By SARA ARTHURS
Each year, the Hancock County Fair offers a baking contest open only to men, who compete using the same recipe. This year it was sugar cookies.
Seven men entered the competition. One, Bruce Depinet of Findlay, also entered several other categories at the fair, as he has in years past.
“I usually do several pies. … Then I do a bunch of cookies,” he said.
Depinet likes to bake other times, not just for the fair. He especially likes to make cookies.
He said he is “more or less self-taught.”
Depinet placed in the top three for the four pies he entered: apple-raisin, pecan, pumpkin and peach. He also entered four types of cookies and an angel food cake. He did not place in the men’s baking contest, but was named grand champion overall for the baking department.
Depinet has entered the fair for about 12 years. He often places in the top three in several categories, but he attributes that to luck and said it isn’t the reason he bakes but rather that it’s “just something that’s fun to do. … I don’t really do it for the fame.”
John Spaeth and his son-in-law, James Miles, both of Jenera, both entered the men’s baking contest.
“It’s always fun competing against the in-laws,” Miles said.
Spaeth has entered the men’s baking contest since it began. He enjoys the challenge of competing. He, too, sometimes bakes at other times of year, not just during fair week.
Miles noted that there is some variety in the contest, as the fair board provides a different recipe each year.
Mandy Warren-Hilty, superintendent for canning and baking at the fair, said judges look for presentation, taste and texture.
The judge for the men’s baking contest was Shawn Ochs, extension educator, family and consumer sciences for the Ohio State University Extension, Hancock County. The judging was held Wednesday morning.
Ochs studied the seven entries closely, sticking forks in a cookie from each batch first and inspecting, then tasting a bit of each one, cleansing her palate with water and making notes about each cookie.
Before announcing the winners, she told the men that something as basic as a sugar cookie could have very different flavors depending on how it was baked.
“I enjoyed tasting each one of these cookies,” she said.
She said each was “distinctly different.”
Matt Haugh of Arlington won first place in the contest. Haugh, who has entered cookies in the fair for the last 10 years, has placed several times over the years.
“It’s a little bit of a challenge to see how you place against other guys that are doing it,” he said.
At home, when it isn’t fair week, he’s known to bake brownies or “occasionally a cake,” something he’d like to see in the men’s contest at the fair.
“I do a little bit of baking at home, not a whole lot,” he said.
Ochs, in determining that Haugh’s was the winning cookie, noted that the recipe had included both vanilla and almond extract and the first-prize cookie “brought that out,” and wasn’t too dry.
The second-place cookie, entered by Nathan Knicely, was fully baked but not “overbaked” and had “great form.”
And the third, baked by Bob Fenstermaker, had good form and flavor, and crumbled in her mouth as she chewed.
The men who competed enjoy being a part of the fair.
Miles enjoys that baking for the contest is an excuse to come out to the fair and get involved in the community. He also has children in 4-H.
“It’s just fun,” he said.
Haugh would recommend the baking contest to other men in the community.
“The more competition, the better,” he said.
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