Putting Scotland’s best bakes to the test
It was hard work, but someone had to do it.
I was honoured to be invited to be part of that troupe, which had the task to assess, smell, scrunch and taste nearly 500 treats from 57 master bakers from all corners of Scotland.
It was an exacting day for the judges to ensure that no stone was left unturned, that no fault slipped through the crack and that the standouts were given the podium they deserved.
In the first socially-distanced, in-person event since 2019, 55 judges – comprising a mix of industry veterans and eager youngbloods – gathered in Dunfermline to scrutinise the appearance, the quality, the crumb, the texture and the taste of each and every bake.
The mammoth task was thankfully broken into two sessions – morning and afternoon – and then again into 13 categories, making it easier to root out the best scones, loaves, savoury items, morning rolls, cakes and biscuits, along with the new on trend categories of Danish pastries, sweet yeast raised pastries and free from.
(I must admit, fellow judge David McKerrow and I were surprised at the dearth of entries in the free-from category: with the trend flying high and now an established supermarket aisle – no longer just a shelf – we had expected a bigger uptake by individual bakers. Perhaps next year…)
Take your place
In the judge’s chamber, the competition sizzled, the tension was palpable and tastebuds were on high alert … but there was no holding back the exceptional, which, rightly so, took their place among the champs.
“I am really excited to be here today; it’s been a long journey to reach today’s judging and I am really keen to see, taste and smell as many entries as I can get through, as every time we run this competition there are surprises,” said Alasdair Smith, CEO of Scottish Bakers.
However, dear reader, you will have to be a little more patient to find out which have been voted Scotland’s best bakes.
The winners will only be revealed at the Scottish Bakers Annual Conference in May, which sees a mass gathering of the sector to focus on Baking the Future.
Customers can still have their say, though, with voting for the Customer Choice Awards is open until 6 April. These awards are divided into four categories – Bakery Café, Craft Baker, Retail Craft Baker and Wholesale Baker – and the public is encouraged to pop into their favourite outlet and log their support using the bakery’s unique web-link, QR code or paper voting form.
Regional Awards and Customer Choice Awards will be presented on 6 May 2022 and the National Awards (including special awards), business category winners and the overall Scottish Baker of the Year 2022/3 will be crowned at an invite-only glittering Gala dinner at the Hilton in Glasgow on Saturday, 7 May 2022.
For the good of all
“I have been amazed at the resilience and creativity of all of our members over the past two years and I am keen to see how they have used the time not just to creatively meet the needs of their communities with fresh products daily but also to develop new and exciting products as well as perfecting the classics with new twists,” said Smith.
“Bakers in Scotland truly are the hidden gem of our economy and of our culture and we are delighted to give Scottish Bakers the chance to shine and showcase their skills.”
He added the Association is actively standing behind its motto ‘for the good of all’ and “on behalf of its members, will be making a donation to the Disasters and Emergencies Committee fund.”
Customer Choice Awards
Customers vote for their favourite baker online via each bakery’s unique web-link, QR code or by using the instore paper voting forms on or before 6 April (votes received after this date will not be counted).
Bakers were invited to register up to 10 of their products in various categories, including Morning Roll; Potato Scone; Savoury; Buttery; Bread; Free From; Individual Cake; Viennoiserie (Danish & Sweet Yeast Raised pastries); Celebration Cake, Biscuit and Scone
Open to Scottish Bakers members only, who achieve a bronze award or above.
The four business categories are Craft Baker of the Year (three shops or less); Retail Craft Baker of the Year (four shops or more); Wholesale Baker of the Year (no shops) and Bakery Café of the Year for cafés that produce the bulk of their own baked goods either onsite or at a dedicated bakery unit.
The big win
The ultimate Scottish Baker of the Year Award will be awarded to one of the four category winners.
Scottish Bakers manages both The World Championship Scotch Pie Awards and The Scottish Baker of the Year Awards each year to recognise and celebrate excellence in the sector.
Bako is the award partner of the Scottish Baker of the Year 2022/3. Other sponsors include Carr’s Flour, Fleming Howden, Virgin Money, DMD, Macphie, Bakels, Puratos, Andrew Ingredients, American Pan UK, Scotland Food and Drink, Rondo and Dawn Foods.