- Kansas produces more wheat than any other state, nearly one-fifth of all wheat grown in the United States, earning the title “Breadbasket of the World.”
- Kansas ranks second nationally in the amount of wheat milled into flour.
- Kansas farmers produce three wheat classes: Hard Red Winter, Hard White and Soft Red Winter. Russian Mennonite immigrants introduced Turkey Red Wheat to Kansas in 1874.
Kansas Festival of Breads
Established in 1990, the Kansas Festival of Breads was sponsored by the Kansas Wheat Commission, Kansas Department of Agriculture and the Kansas Wheathearts, a women's auxiliary group of the wheat growers.
The Festival of Breads was designed to celebrate the art of baking, encourage the use of Kansas products and recognize the Kansas wheat and milling industries. The biennial contest encouraged Kansans to “get back to their roots and in their kitchens” and bake special recipes.
Originally, five regional contests were held, with the top finalists baking their winning bread recipes at the state competition, held on the Kansas State University campus in Manhattan, Kansas.
More than 250 home baked breads were entered in the first contest. By 2009, the number grew to more than 500 entries. Contestants have all levels of experience, from youth who learned how to bake bread from their grandmother or mother, to a retired district judge and veterinarian. Later, entrants were categorized by age.
Categories have evolved over time to include bread machines, rolls and holiday breads.
A variety of prizes have been awarded, ranging from cash awards to KitchenAid mixers, food processors, bakeware and “Kansas Trademark” gift baskets.
Eventually, in place of regional judging, more than 30 collection sites were strategically located to provide access to any Kansan who wanted to enter. Breads were collected and transported to Manhattan, where they were judged the following day.
April 3, 2006, was the last Kansas Festival of Breads. In June 2009, the first National Festival of Breads baking contest, sponsored by the Kansas Wheat Commission and King Arthur Flour, was held in Wichita. This was the first in what has become an every-other-year event that honors the best amateur bread bakers in America!
List of Champions
2017 Champion – Seeded Corn and Onion Bubble Loaf
Ronna Farley, Rockville, Maryland
2015 Champion – Smokehouse Cranberry Cheese Bread
Lisa Keys, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
2013 Champion – Onion Parmesan Cracker Bread
Rosemary Leicht, Bethel, Ohio, won the grand prize with a time-saving recipe that literally allows friends and family to “break bread together.” Her recipe was inspired by a basket of bread that her son-in-law raved about at a Chicago restaurant.
2011 Champion – Quick Raisin Granola Breakfast Rolls
The winning recipe by Gale Collier, Redmond, Oregon, was a serendipitous happening. Spying an almost empty box of raisin bran cereal on the counter, Gale added it to the granola breakfast rolls she was making. The recipe was a family favorite ever since.
2009 Champion – Tomato, Basil, and Garlic Filled Pane Bianco
Dianna Wara, Washington, Illinois, won the first National Festival of Breads with her quick, on-the-run bread. She said her goal was to create visually stunning bread that makes one drool even before taking the first bite.
2009 Senior Champion – Nutritious Whole Wheat Windsor Knot
Judy Burnette, Great Bend, earned senior champion with this loaf that scored high in nutrition with sprouted wheat berries, white whole wheat flour, wheat bran and oats.
2004 Professional Champion – White Dinner Rolls
The Kingman Elementary Middle School Kitchen, used their prize money for these tasty dinner rolls for new aprons and shirts. The staff had extra hands-on experience, preparing up to 660 rolls for each meal because many of the students asked for two.
2002 Senior Champion – Sheepherder’s Bread
Only six ingredients were used in Mary Glazier’s winning bread recipe from the Basque County in Nevada, which was baked in a Dutch Oven and made one large loaf.
2002 Adult Champion – Povitica (po-vi-tee-tsa)
Roberta Dent’s recipe originated in Poland and her mother made this bread as a Christmas tradition. Making a povitica takes practice as the dough is rolled paper-thin with a layer of cooked filling that includes finely ground pecans, milk, sugar and eggs rolled up inside. The loaf is twisted resembling a snail.
2002 Champions – Multigrain Dinner Rolls and Wheat and Oats Bread
Jane Fry’s multigrain dinner rolls won first place in the dinner roll category and her wheat and oats bread took runner-up in the bread machine category. The latter is an old family recipe that she adapted to her bread machine, a device she initially resisted, but now would hate to live without.
