PNW intramural baking contest POV

Let me be upfront: I entered PNW’s intramural baking contest, not because I’m a baker but because I wanted to write about the experience.

I have only baked a few times in the past. Mostly so-so chocolate chip cookies, and the occasional box-mix brownie. I did most of my baking during quarantine in 2020, when I found a recipe for blueberry lemon scones and gave it a try out of boredom. 

Surprisingly, they turned out quite delicious and I enjoyed the process. I recall using fresh blueberries for the dough and fresh lemon juice and zest for the icing. The blueberries were challenging because they would pop if I mixed them with too much force.

It was the first time I had been proud to share something I made. Because it was lock-down, I offered to deliver my scones to friends and family. They had only positive reviews. 

But after making them two or three times, I gave up baking because it was a hassle and a lot of work. 

Fast forward, I found myself excited to bake again for the intramural baking contest. 

I work as a barista at a local coffee shop where we have a talented in-house pastry chef. She makes the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever had, amazing tea-based snickerdoodles and a weekly special. Those specials are always a hit, ranging from Mexican hot chocolate, to soft cranberry oatmeal, to potato chip pecan. Each special cookie always tastes better than the last. 

Hanging around the café, I’ve come to learn about how temperature and time affect cookies. I was confident.  The only challenge was choose a cookie. 

Cookie contest rules made clear that if my cookie made it to the finals, I would have to present an urban legend or story to go with my cookie. 

After going through two family recipe books, I felt disappointed that my ancestors hadn’t been more creative in their baking. 

That’s when my mother suggested that I should bake cranberry pistachio shortbread cookies my cousin made for my stepdad’s family Christmas party. I hadn’t tried one because they were gone by the time I got to the family party.

But that’s a good sign, right? 

I got a little dubious when my mother sent me a Pinterest-posted recipe for the cookies. Still, out of desperation, I decided to go for it.

Once I got started on the recipe I remembered how much I enjoyed baking. I didn’t really care much about what I was baking and why. I was just having fun with it. 

The “secret” ingredient in the Pinterest-posted recipe was orange zest. It gave me a little more confidence in my Christmas cookie recipe. 

I formed the dough into two logs and refrigerated them overnight. All experienced cookie bakers know that makes it easier to slice the logs into quarter-inch rounds. Then I used a trick I learned from working in the café: I flipped and rotate my cookies halfway through the baking time. That ensures the cookies bake evenly. 

Once the cookies cooled, I gave one to each family member, besides my cat, to try. My mom said they were even better than the ones she had at the Christmas party. I was feeling more confident. 

A few days later, I repeated the process, adding more orange zest for an extra fruity flavor, and shaping the logs differently. 

I tasted the final product and was happy with what I was going to submit to the judges. I even delivered some to my grandma and aunt. It reminded me of the blueberry lemon scones during quarantine. Though the scones were better. 

When I dropped off my cookies, no judges were present. Even more disappointing, I was informed no contestants would be present for the judging. An email sent letting each participant know who made it to the top three. 

The next day, I got the email.  My name was not among the finalists. 

It didn’t matter, though. I decided I still won a prize: I realized that baking and sharing with others fills my soul with joy.