Molly Burke of Plymouth didn’t plan on becoming a national award-winning baker. As a food scientist at Cargill, Burke is surrounded by food and baking, and she’s continually researching new trends and recipes. In January 2012, her researching paid off when she claimed the Idea Prize with her spicy raisin gingerbread recipe at the 5th Annual America’s Best Raisin Bread Contest.
At the urging of a coworker, Burke entered the contest. The contest, sponsored by the California Raisin Marketing Board, required the bakers to use at least 50 percent raisins in their recipes, a feat that Burke admits is not the easiest. “It was stressful, but cool and rewarding,” she said. The journey began with a submission of photos and the recipe; from there, Burke was chosen as a finalist and flown to Kansas City, where she had to prepare and bake her bread surrounded by other competitors while judges stood by and asked questions of the bakers.
Burke wowed the distinguished panel of judges with her spicy raisin gingerbread recipe that not only included unique ingredients, but was 100 percent whole wheat, “which is really hard to do, especially with these kinds of sweet breads,” she said. The texture of whole wheat differs from pastry and white flours, and it has a different flavor, one that “can turn people off,” Burke says, So, Burke masked it with cinnamon, cloves, molasses, and ginger. And of course, lots of raisins. To literally top it off, she finished it with a scrumptious butter streusel topping.
Burke, who considers herself to be a cake aficionado, lists a white cake with buttercream to be her baked good of choice, but she likes to experiment and try new techniques and ways to “make things healthier,” she said. And, with the holidays around the corner, Burke is looking forward to Christmas cookies—decorated cut-outs are her favorite.
She’s definitely going to keep baking professionally, and for fun. She’s hungry for more competition too: “I’m interested in entering more contests,” she said.