Bake it, cook it, show how delicious it is

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Mary Ann Chavez-Lopez, a veteran of four years as superintendent of the county fair’s baked goods and candy division, enjoys her role supervising entries ranging from penuche (brown-sugar fudge) to sourdough biscuits. She doesn’t have to worry about judging the entries; professional judges are hired to do that. Her job is to welcome exhibitors, and ooh and aah over their marvelous creations.

Mary Ann Chavez-Lopez, a veteran of four years as superintendent of the county fair’s baked goods and candy division, enjoys her role supervising entries ranging from penuche (brown-sugar fudge) to sourdough biscuits. She doesn’t have to worry about judging the entries; professional judges are hired to do that. Her job is to welcome exhibitors, and ooh and aah over their marvelous creations.

“We want tons of entries,” she said. “The stuff people make is wonderful: cakes, cookies, sourdough bread, whole wheat bread, different kinds of candy. They take pride in everything they bring.”

For bakers after a blue ribbon, Chavez-Lopez advises entering a less popular flavor or type of sweet treat.

“Cookies, and especially cakes and homemade pies,” she said. “Those tend to win.”

Peanut butter cookies aren’t often well represented.

“I’ve noticed that there aren’t that many peanut butter cookies,” she said. “We have a lot of chocolate chip.”

Many people enter fruit pies, so trying something else will help one’s ribbon chances.

“There are a lot of cherry and apple pies, but not pecan pies,” she said. “And not that many mince pies, only one or two.” With pies, everything has to be made from scratch, including the crust, which is judged carefully.

“Is the pie crust is nice and flaky, or a little more at the hard side?” she said. Nice and flaky is a winning combination.

Presentation is important for any entry, but especially for cookies.

“Make them look presentable to the judges,” Chavez-Lopez said. “They should all be the same size. Maybe (add) a nice wrapping, and a nice colorful disposable plate.”

Many people enter delicious cakes, so appearance is especially important for that class.

“People bring in all kinds of cakes,” she said.

She advises thinking about the elements of a good cake: “The design of the cake, what you put on the frosting — do you have roses or different things on the cake? How nice is the frosting?”

But no matter how nice the cake looks, its texture has to be outstanding.

“They judge it more on how moist it is,” she said.

Candy is clearly Chavez-Lopez’s favorite class. Of the many different kinds of candy entries, she thinks a well-made peanut brittle has a good chance of winning a ribbon.

“Peanut brittle is really good,” she said. “Pay attention to how you display it, and make sure it’s not too hard so that you have to struggle to break it. But it still should be crisp and light. The color —— make sure it’s a nice light brown, not dark brown or overly cooked.”