Friday, June 19, 2009

2009 Festival of Breads - My Experience

We are back from my first experience in the world of food competition. I could have also entitled this "The Greenhorn" or "Lessons From a Kansas Ballroom" but instead went with a more general title. I learned SO much in regards to wheat, the people of Kansas and to baking bread. I also learned more than I wanted to about how to bake in a hotel ballroom. I've come to the conclusion that I LOVE my humble kitchen!

After my oldest daughter's dance recital on Sunday, we headed off on our adventure. Traveling with the three kids went pretty well. We spent the first night in Olathe, KS and finished the drive on Monday to Wichita. The Hilton was our home base and also where the competition was held. It was a lovely hotel. Abby and I went to do some exploring soon after arriving, because quite frankly, all three kids should not be confined to a small place together for more than 2 hours at a time.

Wandering the hall, a man came up and said, "You look familiar. I think I know you." I'd never seen him before, thus I said, "I don't think so." To which he replied, "Tanna, right?" So I was introduced to the fact that everyone knew who I was by seeing my picture beforehand - a very weird feeling! His name was Bill and he was part of the Kansas Wheat Commission (KWC). Everyone from the KWC was wonderful! I've never felt so welcomed before. They put all of us contestants at ease.

We had a full three days. The first evening was a trip to Cowtown in Wichita. Cowtown is a living history town set circa the late 1800's. We had the run of the place and had fun wandering from building to building seeing how people used to live. We even got a ride in horse drawn wagon! There, we also were treated to a barbecue dinner and a concert by the Diamond W Wranglers band. Great cowboy music! Check them out if you get a chance.

Here are the 8 Finalists at Cowtown:

The next day we had an early breakfast and got to check out where we would be baking on Wednesday. We got to check all of our equipment; later we got to check all our ingredients. Then we went on a day long tour of the wheat industry. We started at the Cargill grain mill in town, then out to a farm for lunch and got to witness the combining of a small patch of wheat. Then we followed the wheat to the grain elevator where they explained the analysis and storage of the wheat. It was all very interesting and I felt right at home being a farmer's daughter. The people we met were passionate about their products from farm to mill to plate. I think the wheat industry is in good hands!

Now, let me talk about the other finalists. What a neat bunch of ladies! The majority of them had been in national food competitions before so I was definitely the youngest and the complete rookie of the bunch. But they were all very encouraging. We laughed as we were all hanging off of each others words as we chatted about cooking and our past experiences. I got a few tips of the trade and really met some characters! Marjorie Johnson was probably the biggest character there and I can see why the television world has sought her out. What fun she is! Jessie Grearson was so fun and encouraging to be around as she is another fellow gardener and cook. I really enjoyed getting to know her more. And the winner, Dianna Wara was also an encouragement when I was feeling defeated after the issues I had on baking day.

Me and Marjorie:

Ahhhh, yes, my issues. I didn't really think about the problems or issues that I may have baking bread in a large space that is not my own kitchen. I've made this bread so many times that it really is second nature. In fact, I probably ended up taking that for granted. We started at 7:30 am. The room was cool due to the air conditioning and the atmosphere was humid outside. Whatever the case, I had the worst time getting my bread to rise properly. I ended up baking it but it was a full inch or more shorter than what it usually is here at home. So before I had that out of the pans, I made another batch of dough and set that to raise in some new pans that I was given there that I hadn't used before, on the stove top to utilize the heat from the oven. Well, that dough raised well but not evenly and ended out coming out flat on top (tasting good but not pretty). I thought it was due to the new pans and went ahead and did another batch in my own pans from home. Set it again on the oven top to raise. After that had raised and was again flat, I realized my mistake was not the pans but the fact of where it was being placed to rise! So I started booking it to get a fourth batch in. I mean, I was cruising at speeds yet unseen in that ballroom. In fact, I was going so fast that I forgot some of the ingredients. My dear wonderful new Kansas friend and runner pointed out the canola oil but I totally spaced out the honey. Sigh. So that was my last batch and while I had it rise away from the oven, it came out blond and not so sweet.

While we were baking, there were baking classes being taught for the public. One of the things the instructors mentioned was how sugar was not needed in bread but it added to the color and to the taste. At the end of the last class, I brought an earlier loaf and one of my last loaves up front as a visual example of that information ;) Maybe I shouldn't have pointed out my weakness? Oh well, if it helps future bakers!

Let me also quickly mention my wheat spokespersons, Reba & Erin. Two nicer ladies I think would be harder to find. They were absolutely terrific! I really felt put to ease and it was good to have someone rooting for me and being there to help things go as smoothly as possible. So thank you again! I probably would have started crying had it not been for Erin that day.

Erin and me:

Reba and me:

So, I didn't win. But I gained a great experience, wonderful new friends, and a great knowledge of how we get from farm to fork.

Here is my recipe: Healthy Homemade Bread. All the recipes, including the winning one, are posted on the Kansas Wheat website here.

Healthy Homemade Bread
Tanna Richard, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

I developed this recipe because I needed a tasty bread recipe that would be easy on the budget and easy to prepare at home.

1 cup King Arthur Traditional 100% Whole Wheat Flour
½ cup wheat germ
½ cup quick cooking oats, uncooked
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon Fleischmann’s® RapidRise Yeast2 ¼ cups very warm water (120-130°F)*
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup canola oil
4 - 4 ½ cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
*Gauge water temperature with thermometer.

In mixing bowl, stir together whole wheat flour, wheat germ, oats, salt, and yeast. Stir in water, honey,and oil; beat 2 minutes. Gradually stir in 3 cups bread flour to make a slightly sticky dough. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface; knead in enough remaining flour to make a smooth and elastic dough. Knead 8 to 10 minutes by hand or with dough hook.

Divide dough in half. To shape: form dough to fit into 2 oiled 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch bread pans; press dough down to fill pan. Smooth top. Cover loaves with a damp towel; let rise in a warm place until double, about 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Bake in preheated 350°F oven 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and done. Tent with foil last 15 minutes to prevent overbrowning. Remove from pans and cool on wire rack.

Makes 2 loaves, 16 slices each.
Nutrition information per serving: One slice provides approximately 108 calories; 3 g protein; 18g carbohydrate; 1 g dietary fiber; 3 g fat (.18 g saturated); 0 mg cholesterol; 37 mcg folate; 1 mg iron and 219 mg sodium.


LivingFree said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. Sounds like a wonderful, fun educational experience. I can't wait to try your recipe.

Sara Mae said...

Fun to read all about it! And I think I'm hungry again! Everytime I read about your bread I think I start drooling!:)

Amy said...

Thanks for sharing. That was very interesting and sounds like you had a great time! :)

Horn herd mom said...

What an experience! So glad you got to do it. Just think about how prepared you will be next time.

Wanda said...

Glad you had a great time. Despite your issues. -4 batches of bread- you are wonder women. Just think- this a great start to your million dollar future in food contests. What's next- jams/jellies, BBQ, Garden cooking, pickles, cookies? Congratulations!