When cooking for a panel of professional chefs, one thing is certain: there's a good chance they will be able to taste it if any packaged, pre-made ingredients are used — and they won't be thrilled.
Such was the downfall of several desserts entered in this year's Cooking for Kids Bake Sale and Taste-Off, a fundraiser for the District of Columbia's public schools held Monday by the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. The entries were prepared by employees of 13 D.C.-area law offices.
Now in its 12th year, the event is one way the Lawyers' Committee helps facilitate connections between Washington law offices and the schools they assist through its D.C. Public School Partnership Program. More than 30 of the city's public schools are paired with a law firm, which provide a myriad of services including tutoring help and donations of equipment.
The group is expecting record bake-off results, said Lawyers' Committee Executive Director Rod Boggs said in a statement. “With only 4 of the 14 participating firms reporting to date, early returns show that we have raised nearly $5,000 so far for D.C. public schools," he said. "Last year, we raised a total of $6,000, so we expect to achieve record results when all the returns are in for this year.”
Whether it was fruit pie filling from a can or a boxed cake mix, judges' noses wrinkled at any hint of a store-bought ingredient. In fact, most of the day's winners were found in some of the simplest entries, renditions of classic desserts that weren't overly sweet or inventive.
"This is almost as much sweets as I eat in a month," said one judge, Frank Ruta, owner and chef of Palena restaurant in Washington's Cleveland Park neighborhood. He then wondered aloud how he would deal with the late-afternoon sugar rush.
Taking the top spots this year were a lemon poppy seed cake made by Regina Miller, a legal secretary with Beveridge & Diamond; thumbprint jam coconut cookies created by Perkins Coie legal secretary Cynthia Herron; and a tuxedo brownie tart, baked by McDermott Will & Emery secretarial coordinator Evelyn Bond.