The results are in.
Last week, I had the honor of traveling to Wichita, Kan., to judge the 2011 Festival of Breads. The panel (which comprised me, a bread instructor and a bakery owner) declared Gale Collier of Redmond, Ore., the winner. Her recipe for Quick Raisin Granola Breakfast Rolls won our vote for overall appearance, ease of preparation, originality and, of course, taste.
That's not to say the other eight finalists—narrowed down from a pool of 500-plus amateur bakers' entries—didn't have amazing recipes. Really, it came down to the performance of the baker that day. Anyone could have come out ahead.
Sponsored by the Kansas Wheat Commission, King Arthur Flour and Fleischmann's Yeast, the competition was part of a day-long celebration of bread. The festival featured a booth selling fresh-baked goods; proceeds went to Share Our Strength's Great American Bake Sale to help end childhood hunger.
Prior to the competition, I was able to tour a working wheat farm, grain elevator and flour mill to see how the product finds its way to my kitchen table. The Midwesterner in me loved every minute of it—especially the combine ride! I'm always fascinated by the origin of food; I truly believe it makes me grow as a cook.
One of my goals this year is to expand my bread-making knowledge. Thank you, Wichita, for helping me get a few giant steps closer.