Competing at a national contest is a once in a lifetime experience, but it takes some serious work to make it to that level of competition. The bakers who become finalists in the National Festival of Breads are no different. Their recipes didn't achieve perfection overnight, so here are some tips to help your original bread recipe rise to the top.
Reading the rules of the contest seems like a logical place to start, but according to Cindy Falk, co-chairwoman of the National Festival of Breads, many entries might not make it past that first step.
"Several recipes have already been eliminated because the type of King Arthur Flour and Red Star Yeast needed for the recipe was not listed," Falk says. "When we get ready to test the recipe, our test bakers need to know what type of flour and yeast to use."
Remember, another important rule is that the submitted recipe must be original to the entering baker. The recipe cannot be copied from a magazine, a cookbook, Pinterest or anywhere on the internet. The judges will check each of the finalists to make sure the recipe has not been previously printed or belongs to another source. Feel free to draw inspiration from these sources, but be sure to make the recipe uniquely yours.
Another way to make your entry stand out is to develop a creative and descriptive name. The title is the first part of the recipe that the judges see, so use your ingredients or the recipe's history for inspiration. For example, Lisa Keyes, the 2015 NFOB champion, developed and named her original recipe Smokehouse Cranberry Cheese Bread based on her memories of visits with her in-laws in Vermont.
Bread can already be intimidating for some bakers, so remember to keep your entry simple. Recipes in the NFOB tend to score higher if they have simplified steps and fewer ingredients. A three-page recipe with 20 or more ingredients is not likely to be chosen.
"Make sure your ingredients can be found at most supermarkets," says Falk. "Complicated recipes do not often win."
Have a child who loves baking? Falk emphasizes that the youth division of the National Festival of Breads is a great opportunity for young bakers, ages 8-17, to get their hands on some serious dough.
"We've just upped our youth prize to $500 this year," says Falk. "We're hoping to encourage young people to get interested in baking and to continue eating wheat."
In addition to the top eight adult finalists' trip to a Kansas wheat harvest and the chance to bake it off at the national competition, bonus cash awards are on the line, for both the youth and adult divisions. This year entries are eligible to win special awards for Best Recipe Using White Whole Wheat Flour, sponsored by Farmer Direct Foods; Best Recipe Using King Arthur Flour Sprouted Wheat Flour, sponsored by King Arthur Flour; Best Recipe Using a Soy Ingredient, sponsored by the Kansas Soybean Commission; and Best Recipe Using a Corn Ingredient, sponsored by the Kansas Corn Commission.
Entries are currently being accepted for the 2017 National Festival of Breads.
For more information on the contest, and a complete set of rules, visit nationalfestivalofbreads.com.
Hildebrand writes for Kansas Wheat.