Judging the World Bread Awards

How delighted I was to receive and invitation to the World Bread Awards this year. An excuse to go to the big smoke, up town, our capitol city of London to offer a little of my bread making expertise. What an honour and what a day it was.

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Checking the roster of judges, I was to be in good company with the ‘celebs’ of the bread making world, Richard Bertinet, Vanessa Kimbell, Duncan Glendinning, Emmanuel Hadjiandreiou and Henry Herbert to name but a few, as well as Chris Young, the man responsible for the Real Bread Campaign and many other foodie peeps I have met through food festivals and shows over the years.

The day started with teas (naturally) and a brief on the guidelines of the judging criteria. Breads were to be judged by appearance, consistency of the bake, crumb texture, aroma, and flavour and there really were some stunners. I was on the sourdough team which was the biggest category, nearly a hundred entries at a guess. Our team was divided into pairs with 15-20 breads for each pair to judge.

I rarely eat bread that is not my own, it seems funny to say but it’s true, and aside from meeting so many people I look up to, what I was most looking forward to was trying so many different breads, creative flavour combinations, from all over, all in one place!

I can’t really say too much about what I liked and what I didn’t like about the breads that I tried because it might give clues to the winners which would be a real shame ahead of the awards ceremony in a couple of weeks time. But what I can say is that there was a lot of deliberation, discussion, and a little arguing all in the name of great bread. It was so fascinating how my natural opinion differed from those of top bakers, from what I liked to eat versus what it technically difficult to achieve. They are not always the same thing! And going even further, it also depends on what we generally eat at home, how we use our bread. Whether it’s for tearing and dipping, or slicing and toasting, our eating habits are so important probably on a more subconscious level. A few times I found myself thinking to myself “why would they make this” or “what is it for?”

Personally, for me and for us home bakers (I never consider myself a professional baker) the most important thing that makes our bread a success is whether or not you like it, as obvious as that may sound. If it’s to your taste. Flavour profiles, especially in the sourdough category, can vary vastly. From a real twang of sourdough acidity on the back of your tongue to “is this sourdough?”

And so, the judging process becomes personal. It’s tricky. You’re properly invested. When I see a loaf, I don’t just see a loaf. I see a person, I see experience, I see floury hands and dusty aprons. There’s incredible skill here and all praise for the winners, but in the same hand if your loaf didn’t make the cut this time it doesn’t mean it was bad. If you made it with love and you like it, there will be others that do and other’s that did on the day. Keep doing it.

If you like it, you win.