Some of you Bites readers are accomplished bakers and cooks, and you should consider entering the state fair's baking and other competitions. It's low-key and fun, and your odds are good, considering Tennessee has 6 million people.
The prizes given by the fair are small -- just a few dollars -- but the sponsored competitions offer richer inspirations. Hidden Valley's ante is $2,000 this year. Fleischman's has several $1,000 prizes in its Bake for the Cure competition. (If you baked a brioche a tete, I bet it would win.) If you have a junior baker, there is a children's competition sponsored by Pampered Chef on Saturday, September 12.
Some very good bakers came out last year -- the volume of entries seemed larger than 10 years ago -- but not every category is equally competitive. Enter the less populous categories and you'll have only a couple of competitors. I like your odds in the coconut cake, angel biscuit, divinity and gingerbread divisions, for instance. Click to see the cake and candy divisions page from the fair premium book.
Work up a good, basic recipe for the item -- no strange flavor profiles -- my prune brandy gingerbread went nowhere one year. And forget jazzing up your entry with nuts -- some judges hate them. Finally, concentrate on how the item looks -- appearance counts for more than taste. Go to tennesseestatefair.org and click "compete" for a PDF copy of the premium book, which answers all questions.