In total, 388 bakers from every county entered breads “of a seriously high quality” and they’re all hoping to be named the country’s best brown-bread baker at the Ploughing Championships in Co Laois.
Twenty seven individual county winners have qualified for the regional final in An Grianán in Termonfeckin on August 13, where the top two from each province will be selected to go to the Ploughing, for the semi-finals and final in the Aldi marquee.
For Josephine Keane, Wexford PRO and county winner in the competition, the appeal of the bread lies in its “smell and the effort of home-made bread. It’s that sense of nurturing the family and home life, a sense of pride and accomplishment in what you are, do and make”.
Josephine, who admits she’s known in ICA circles more for craft than cooking, searched her cookery books for a brown bread recipe but in the end opted for the one on the Aldi pack.
“I used their recipe and I won with that. I added in some chia seeds, these have very good health properties,” says Josephine, who also just completed a quilt for last weekend’s Tinahely Show.
Meanwhile, the National Ploughing Association is delighted the competition is making a comeback and was tremendously successful at last year’s ploughing.
It’s set to expand this year because the prize pot has increased significantly to over €7,600, with the winner receiving €2,500 in cash and €2,500 in Aldi shopping vouchers.
“Ireland’s Best Brown Bread Baker 2015 will have the added prestige of selling their bread in Aldi stores throughout the country and receiving 10% of the profits when their bread is stocked in store,” said National Ploughing Association managing director Anna May McHugh.
“We’re delighted to be renewing our partnership with Aldi and ICA, given the triumph of last year’s brown bread baking competition.”
“This year’s look set to be better than ever. The championships not only provide a national stage for showcasing all things agricultural, but also bring together people from all sectors of society, both rural and urban, to enjoy three days immersed in country living.”
* Munster regional winners, who go forward to the An Grianán brown bread heat this month, are: Kathleen Barry, Watergrasshill (Cork); Eileen McNamara, Bridgetown (Clare); Joan Hayes, Annascaul (Kerry); Peggy Harding, Oola (Limerick); Sylvia Crawford, Tipperary North; Peggy O’Brien, Ballingeary, Tipperary South; and Phyllis McGovern, Butlerstown (Waterford).