If the alluring aroma of fresh baked homemade bread instills a heartwarming sense of comfort, yet inspires you to head straight to the kitchen to create your own masterpiece, consider putting your name in the hat to apply for a National Baking Championship. The Third Annual National Festival of Breads is offering home bakers a chance to become an award-winning bread baker, with the delightfully added experience to work one-on-one with professional bakers, in addition to a cash prize. The online application entry form, features a January 31, 2013 deadline, but offers an invaluable and memorable three day experience for the eight finalists.
“This helps promote our Kansas Wheat Industry and home baking. A big part of the National Festival of Breads, is the Wheat Harvest tour that we have on the Friday before the competition. Since some people have never been on a farm before, we take the entrants out to a farm and a wheat field, and they can get on a combine. We also take them to a grain elevator. Also, new this year, we will take them to the Kansas State University Flour Mill,” said Cindy Falk, Chairperson of the National Festival of Breads, and Nutritional Educator for the Kansas Wheat Commission.
Another exciting feature is the opportunity to meet and learn from world-renowned bakers.
“Our eight finalists will create their baking masterpieces on-site, but we’ll also take them to the American Institute of Baking here in Manhattan, Kan.; where bakers are trained from all over the world. Instructors from the Institute are eager to work with the entrants for a few hours,” said Falk.
Although the competition was previously held in Wichita, Kan., this is the first year it’ll be held in Manhattan, Kan., home of Kansas State University’s renowned agriculture school, Saturday, June 22, 2013 at the Hilton Garden Hotel and Conference Center. Winners will be announced, that same day after baking their breads.
In addition to the trip to Manhattan to compete at the National Festival of Breads, the eight adult finalists will receive a $500 cash prize.
The Grand Prize Winner will receive $2,000 cash plus a trip to attend a baking class of their choice at the King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center in Norwich, Vt. The trip includes $500 class tuition, airfare and hotel.
The competition started in 2009, and was held every other year as a Kansas-only statewide baking contest, but has now melded into a nationwide baking contest, called the National Festival of Breads. The contest will continue being held every other year.
Also new this year, is a youth category for people ages 12 to 17 to enter.
To help promote a healthy, active lifestyle, the contest focuses on the role that bread plays. Interestingly, not only does a kernel of wheat provide nutrients, but the bread is also a complex carbohydrate that provides energy, fiber and B vitamins, as well as other nutritional benefits.
It’s also a competition, that’s near and dear to Falk’s heart.
“I grew up on a family farm in Pottawatomie County, Kan., (near Manhattan,) and I was an active member of 4-H. My main project was foods, and I gave numerous bread-baking demonstrations, competing at both the county and state level. My mother and grandmother enjoyed baking, and they were extremely good bakers,” Falk said, adding, “We always get entrants from Kansas because you know we have good bakers in Kansas, but we haven’t had a finalist though from Kansas.”
Falk also revealed that she had just looked at a few of the recipes that have come in, and has some suggestions for bakers preparing to apply for the contest:
“Entrants just need to submit the recipe online. We’re looking for original recipes; something unique or different,” said Falk.
Here are her recommendations:
■ Do read the contest rules, which require using a specific type of flour and yeast:
King Arthur Flour of Vermont, available at some grocery stores, including Dillons in Salina, Kan., (Ohio Street) and Ray’s Apple Market in Fairbury, Neb.
Fleischmann’s Yeast — which may be more easily found, including at some Walmarts, such as Marysville, Kan.
■ The entrant can use all-purpose or bread flour in some recipes. However, in the whole grain category, it must be 50 percent whole wheat flour.
■ Include in your details: the mixing, kneading, baking times and other important details, like the pan size that they need to know when testing the recipes.
“We test usually 80 to 100 of these recipes, and if the recipe doesn’t work right off, the recipe is eliminated,” advised Falk.
While over 500 recipes have been entered online in the past, Falk says they have a ‘nice’ number right now. “However, I expect there may possibly be a flood of entries at the last minute, since they’re due January 31, 2013 before midnight,” she said.
Testing will begin in February, with voting in April.
After narrowing down entries to the Top 30, they’ll hold a public judging to sample the products, which helps get the submissions streamlined to the Top 8.
“One of my jobs is to gather a team of professional judges who are home economists, home bakers and K-State extension staff, and we review the recipes. We select 80 to 100 that we actually test-bake first. So, we eliminate through test-baking and sampling, to come up with the eight adult finalists, who are notified during the first part of May,” said Falk.
When the recipes come in, they’re assigned a number, so the judges only see that number.
There’s also a category for whole grains, although Falk acknowledges those recipes take patience.
“Sometimes, it’s a challenge to work on a whole grain recipe, and also for some home bakers to come up with an original receipt that’s 50 percent whole wheat, because sometimes it absorbs the moisture at a different rate. Whole wheat flour can often make a heavier bread. You have to work on your recipe, to make sure it has enough kneading time and rising time, which involves a few more techniques,” said Falk.
The National Festival of Breads is a free event, and the public can come and listen to national baking presenters. They’ll have baking stations set up, with baking instructors available throughout the day. People can walk around inside the ballroom, and watch the contestants bake their winning bread.
The Great American Bake Sale, which is a national organization, will also be held in conjunction with the competition. Proceeds will go toward helping feed children in the area.
“Our contestants get to learn the importance of producing a product, taking it from farm to table. We want our contestants to come to Kansas, and hopefully our wheat will be golden and ready to be harvested when they’re here,” Falk relayed.
Here’s an extra tip:
Practice and perfect your recipe.
“The last several Champion recipes I’ve tested, the champion recipes worked, the entrant provided details, the bread came out picture-perfect as the entrant had written,” Falk commented. “If you want to be one of the top finalists, just perfect the recipe and write it, so that we, the testers can test, and the product may be a champion.” ❖
“Our contestants get to learn the importance of producing a product, taking it from farm to table. We want our contestants to come to Kansas, and hopefully our wheat will be golden and ready to be harvested when they’re here.”
~ Cindy Falk, Chairperson of the National Festival of Breads, and Nutritional Educator for the Kansas Wheat Commission.