The Hippo


Apr 23, 2019








5th Annual New Hampshire’s Own Macaroni and Cheese Bake Off

When: Saturday, Jan. 17, from 1 to 3 p.m.
Where: Courtyard Marriott Grappone Conference Center, 70 Constitution Ave., Concord
Admission cost: $12 for adults, $3 for kids ages 6 to 12; free admission for children ages 5 and under (includes all-you-can-eat mac and cheese, beverages included)

Mac and cheese of all flavors
Annual bake off celebrates NH dairy


 All-you-can-eat delicious, creamy, cheesy goodness? Yes, please. This is the fifth year Granite State Dairy Promotion has held the New Hampshire’s Own Macaroni and Cheese Bake Off, which features more than 20 kinds of macaroni and cheese entries, from creamy traditional to exotic flavors, with anywhere from 25 to 30 contestants from amateur bakers to restaurant chefs.

“All of the mac and cheese has always been delicious,” Granite State Dairy Promotion Director Amy Hall said. “It’s all-you-can-eat; if you try all 25 with 2-ounce [servings], you’re talking pounds of mac and cheese.” 
While trying every single entry would be a challenge (good luck to those who do), there’s every kind of mac and cheese imaginable. Contestants register their entries into one of the following categories: Best NH Made (with cheese and milk 100 percent from New Hampshire), Best Creative Exotic (for the far-out flavors), Best Traditional and Best Restuarant.
While judges will decide the winners of each category, bake-off attendees will be able to vote for People’s Choice, which includes home cooks and restaurant chefs.
Contestants who registered in advance were given 8-ounce blocks of Farmers Legacy Collection cheese from Cabot. Many New Hampshire dairy farms contribute milk to be made into Cabot cheeses in Vermont (but if you’re entering into the NH Made category, that rules out the Cabot cheeses). 
“That’s the registration bonus that we offer with Cabot every year,” Hall said. 
This year’s Cabot cheeses are a bonus for cooks, since the cheese comes from the Farmers Legacy Collection. The artisan-inspired cheeses include Farmhouse Reserve, a bold, creamy extra sharp cheese with a crumbly body; White Oak Cheddar with a smoother, milkier texture (“That kind of has a subtle sweetness to it and it pairs really very well with wine. It’s like a British cheddar,” Hall said.); and Alpine Cheddar, Hall’s personal favorite, which is like a Swiss and Italian cheddar with texture like Parmesan cheese.
“I didn’t think it was possible for Cabot to make a better-tasting cheese,” Hall said. “This Farmer’s Legacy Collection will knock your socks off. … I think all three of these cheeses are going to be contenders.”
And the variety in types of cheese will also add more to the types of mac that enter the competition. Each year, the Creative Exotic category features some of the wildest macs, from lobster mac and cheese, to dessert mac and cheese (including a type of apple crisp mac and cheese hybrid, and a chocolate mac and cheese from the Belmont Fire Department, with chocolate noodles, whipped cream and chocolate pudding).
“It just goes to show the versatility of macaroni and cheese,” Hall said. “What you’re not expecting to be good will absolutely knock your socks off, and that’s what makes it so fun.”
There’s only been one year that a restaurant has taken the grand champion title. Last year, a surprising contender won best overall: a curried lamb mac and cheese.
The NH Made category has the fewest entries, Hall said, and more and more restaurants are registering each year (900 Degrees in Manchester won best restaurant mac in 2014 and will be defending its title this year).
It turns out there’s a secret to making the best mac and cheese.
“One of the tips that I’m going to give bakers this year is that you have to over-sauce your mac and cheese. That is key,” Hall said. “At home, it comes out of the oven and you serve it fresh off the bat. You put it in the refrigerator and heat it up the next day and it loses its texture and creaminess, and that’s why it’s important. … What we’ve seen is in the past five years the people who come up on top are the people who over-sauce.”
More sauce prevents the noodles from drying up and gives the mac and cheese a creamier and fresher taste.
The event originally started as a way to connect Granite Staters with the local dairy industry, which it continues to do in 2015.
“The whole premise here is to hopefully bring people’s focus full circle. When it comes down to it, no dairy farms [means] no macaroni and cheese,” Hall said. “The entire purpose, philosophy and mission behind the reasoning of having the event is to connect people with their food systems.”
It’s the same purpose behind the New Hampshire Ice Cream Trail, Hall said, to develop a local appreciation for the food (and dairy) on your plate and where it originates. Granite State Dairy Promotion’s 2015 campaign, “Meal Time is Milk Time,” encourages families to make healthy choices together and to drink more milk.
“We’re seeing a trend of milk consumption dropping little by little each year to the point where we’re seeing people just aren’t putting milk on the table at meals. It’s soda, it’s juice,” Hall said. “This campaign does one of two things: It reminds them that yes, meal time is milk time, and, two, that it’s also tied to our local dairy farmers here in New Hampshire.”
The bake-off also includes a silent auction this year, with prizes like ski passes, hotel visits and golf course passes. 
As seen in the January 15, 2015 issue.

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