Elke Roby, of Lincoln, Neb., is truly a bread winner; having just been selected as one of the eight finalists in the prestigious National Festival of Breads baking contest. Roby’s German Streusel Cranberry Bagels won one of two slots in the Ethnic category. She also won the Cranberry Award; a supplemental category with a $500 cash prize.
“Oh my gosh; I was shaking when I got the call. All my friends told me how great the bagels were. It’s wonderful!” exclaimed Roby, a teacher’s assistant in Lincoln, Neb. Born and raised in Germany, Roby favored the ethnic category, and wanted to create a bagel. “After reading the rules and ideas for cranberries, the recipe just fell into place,” added Roby.
After weeks of delving through 500 recipes, and test-baking 70 of those entries, judges on the Kansas Wheat Commission Test Baking team have selected recipes that will compete in the Third National Festival of Breads, June 22 in Manhattan, Kan.
“This is our third national event, but it’s the first time we’ve added a youth category. We have eight finalists and one youth,” said Cindy Falk, nutrition educator for the Kansas Wheat Commission and chairwoman of the National Festival of Breads.
Mardi Traskowsky, 14-years-old of Herington, Kan., is the youth category winner, and said she’s excited that her baking in 4-H has paid off. Traskowsky, a freshman at Herington High School, won a $500 cash prize for her entry; Our Family Italian Bread.
“I’m looking forward to preparing Our Family Italian Bread on stage at the Festival of Breads,” shared Traskowsky, who’s also involved in high school extracurricular activities including dance team, track and swim teams.
In a momentous undertaking, Falk has been test-baking the baking entries since January. The finalists will travel to Manhattan, Kan., for the Bake-Off, June 20-22, when the winner will be determined.
“We pay for travel expenses, hotel and meals. We also have a wheat harvest tour,” explained Falk. The eight finalists will attend a special evening meal; decorated in Kansas-themed “A Land of Oz” dinner. The tables will be adorned with ruby red slippers; representative of the beloved “Wizard of Oz” movie set portraying Kansas.
Just making it to the Top Eight, was a process as extensive, as the trip down the imaginative yellow brick road.
“It’s been a challenge, really. Three of us test-baked 70 of the 500 recipes entered; the most we’ve ever had. It took days to decide which to bake,” relayed Falk.
Here’s how Falk whittled down the massive number of entries.
“The judges considered whether important information was included; like how to shape the dough, exact flour amount, baking time, pan size, and water temperature,” Falk explained.
“Water temperature is very important when you’re making bread,” said Falk. She also recommends future entrants use a sponsor’s product line. For example, since King Arthur Flour is a sponsor of the National Festival of Breads contest, Falk says using their flour, is listed as one of the rules.
The National Festival of Breads contest is held every two years.
“We almost start planning the next one, as soon as this one is over,” commented Falk.
The recipes will be used in the Kansas Wheat Commission’s recipe booklet, 12,000 booklets will be given out at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson, Kan., in September.
“We look forward to meeting these contestants in Kansas this summer when they participate in the National Festival of Breads,” said Falk. “Many of them have never been to Kansas nor to a wheat farm. They’ll go home with a different perspective.” ❖