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North Show: Help, I entered the muffin class!

North Show: Help, I entered the muffin class!

Wednesday 23 August 2023

North Show: Help, I entered the muffin class!

Wednesday 23 August 2023


I’m not sure what came over me.

But now it’s 6.30am and I’m staring at a timer, muffins in the oven, fretting over whether I’ll wait until 18 minutes or 20 minutes. Does it matter? Really?

It doesn’t help that the kettle has gone on strike so I can't even have a cuppa.

I’d had a restless sleep, maybe I was overthinking it.

Now these aren’t just any muffins. These are exhibition muffins, set, in my mind at least, to sweep all before them and dominate class 121 at the North Show.

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Pictured: North Show entrants checking out the "opposition" this morning.

Where this naive unbridled confidence had come from, I’m not so sure. I’ve no experience. Maybe it was being exposed to several series of The Bake Off. We’re all armchair experts now, aren't we? 

It all started when I was entrusted with putting the family’s entries into the North Show.

I’m a big fan of the show, although not such a big prize winner. Growing is in the family, even if I didn’t inherit all the right genes there. Equally, I won’t hesitate to tell anyone, including you now, that my cherry tomatoes won second prize last year. Second. Amazing. I still have my £3 prize money in an envelope. It will be invested in the Crown and Anchor later.

Maybe I should have stuck to that. Or putting in the eggs. I can blame the chickens if they don’t win [they went on strike in the lead up to the show, I swear it was deliberate].

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Pictured: Having tried showing eggs, vegetables and now baking, could knitting be the next option in the hunt for an elusive first prize?

For some reason, as I filled in the entry card, my eyes flicked through the baking categories and stopped on three muffins. How hard can that be, I thought? So as a joke, I put my pound where my mouth is and entered. 

It doesn’t feel so funny now.

For some people it’s the taking part that counts, supporting the show, it's not about prizes, but really? I’m not convinced. Besides, I’d already started mouthing off in the office and at home about how great my muffins, which I’d never baked, were. I needed to deliver something. 

That’s why I spent hours researching recipes and tricks on how to make your muffins rise. Help me. I asked my mum in the hope there was a secret family recipe. There was not. The advice was also conflicting. I started getting irritated.

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Pictured: The calm of the vegetable tent on Tuesday night.

Apple, blueberry or cape gooseberry??? 

Is cape gooseberry muffin even a thing? Maybe it will be quirky. Do they want quirky? Hell, what do they want? I mean, I’ve eaten plenty of muffins, but I’ve never really thought about what makes a perfect muffin, until now.

When they came out of the oven they looked cooked, but not burnt, so that was a win. I was also very hungry. So I ate one. I’m not sure if that was the right tactic because I now had five muffins of varying sizes and I’m pretty sure I’d just scoffed the best one.

I’d gone for size. Bigger is always better, right? 

Entering the tent it was pretty clear as the clock hit 7.30am I was out of my depth. I wanted to retreat to the clam of the vegetables where mostly it's about counting and turning.

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Pictured: Vegetable animals. 

There were people carrying cake tins, families weighed down with boxes of vegetable animals, gardens in boxes and kids running around with paintings. 

Some people were clearly in the zone. Having placed their entries, tilting them slightly to get the best of the light, they would stand back and examine the competition.

At times there were frantic searches for entry cards that had been lost in the packaging. Or last minute swapping in and out of Queen Cakes. 

Someone else was placing down their muffins. I wasn’t sure of the etiquette, so decided against a shoulder charge and not keen on a discussion on the deeper intricacies of baking to which I could add very little, I strolled calmly by pretending to be heading elsewhere. 

Then I caught sight of it. Someone had displayed their muffins on a cart. Seriously, a muffin cart. Is that a thing? What had I missed? Should I have a muffin cart? Have I got time to rattle one up? Is my white paper plate going to count against me in a class called three muffins on a plate - maybe I need a better plate?

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Pictured: Having seen the muffin cart, I started questioning if I had time to build something bigger.

As I write this the judges are there with their pens, marking muffins against criteria I have no idea about. I think that puts me at a disadvantage. At least with sport you know the rules. All sorts of myth and rumour swirls around about what the judges are looking at, which ingredients to use. They have yet to reach me.

What I know, having eaten my second and then third muffin as I strolled around, noticing that no-one else was eating their entry, is that next year I will come back with a muffin to end all muffins.  It will, if only in my eyes, be the best. 

Pictured top: Muffins. Some of which were baked expertly, others, particularly the ones in yellow cases, not so.

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