King Arthur Flour baker Martin Philip recently traveled to Rimini, Italy to compete for the Golden Cup for Bread at the 34th International Exhibition for the Artisan Production of Gelato, Pastry, Confectionery and Bakery.

How did he do? And, just as importantly, how did he prepare?

Known by its Italian acronym, SIGEP, this enormous trade show attracts bakers from around the world. The Golden Cup competition challenges teams from five countries in three categories: traditional breads, pastry, and healthy breads.  Martin, the head bread baker in our Norwich, VT bakery, was invited to compete along with three other Americans, all representing the United States.

Leading up to the competition Martin formulated three unique recipes and spent countless hours practicing – and here are some pictures to prove it!

Challenge #1: healthier baguettes? Baguettes, long and lovely, crackly and crispy, traditionally made with white flour.  Whole wheat baguettes may cause Parisians to scoff, and for good reason. I've sampled my share of botched attempts to make whole-grain baguettes palatable. What's a baker to do?

Pictured above, Martin is scoring baguettes made with Type 85 flour. Type 85 is a grade of flour between white and whole wheat; it retains much of the nutrition of whole wheat, but some of the bran has been sifted out to achieve lighter products.

Baking with this flour isn't just a simple matter of substituting ingredients; this dough requires a totally different mixing and handling technique. But, the result is amazing: a toothsome yet thin crust, an interior full of irregular holes.

Martin's hope is that "healthy breads" won't be lumped into a separate category of products, but will become the norm of what we consume on a daily basis.  I know that I'm sold on these baguettes!

Want to taste a similar version of these sifted whole wheat baguettes? They're available every day in our bakery!

Remember, the competition was in Italy, and one category is traditional breads. When I think Italian bread, ciabatta immediately comes to mind.

Ahh, ciabatta...  with a crispy crust and soft, hole-y interior, it's airy and delicious. Now, challenge #2, add LOTS of walnuts and a touch of bran to enhance the flavor, without sacrificing light texture.

To take it over the top visually, Martin designed a stencil to sift flour atop each loaf for a beautiful presentation. Another winner! Is your mouth watering? A version of this bread is available in our bakery on Thursdays.

Here Martin is placing dough in a loaf pan. This bread is based on a German whole rye bread, dense and hearty. Challenge #3 is to add flavor and complexity to make this take on a European staple one of a kind. Martin achieved this with the addition of orange and spices, a perfect accompaniment to a cheese plate (or just toasted and buttered).

I recently spoke with Martin on his motivation for competing, and how we all benefit from his efforts.

First of all, it's in line with our mission here at King Arthur Flour to provide inspiration for bakers. When there's cross-pollination among enthusiastic bakers from around the world, new ideas are spawned, and traditional techniques are honored and shared.

To Martin, participating in an international competition is "fuel for personal growth and creativity." As a result there will be new products in our bakery, new techniques to teach in our education center, and better information to share with our customers and baking community.

As I spoke to Martin (while both of us were dividing and shaping dough), I realized that Martin's inspiration has already spread throughout King Arthur – and we promise to pass it on to you.

Inspiration to try new recipes, and dig out old ones. Inspiration to add a special touch just for the sake of beauty, like the miniature crate of oranges pictured above. Inspiration to nourish your family, and to experience "the pure joy of baking."

The American team didn't come home with a medal; flights to Europe were canceled and delayed, and the competition installed some last-minute rule changes that proved difficult to overcome.

However, Martin's face showed no signs of discouragement. His skills have been refined and expanded, and he appeared energized by the process.

As I left Martin in the bakery, he said, "Are you going to be around this afternoon?  I'll have a new bread for you to try."  Possibilities are endless in the world of baking, and we hope you will continue to explore!

Go ahead, browse our recipes, watch our videos,  sign up for a class... or simply put on your apron and bake!

*Updated February 27th - The SIGEP results have been revised based on the original rules!  The organizers reiterated that this competition is primarily an exhibition of baking tradtitions from around the world.  Below is the revised classification of the teams

1st Hungary
2nd Germany
3rd USA
4th Israel
5th Italy
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About Amber Eisler

Amber Eisler was born and raised in Washington, DC. She is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and started her time at King Arthur Flour in the production bakery. Amber now works full-time in the Baking Education Center, and enjoys sharing her passion for baking through the hands-on experience in the classroom. Outside of work, Amber is busy chasing her two young children.

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