I can’t think of a better way to start a Montclair 4th of July weekend than a retro bake-off hosted by Montclair Bread Co. It’s no secret that the Montclair Bread Company bakes and sells amazing breads, muffins, croissants, and last but not least, their famous, delicious, and decadent doughnuts. But part of what makes this company special to me is their involvement in our town and their passion for community events. Whether it’s hosting their annual doughnut run, a sidewalk story time, or a Mom’s Night Out, owner Rachel Crampsey continues to make valuable contributions to this community. So when I saw an event in my Facebook feed that had the words, “Montclair Bread” and “Retro Bake-off” I got so excited! Not to mention, all of the event proceeds were benefitting Tony’s Kitchen. I asked Rachel how she came up with the idea and her response was so fitting and completely in the spirit of the Montclair Bread Company. I hope she doesn’t mind if I quote her word for word, because I love this story. “So…do you remember that Mom’s Night Out thing that I hosted for Mother’s Day? Marissa Rothkopf Bates was one of the moms selected. She and I started talking about our childhoods and the desserts we grew up with. Mine was Strawberry Pretzel Salad…I actually had it at my wedding!! She had never heard of it. The next day, I made some and delivered it to her doorstep. She showed me her collection of vintage cookbooks. Then we thought it would be really funny to introduce all these crazy old recipes to Montclair (home of organic, all-natural everything!). We both have connections to Toni’s Kitchen. Just like that…the contest was born.” So there you have it, the first annual Retro Bake Off back story. The entry form for the contest included 6 categories:
1. Made with Jello – includes molded desserts & sweet salads
2. Cakes – classic layers, poke, dump & ice box
3. Buckles, Bettys & Pies – if it’s baked with fruit, it probably goes here
4. Candies/Fudge – you don’t have to leave out the marshmallow fluff or Velveeta!
5. Red, White & Blue – it’s not the 4th of July without a Jello Berry flag!!!
6. Kid’s Competition – open to aspiring bakers aged twelve and under
I decided to enter Chocolate ice box pie into the contest. I grew up in Texas and my siblings and I would love going to Luby’s Cafeteria. The most exciting part of the experience was choosing our own dessert (and the fact that we were allowed to get dessert every time). While the restaurant doesn’t call their desserts retro, they are the one menu item that hasn’t changed in at least 30 years. I adapted it straight from the Luby’s Cafeteria recipe. I thought it fit both the retro theme (especially since marshmallows are an ingredient) and had sentimental meaning. This meant it would be fun to not only bake, but introduce to this part of the country. I documented some of the process for your viewing pleasure.
On Saturday July 2nd, I showed up at Montclair Bread’s Label Street Bakery (early as instructed) where crowds were already gathering to purchase a taste (10 tasting spoons could be purchased for $5).
When I took my pie inside I was delighted to see so many delicious desserts displayed with pride and care. Seeing all of the bakers in their vintage dresses and aprons, setting up their desserts was a most beautiful sight. Rachel told me there were approximately 50 entries in the contest.
After a few minutes of oohing and ahhing over the treats, we were asked to step outside so that the judging could begin. Until that moment, I only cared about the fun of participating. But everyone was talking about the judging and I got a bit nervous and competitive. Especially since my 5-year-old (who wouldn’t even taste my pie) kept saying, “I want you to win Momma.” The judges included Rachel’s grandmother (who tasted every entry), Liz, a representative from the historical society, Hani from Haniela’s – a baking blog and YouTube channel, Amy from Toast, and Montclair Bread’s own pastry chef, Carolyn. Marissa & Rachel oversaw the process and stepped in to break a tie.
While the judging took place, spectators and contestants were are able to purchase treats from Montclair Bread Company, including ambrosia salad and pistachio jello salad. They also had retro jar desserts with layered jello. And of course, no Montclair Bread Company event would be complete without doughnuts. The Creativity Caravan was there making “Montclair Sunsets” a fruity minty punch and Toast was selling root beer on tap with an optional scoop of ice cream.
After each category Rachel Crampsey would emerge from the judging area to announce the winners and hand out prizes. By this point there was a large lively crowd and participants were anxiously awaiting to hear results and taste the entries. I was on the outskirts of the crowd and all of the sudden heard my name. My wonderful friend who came to support me was probably more thrilled than I was. It was an honor to be named first place pie! I must say, I got pretty into holding the title.
There was also a grand prize winner, Lindsey Wormald who won for her very cherry coke cupcakes and was crowned (with an actual crown) retro baking queen. I’m sorry that I didn’t get a photograph, but you can see the retro baking queen, here.
The following is a list of all the contest winners:
After the judging was finished, the crowds were let it to taste.
Now I have one more thing to add to my list of Montclair 4th of July events to look forward to. Rachel also told me that plans are already in the works for next year and they will be adding a band and including a people’s choice portion of the judging.
Thank you Montclair Bread Company! I am happy and proud to live in a town where our business owners are inventive, involved, and inspiring. It is companies like this one that make this town unique and make this large and ever growing town of Montclair, keep it’s small town feel.