1998 Champion – Dampfnudeln (Steam Buns)
Patty Betts brought history alive with this old German recipe from her great-grandmother. After Patty’s grandparents lost their house during a bombing raid in World War II, they moved in with her great-grandparents. With food scarce, the women had to use their imagination and cooking skills to feed the family. They helped the family survive and passed on a delicious and inexpensive meal that is still one of her family’s favorites four generations later.
1996 Champions – Two-in-One Braid and Honey Date Stollen
Joyce Taylor from Enterprise was the first to win the top prize in more than one category, even she claimed wedding cakes were her specialty. The judges especially liked the stolen for its beautiful appearance. Her two-in-one bread was a simply, hearty loaf, but the judges said it was good enough to be a “company” bread.
1994 Champion – Czech Houska
Czech immigrant Rose Wahl won with a holiday bread from her homeland, Vanocka or “Houska.” Rose finished her bread with an egg yolk wash, brushing it with a feather brush she brought with her from Czechoslovakia.
1991 Champion – Swedish Cardamom Wreath
Dorothy Johnson from Sterling developed her winning recipe based on her husband’s recollection of his Swedish grandmother’s cardamom roll. Johnson used the popular technique of braiding three strips of dough and then shaping the braid into a ring. Because the raisins have been soaked before being beaten into the dough, they break up and lend their sweetness and color to the delicately flavored loaf.
1990 Champion – Viola’s Wheat Bread
Kansas farm wife Viola Unruh from Montezuma won the first Celebrate Kansas Wheat Bake-Off with her traditional whole wheat bread loaf. She used this tried-and-true recipe for 35 years, saying her secret was the right amount of flour and plenty of practice. She and her recipe were featured in “The Bread Book” by Linda Collister and Anthony Blake.
Jayne Fry won the 2011, bread sculpting special award and her beautiful Sunflower and Wheat Bread Sculpture. Her recipe was featured on the cover of the 2011 Kansas Wheat Commission Annual Recipe Book.
Bob Kirby, a 24-year automotive technician from Syracuse, was a finalist in 2004 with his Pearl Bread recipe using hard white wheat flour. In addition to bread baking, he enjoyed cooking over a campfire.
Steve Korthanke from Robinson was the first male champion in the Kansas Festival of Breads in 1994. His Buttermilk Whole Wheat Berry Bread won in the bread machine category. At the time, almost half of all bread machines were reported as used by men.
Anita Allen, Burlington, placed as a finalist twice in the youth category with her Italian Parmesan Braid and Chive a-la Ring.
Youth Division Artistic Award winner Stetson Honig from Hugoton honored the Kansas State University mascot with his Wildcat Swirl Bread, a white loaf with a purple swirl.
Two sisters won three categories in 1996. Joyce Taylor from Enterprise won with her Honey Date Stollen and Two-in-One Bread, while her sister Illa Beemer from Abilene won the bread machine category with her Everyday Yogurt Bread.
The Grand Old Flag Bread, made by Maria Maus from Viola in 2002, showed off her patriotism with white and wheat dough stripes and stars.
A 16-year old 4-Her, Jason Smelser, won the 2004 youth category with his Italian Cheese Braid, beating out 87 entries.
Potter and bed and breakfast owner Jane Fry from Elk Falls has won multiple times over the years. Her winning entries included Wheat and Oat Bread, Whole Wheat Apple Braid, Oatmeal Bread and Multi-Grain Dinner Rolls.
Larry Davis from Cottonwood Falls won two contests with his Vienna Party Rolls and Onion Rye Bread.
“We were so pleased when the winners stood up and there was a grandmother, a mother and a young girl. People of all ages are enjoying home baking.” — Diane James, food editor of the High Plains Journal
“My idea of a good day is getting up and having all the ingredients I need to bake things all day long and never leave the kitchen. And then I love to share it with people.” — LaDean Bailey, 1990 finalist
“My sister-in-law suggested I try a braid. She said that anyone who could French braid her girls’ hair should be able to do a braided loaf.” — Julia Kendall, 1990 finalist, who entered a perfectly shaped loaf with a distinctive taste thanks to an onion and wheat flour combination
Dorothy Johnson, Sterling, Kansas, was teased about baking bread being a part of her wedding vows. When she and her husband were planning to be married, he said, “I sure hope you bake bread.” So, she clipped a recipe and started baking. Johnson won the 1991 Kansas Festival of Breads contest with her Swedish Cardamom Wreath.
“When you make bread, you can eat it anytime of the day and you can do anything with it – if make a sandwich or put jelly on it.” — Jason Smelser, 16-year-old contestant from Oskaloosa, Kansas