The Daily Herald Baking Challenge wrapped Oct. 27 with a crowd of 100 baking enthusiasts, and those who just like to eat sweets, at Novak & Parker Home Appliance in Mount Prospect. The competition was close in this year's categories: Lemon Bars, Chocolate Frosted Cupcakes, Gingerbread Cookies, Cheese Cake With Fruit Topping and Banana Bread.
I was a judge, along with Daily Herald Baking Secrets columnist Annie Overboe; Tina Selga, owner of My Sweet KAKE; and Cindy Adams, owner of Nothing Bundt Cakes. I got to sample the 15 entries, but the decisions were anything but easy; we have some terrific bakers out there.
While we tested and compiled scores, discussed techniques, taste and texture, the crowd was treated to a demonstration of what the latest convection ovens, sold in the store, can do. A full turkey, large enough for holiday entertaining, was cooked in about three hours and the audience got to sample the results.
This year's winners are Rose Patenaude for her Honey Butter Pecan Banana Bread; Nancy Bathurst for her Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes; Craig Brannan for his Caribbean Spiced Gingerbread Cookies; Ginny Bruno for her Vanilla Cheesecake With Cherry-Cranberry Compote and Barb Lane for her Gluten-Free Coconut Lemon Squares. Patenaude also took home the Best in Show title.
The Daily Herald Baking Challenge sends winners on to compete at this year's America's Baking and Sweets Show Nov. 11 to 13 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel. Professional bakers will recreate the winning recipes in pursuit of prizes. Good luck to all!
The two-day event includes celebrity chef demonstrations, hands-on cooking classes and the latest wares from baking manufacturers and other cooking professionals. Annie Overboe will be leading two one-hour classes on Saturday and one on Sunday -- Secrets To Successful Holiday Cookies from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Nov. 12; Great Tasting Gluten-Free Baking from 4 to 5 p.m. Nov. 12; and Bake Like A Pastry Chef from 1 to 2 p.m. Nov. 13.
For more about the America's Baking and Sweet Show, tickets and class schedule, visit www.americasbakingandsweetsshow.com.
Repurpose your pumpkins
The folks at the Northern Illinois Food Bank will host the inaugural post-Halloween pumpkin composting event to support its anti-food waste initiatives. And with the help of more than 200 volunteers from Tyson Foods, Jewel-Osco, Bimbo Bakeries, Kellogg's and The Jel-Sert Company, will kick off the Food Bank's annual Holiday Meal Box program from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 5, at NIFB headquarters, 273 Dearborn Court, Geneva.
All pumpkins composted during the Pumpkin Pitch will not only reduce food waste but will help nourish the soil at Pushing the Envelope Farm in Geneva, a neighbor and fresh produce donor of the Food Bank. These compost efforts will ultimately help provide more fresh produce for hungry neighbors next year.
The Holiday Meal Box program aims to provide traditional holiday meals for 35,000 families in need across its 13-county service area. Every meal box includes a frozen turkey and all the trimmings fit for a holiday feast -- fresh potatoes, stuffing mix, gravy, vegetables, fruit and dessert. Meal Boxes will be distributed to the Food Bank's network of food pantries throughout November and December. The Meal Box Program is made possible through the generosity of individual and corporate donors, but more help is needed -- a $30 donation provides a Holiday Meal Box to a family in need. To donate today, visit www.SolveHungerToday.org or call (630) 443-6910.
A spicy evening at Marcel's
Chef Lior Lev Sercarz, of La Boite Spices, has put his world travel and cooking experiences in a new book, "The Spice Companion." Now on tour, he'll be stopping into Marcel's Culinary Experience from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16, at 490 N. Main St., Glen Ellyn. Join Sercarz for an evening in Marcel's kitchen, first to share a discussion of spices and blends while preparing a couple of recipes, followed by a book signing while guests enjoy a glass of wine and a few of Sercarz's creations. There will be a spice bar where he will invite you to create a custom spice blend to take home. Price for the event alone is $25 and $60 with, by phone or in store, the pre-purchase of "The Spice Companion." All books to be signed must be purchased from either Marcel's or The Bookstore. For more information or tickets, visit www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com or call (630) 790-8500.
Classes for holiday entertaining
District 128's Community Education program is offering several classes to let aspiring chefs learn some holiday recipes and try them out before preparing them for friends and family.
Most classes take place at Libertyville High School, 708 W Park Ave.; Stevenson High School, 1 Stevenson Drive, Lincolnshire; or Vernon Hills High School, 145 Lakeview Parkway. Some of the classes include Cocoa Corner 105: Truffles, Nov. 8 at The Chocolate Sanctuary, 5101 Washington St., Gurnee; Perfect Pavlova, Nov. 9 or 10 at VHHS with James Beard Award-winning chef Gale Gand; Vegetarian Recipes; Caribbean Tapas; and more. For a full schedule and to register, visit www.ComEd128.org or call District 128's Community Education office at (847) 247-4576.
• Contact Food Editor Susan Stark at email@example.com or (847) 427-4586. Be her friend on Facebook.com/Susan StarkDailyherald or follow her on Twitter.