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Kansas State Fair 2012 part 5: The Banana Bread Journey

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know about my quest to beat my baking nemesis* this year in the banana bread competition.  Well, as you may also know, I didn’t place in the banana bread category at all this year!  But I wasn’t very disappointed.

*I don’t want to share the name of my nemesis here b/c she is actually a very nice woman (I met her the first year I entered the fair, 2009) and don’t want anyone to connect a negative feeling with her name, but I will tell you her initials are CW.  How funny is that?!

How could I not be disappointed, right?  I mean, I baked twenty-four different banana bread recipes.  You can see them all here if you don’t believe me–complete with every recipe I used.

I froze a piece of bread from each loaf.

And at the end of the baking, Haus and I tasted each bread to see which one was the best.

We used grading papers and agreed on one.

Then I couldn’t resist, and baked three more loaves.  With the last loaf, the recipe for which not coincidentally came from my Foodie Mama who has won multiple blue ribbons for it (yes, I was kicking myself for not making this recipe FIRST since I had it all along (hello, obliviox here!) and could have had a much shorter journey to find the best recipe), we decided we had finally found the best banana bread recipe.  And I made it for the fair.

Well, guess who else didn’t place?  Yup, CW.  So that is a big consolation.  If the woman who has won multiple blue ribbons and even BEST IN SHOW for her banana bread didn’t even place this year, could my banana bread really be so unworthy?

While I won’t get my grading papers until Sunday (which means there might be a part 6 to this series next week, if the comments written on the grading papers are degrading enough…because really, only the mean comments are fun enough to share! lol), I have a few insights into why my banana bread didn’t place.

First, I put a lot of butter on top prior to baking.  This created a lighter stripe down the middle where the solids settled, and made it looked like it might be under-baked.  Judges won’t even taste something if it isn’t fully baked, so this could be a possibility.  I know it was fully baked as I stuck a toothpick in it, but they might have judged otherwise based on appearance.

Just some of the banana breads. Mine is third row back, second from the right (it’s kind of dark colored). CW’s entry is right in front of mine, a little to the left.

Second, and you might not believe this since I took so much time to find the perfect bread, but I didn’t buy my bananas early enough! I usually let my bananas ripen for at least a week, preferably two, before making them into bread because the more ripe they are, the more banana flavor you get.  I bought mine only five days before I had to bake the bread so I put them in a paper sack along with a tomato so the gas would make them ripen faster, and they were just barely speckled after five days.

Third, the judges might have been thoroughly fed up with me for refusing to listen to their advice of greasing the bottom only of the bread pan.  The first year they wrote the advice kindly, saying that the crust would be more tender if I greased the bottom only of the pan.  The second year they put it in caps with an exclamation point…or at least I remember it that way but I tend to exaggerate things, even in memory.  In any case, the advise seemed to have turned into a command.  But dude, I did try and my bread stuck and looked totally terrible and mangled by the time it finally came out.  Plus, the crust was totally hard and definitely NOT more tender.  Maybe I need a better pan?

Fourth, I think the judges might have contracted too-much-banana-bread-itis.  There were a lot of banana bread entries this year, possibly more in this category than any other.  And I know from experience that after tasting more than 15 different banana breads, they all start to taste terrible.  I nearly puked while doing my own taste test and started grading all the banana breads with C’s and D’s after a while.  This year no one got a blue ribbon in the banana bread category.  The judges only awarded a 2nd and 3rd place ribbon.  So I think my assumption is a fair one–they got the itis.

So there you go.  There’s probably a lesson to be learned here.  Like maybe don’t work so hard to accomplish a goal that doesn’t really matter?  Don’t lose sleep over something that isn’t going to improve your life because in the end, you might not actually accomplish your goal?  But hey, I had a lot of fun with it, and it’s a story I love to share because people always get a kick out of hearing I made 28 banana breads to find the perfect one.  Now I can add…”and then I didn’t place at all!” which kind of makes the story even better.  :)  I don’t have any regrets.  Well, except that I have definitely lost my taste for banana bread and may never bake another loaf again.  lol

Here’s to celebrating life’s victories…and it’s failures.  Sometimes they are just as fun.

