Samara Ward gave it another go and won the 2019 National Brown Bread Baking Competition, having been runner-up last year.
“I was hoping to win,” says the mum-of-three from Inver, Co Donegal. “2018 was a great experience. It was my first time doing it. I decided to give it another go this year. I can’t believe I came first.”
Samara admits to some nerves at the semi-final last Wednesday, which saw her qualify for Thursday’s final at the National Ploughing Championships in Carlow.
“I was very nervous. I felt more pressure because of coming second last year. I just wanted to get into the final and then whatever happened, happened.”
Samara learned brown bread baking from her mother, Marie, who she says is a great baker. “My bread’s a bit different — I use wheat bran, wholemeal flour, plain flour, oil, eggs and buttermilk. There’s no real secret to my brown bread. I just keep it basic, traditional and simple. I don’t use any seeds and I kept the same recipe I had in 2018.”
The Donegal woman, who entered through the Aldi strand of the competition, says her husband, Anthony, and children, Katie, 10, Ethan, 9, and Kyle, 5, love her brown bread. “The children love dipping it into soup.” The whole family, apart from Kyle, were in Carlow last week — alongside some neighbours who happened to be at the ploughing event — to cheer her on.
Judges — Peter Bough from Aldi, Eileen Brennan from National Ploughing Association (NPA) and chef Edward Hayden — commended Samara’s bread for its traditional appearance and perfect texture. Her bread will be stocked in all 139 Aldi Stores in Ireland for a minimum of six months and during this time Samara will receive a share of the profits, guaranteed to be at least €15,000.
“It’s just fantastic. It means so much that my bread’s going to be on display with my name on it. And the winnings will help pay some bills,” says Samara, who works in Inver Community Centre.
Re-launched five years ago by the NPA, the event was a huge success with entries from all 26 counties through ICA and Aldi regional heats. Marie McCarthy from Carrigaline — who had a baby five weeks ago — was competition runner-up. She also entered through the Aldi strand. In third and fourth places respectively were ICA members Helen Cunningham from Cuffsgrange, Kilkenny, and Anne Downey from Birr, Offaly. This year saw the first man — Dublin-based Martin Malone who hails from Tipperary — take part in the competition.