The new Fall issue of Sift magazine opens with a collection of prizewinning flavors. We've collected some of the best state fair recipes we've ever tasted from all the fairs and contests we've sponsored over many years. Read on for our story, and for some of the winning entries.

 

 

blue ribbon baking via @kingarthurflour

Fair food isn't all cotton candy and fried dough. Beyond the Midway, competition tables groan with canned goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, and almost every conceivable type of baked good, from pies to pierogi, cakes to kolache, and breads to bar cookies. At stake is a chance for blue-ribbon glory, and the satisfaction of having one's efforts held up as exemplary.

Submitting your homemade entry in a fair is a cherished tradition: a way for one generation to pass down skills to the next. Entrants circle the fair date months ahead on the kitchen calendar. They research and practice for weeks until the day they'll get up extra early, bake or finish their creations, and carefully transport them to the judging table at the local fair.

blue ribbon baking via @kingarthurflourIn the early days of our country, state fairs were a welcome break from the day-to-day grind of running a farm. Food competitions at the fairgrounds are a way of sharing skills with the wider world, and contributing to the vitality of a community.

King Arthur Flour has been sponsoring baking contests for many years, and has collected hundreds of entrants' recipes through those decades. We've combed through the pile to bring you some of the best of the best: a small taste of state fair recipes that captured the blue ribbon for baking across the country. Now it's your chance to make these winners at home.

blue ribbon baking via @kingarthurflourDried Fruit Focaccia

A lovely bread for breakfast, as a snack with a slice of cheese, or even under ice cream for dessert. Simple to make and wonderful to eat, this vegan masterpiece took the blue ribbon at the Iowa State Fair.

blue ribbon baking via @kingarthurflour

Whole Wheat Carrot Bread

Terry Magestro's Carrot Bread is one of our favorite state fair recipes.  It's moist and tasty, born of Midwestern thrift (it was a winner at the Wisconsin State Fair). Her bread carries on her mother's tradition of baking leftover vegetables of all kinds into breads. The dough makes a very nice dinner roll, too.

blue ribbon baking via @kingarthurflour

Vanilla Trifle Cake

From Massachusetts' Topsfield Fair in 2011, Misti Gerrity's tasty, towering white cake, filled with sparkling bright, fresh berries, took the top prize. Bake one up to wow the judges around your table, while you celebrate the crowning glory of summer's fresh fruit.

blue ribbon baking via @kingarthurflourMacadamia Bars

These luxurious treats are pretty and easy. A shortbread-style base is topped with macadamia nuts and a boiled candy-like topping; a quick dip in good chocolate completes this Cincinnati Chocolate Festival hero.

blue ribbon baking via @kingarthurflour

Pineapple Upside Down Rolls

Lana Ros of Indianola brought these tasty, tender tropical rolls to the Iowa State Fair judging table, and wowed them all. Us too.

Not that we doubted, but it's pretty apparent from the wealth of great recipes we had to choose from that bakers all across this country are inventive, generous, brave, creative, and talented. We're lucky to get to know them, and grateful they're willing to share their creations with the wider world. Congratulations to the champions, and we hope you'll be inspired to bake their recipes from the Fall issue of Sift. It's the best compliment we know how to pay.

Our thanks to Julia A. Reed, who traveled to the Topsfield Fair in Massachusetts to get these lovely photos, and Mark Weinberg for his studio photography.

Susan Reid
The Author

About Susan Reid

Chef Susan Reid grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Bates College and the Culinary Institute of America, and is presently the Food Editor of Sift magazine. She does demos, appearances, and answers food (and baking) questions from all quarters.