by: Caroline Green
“Ready, set, bake!” Scissors flashed through yellow tape ribbon, knives sliced apples, and cookbook pages ripped due to vigorous flipping. Tonight marked the first round of a three-part baking competition at Arcadia intended to celebrate the second half of our semester.
After returning from mid-semester break, in keeping with tradition, we switched up the weekly cook teams in an effort to spice up our meals. Although this change was welcome, the students organized the 2019 Bake Off Reunion in order to have one final cook time with their original partners.
The day of the competition, this past Saturday, the students created a bracket to determine the competitors in each round, with the two winning teams competing in a final round tentatively scheduled for the following weekend. The battle was to be held after dinner dishes were cleaned and set to dry. Both teams were jittery with anticipation. The first competitors were the Sunday and Tuesday cook groups: Elsa and Julia vs. Caroline and Tim.
As the competition got underway, Tim waited for access to Julia Childs’ Joy of Cooking cookbook, panicking when he realized that the other group had turned to the same page for pie crust. As Caroline started cutting apples and Elsa began toasting coconut, both teams breathed a sigh of relief that their desserts would still be unique. That is not where the stress ended, though. Both teams worked feverishly because there was a time limit to get desserts in the oven by 9 p.m.
“Move it or lose it, toots,” Elsa exclaimed, running by the stove to stir the toasting coconut. Even as Elsa asserted her control over the kitchen, the friendly competition took the form of bewilderment for the other team when Tim—his hands deep in a bowl of flour and chilled butter—asked Caroline, “What does it mean to ‘work with your fingertips?’” But this temporary confusion did not stop them from matching the intensity of the other team as the time limit drew near.
While the bake off was a high-stress situation, it also occurred during the students’ first weekend free of scheduled events since the beginning of the semester, leaving them to their own devices for their entertainment. Although the weekend trips were fun and engaging, this break comes as a welcome respite from travel as the weather gets colder, the workload increases, and we settled deeper into Arcadia during the second half of the semester.
The daily cooking ritual is a large part of life at Arcadia and therefore spawned the idea for the bake off, which allows us to show off our newly developed skills in a competitive, yet fun, environment.
Will and Kim, the assistant directors, agreed to judge the competition, with Will taking on the persona of Paul Hollywood from “The Great British Baking Show” by saying phrases like “Absolutely” and “Great sponge” to entertain the spectating Arcadians. As the deadline came and went, both groups agreed on an extension, pushing the tasting to breakfast the next morning. With the flour cleared from the table and dishes sent through the dish line, both groups retired to bed in order to be well rested for the judging the following day.
“Both teams fought valiantly,” said Will over breakfast the next morning. He turned to Tim and Caroline. “You made a very interesting apple pie,” he said, “gaining major creativity points for your addition of beets. The taste was surprisingly not too earthy and you earned full marks on presentation for the latticed crust and Arcadia logo on top. Your pie earned a 21 out of a possible 25 points.”
Will turned to Julia and Elsa. “Your team produced a delicious masterpiece. Although your crust was not as flaky as the apple pie, the coconut cream filling and meringue were to die for. Therefore, your team receives a 22 out of 25.” Elsa and Julia jumped with joy to celebrate their victory. Everyone left the kitchen with bellies full of pie, excited for the rounds to come.