While a Feb. 7 deadline looms for entry into the National Festival of Breads contest, test bakers have already begun to sift through some of the recipes as plans begin to take shape for the biennial competition, to be held June 25 in Wichita.
The contest started out small, as an event promoted by the Kansas WheatHearts from 1990 to 2007. Amateur home bakers from around the country were promoted in an effort to highlight the talents of home bakers.
In 2009, The Kansas Wheat Commission joined Fleischmann's Yeast and the King Arthur Flour Co. as co-title sponsors of the National Festival of Breads, which features a $2,000 cash prize, expenses-paid trip to the finals plus cash. The overall winner receives an expense-paid trip to a King Arthur Flour baking seminar in Norwich, Vermont, plus a year's supply of yeast from Fleischmann's.
Until the Feb. 7 cutoff, contest hopefuls can enter original bread recipes in each of four categories: Rolls, Ethnic Breads, Time-Saving and Easy, and Whole Grain breads, says Cindy Falk, nutrition educator at the Kansas Wheat Commission, and contest coordinator. Eight finalists will be chosen after a team of bakers evaluates the entries; two finalists from each category will be invited to Wichita, where they will be asked to bake their contest entries at the National Festival of Breads, held at the Airport Hilton.
Finalists, sponsors and other guests will enjoy several additional activities during their stay in the Wheat State, including a "Farm-to-Fork" tour featuring lunch at a local wheat farm and a visit to a field during wheat harvest, plus tours of a grain elevator and flour mill. The tour is designed to teach contestants the journey taken by wheat from field, to flour mill, to grocery store. A similar event was held at the inaugural contest in 2009 and was a hit for the guests.
The Festival, which takes place June 25, features the bakers' bread-baking competition and other highlights, including a miniature trade show offering wares from bakeware, ingredient and industry vendors; baking demonstrations from nationally known speakers and free bread samples. Many vendors are providing door prizes to the audience. All of the day's activities are free of charge.
New this year is an effort to help needy children through the "Great American Bake Sale," an outreach of the Share Our Strength effort.
"We'll be asking local retail bakers and supermarkets to donate some of their breads and other wheat foods, and we will sell those at our national contest," Falk says. "The proceeds will go to end childhood hunger in the U.S."
The eight breads making the finals will be auctioned off at the National Festival of Breads awards banquet, raising even more money to help the needy, she adds. "I'm really excited to add this bakes sale. It will be an extra component to our national baking contest."
Additional information including rules, entry details, past recipes and a summary of the 2009 contest are available on the official contest website, www.NationalFestivalofBreads.com.