ICA news: First €50 of brown bread prize will go for ICA membership

The moment of triumph for National Brown Bread Baking Competition winner Margaret Sexton.

A mum of two from Roscommon has said she will join ICA after winning the National Brown Bread Baking Competition at last week’s Ploughing Championships.

Margaret Sexton said she was “up against the best of the best” when she contested the final alongside Carmel Walsh, Kilkenny; Phyllis McGovern, Waterford; and Pauline Carney, Monaghan. She believed her brown bread had a “modern twist”, which might have given it the edge.

“I didn’t just make a brown square. I looked at the health aspects of the bread. We’re all out running the roads, trying to get healthy. 

"I looked at what people wanted, and added lots of nuts and seeds — pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds, as well as roasted hazelnuts. Those gave the bread a lovely roasted flavour,” said Margaret, who works as a nurse.

While the judges commended her for her brown bread’s traditional appearance and perfect texture, Margaret said the competition is not for the faint-hearted. 

“It’s one thing to be making brown bread in your kitchen at home at night. But in front of a live audience of about 150, with TV cameras on you, you could easily forget a key ingredient,” she said, adding that she put her “calm reserve” down to the support she got. 

“I got lots of support from ICA members. Given that I’m not a member, I really appreciated that.”

At home, Margaret makes brown bread every second night. Her mother, Margaret Comerford, instilled in her a love of baking. 

“I had a keen interest from when I was young. My mother would have made the traditional brown square. Mine has evolved over the years.”

Margaret received a €5,000 prize (€2,500 in Aldi vouchers, plus €2,500 in cash). And her brown bread will be stocked in all Aldi stores in Ireland for a minimum of six months, and during this time, Margaret will receive 10% of the profits.

Chef Edward Hayden, who regularly lectures in ICA’s An Grianán, had a strong recommendation for Margaret following her win. 

“He told me the first é50 I spend out of my prize money should be on ICA membership. That will be my first spend. I’m going to join.”

The National Brown Bread Baking competition was re-launched last year by the National Ploughing Association, and is a huge success with entries from each of the 26 counties.


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