I know you’re ready for the winning recipes and those will start next week!  Thanks for sharing in my happiness for this year’s successes and laughter over  the epic failures.

XOXO, V

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About Veronica

I have a kitchen addiction and love to collect & share recipes. My passion is baking but I love to cook as well. The only thing I don't like to do in the kitchen is wash dishes, but my husband generally does them for me in exchange for his dinner.

30 responses »

  1. All your bread looks so great! =D

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  2. all of your bread seems amazing! great job :)

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  3. eh, you get the blue ribbon in my book! Anyone who bakes and tastes that many banana breads deserves the prize! lol All this state fair stuff looks fun…but a lot of work!

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    • Yeah, I should have told them all I had to do before entering the competition, then maybe they’d have made a special award just for me: “Craziest baker that entered the fair this year.” hehe! It is a lot of work and I’m glad I’m doing it now. If we ever have kids, I know my fair baking days are over!

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  4. I admire your tenacity—your work looks great and I bet tastes even BETTER!!

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  5. Wow, they didn’t even award a blue ribbon? They were all that “bad”? I’ve been meaning to make one of your recipes all week and keep putting it off. Today is the day. It has to be, the bananas are like melting. Ew. Now to decide which one…

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    • Nope, and I’m not so sure they were “bad,” but it’s all subjective. Maybe the judges this year were looking for a certain something they didn’t find in any of the breads. Like chocolate chips. Which I avoided b/c I never saw anyone use them. Guess I’ll find out soon. Oh, and make the last one-it’s really good! The Virginia Street Banana Nut Bread. I made it with pecans.

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  6. It IS a great story–and I agree that it’s made better by the fact that you didn’t place. hee hee!

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  7. Only you, Baking Queen, would make 28 banana breads! I can see them all tasting the same after while and I think the judges had the itis too. I think to your bloggers you’re always blue-ribbon worthy :)

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  8. Anyone who can bake this many loaves and judge them so particularly is a blue ribbon winner my friend, and they all look incredible :)

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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  9. Well it must feel pretty good that CW didn’t place either. You put a lot of effort into it but I bet you learned a lot too. And you got to eat a ton of delicious banana bread, which is a prize itself!! Have a wonderful weekend.

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  10. I admire your persistence! As a matter of fact I’m amazed. I’ll wager that anyone of your loaves was worthy of a medal. Have a great day. Blessings…Mary

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  11. awwww life is full of victories and defeats ..
    I can’t imagine tasting that many banana breads!!! You think they would all taste the same after a while. I admire your persistence! :) All of them look incredible!

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  12. I applaud you for putting your heart and soul into your banana bread quest! 15 different recipes, taste testing, etc. You are thorough! (I hope you don’t get mean comments from the judges, but I am waiting for your next post to see what they had to say for themselves!)

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    • We tasted much more than 15, but that was the point when I started to hate banana bread.lol Oh my, they are so picky I could die. I can’t believe that it’s so much harder to make quick breads than cake!

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  13. Wow Veronica…that’s a lot of banana bread. And it sounds like a lot of fun. Except the nearly puking part. The question is what tact will you take next year? Maybe a little Chai Banana Bread???

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  14. Hi Veronica! I am so impressed with all of your hard work and determination in finding that perfect banana bread to enter at your local fair.This post motivated me to start a ,Bananas For Banana Bread board on Pinterest, I hope you continue to follow this board found here…http://pinterest.com/dorana1/bananas-for-banana-bread/ I will continue to pin new recipe on this board as I find them. I entered your Virginia Street Banana Bread at our local fair this year and won second place. Thanks so much for the inspiration! I wish you the very best as you await the arrival of your first baby!

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    • Congratulations on your ribbon! I entered it as well and didn’t win one but we do have quite a bit of entries for banana bread – stiff competition! Also the judges hate me b/c I always grease the whole pan no matter how many times they say to only grease the bottom. I’m sorry but it sticks so bad! LOL! Anyway, thank you so much Dana. :)

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  15. Pingback: Banana Bread Cockaigne | Veronica's Cornucopia

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