria sandwiches to giant vegetables, every base is covered. I have never previously exhibited in the tent so this year was my first attempt at Emsworth Show glory.

I was, at first, a little reluctant at first to enter the baking competition but my Mother was insistent that I should give the general public a chance to see what I have been cooking up in the kitchen chez Corn. ‘Fine’, I said, ‘I will enter something, how about I enter the Victoria sandwich competition?’ ‘A bad idea’, advised my Father, ‘far too much competition for a show novice’. ‘Okay’, said I, ‘I will enter the Lemon Drizzle’, ‘Again a bad idea’ counselled Pa Pa ‘Your sister is entering that category and I don’t think you two should be in direct competition’. My sister, Rosie, entered the Emsworth Show Bakewell Tart category last year and won so she has excellent show form.  I was certainly not willing to challenge her for any baking title. ‘Right’, I decided ‘the Tray Bake it shall be’. So we had agreed, I was to enter Five Tray Bake Pieces and Rosie, riding high on the wave of last year’s success, would enter the Lemon Drizzle and the Bakewell Tart.

I have been waking early these days (a side effect of the steroids) so I fairly reliably rise at about six or half past. I therefore concluded I had enough time on the morning of the show to bake my tray bake before the nine o’clock deadline. The fresher the better I thought, fairly foolishly it turns out.

I chose to bake Angela Neilsen’s Raspberry and pine nut bars http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2381/raspberry-and-pine-nut-bars. The lovely Phoebe very kindly baked these for us and they were delicious so she gave me the recipe.

At six thirty I rose and started to bake my pine nut bars. They were quite simple to bake and I was very pleased with the results as I put them into the oven. What I belatedly realised was although I had budgeted enough time to bake the bars, I had not allowed myself enough time for the bars to cool.

I removed the bars from the oven and they looked great. They definitely did not however look like they were going to hold their shape without first cooling them. It soon became apparent that I was going to have to actively cool the bars as room temperature would not be quick enough. Despite my fear that I was going to melt the inside of my Mother’s freezer, I put my bars into it for a chill. It worked – to a certain extent.

At ten minutes to nine I took my bars out of the freezer. Although the instructions were no more specific than ‘Five pieces of Tray Bake’, instinct told me I probably ought to be entering centre instead of edge pieces. Unfortunately with the hurried cooling, the only pieces that were set were edge pieces. As I plated up five edge pieces, I bet my Mother that I would be told off for entering them. ‘Just do it’, she wisely said, ‘we are running out of time now’.

Sadly my Tray Bakes did not even place at the Emsworth Show. These were my judges comments: ‘Good flavour combination but texture just a little wet. Tip: for show work do not present outside edge pieces’.

So in my first attempt at show baking, I had broken an unwritten rule. At least I could console myself by knowing that I was right; show baking is a minefield of unwritten rules and I failed to successfully negotiate them this year. Rosie had better luck. She placed third in both of her categories, in the Lemon Drizzle this was a particular achievement as there were eight other entries in this class.

The day itself was sadly also a bit of a write off. The general rule is that the sun always shines for the Emsworth show. Unfortunately 2014 was the exception that proves the rule. Bank holiday Monday was the wettest day of the summer and the show ground felt like a weeping shadow of it’s normal self.

It was not all doom and gloom as the tray bakes, despite their surprisingly hefty price tag (who’d have thought that pine nuts were £3 per 100g!), were still extremely tasty. In terms of my competitive baking career, we will put the Emsworth Show 2014 down to experience and prey for better fortune next year.

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