The smell of loaves of bread and rolls filled the air at the National Festival of Bread Saturday at the Hilton Garden Inn.
People from all over came to support friends and family, learn about bread and baking safety, bid on breads, and see who would be crowned the winner of the “Home Baker” and “Food Blogger” categories.
Around the conference center, vendors sold pottery, Kansas merchandise, jellies and baking supplies.
Inside the conference hall, things were heating up. The eight finalists were baking loaves of their potentially award-winning bread, answering questions and giving advice for the best way to bake breads.
Lauren Katz of Ashburn, Virginia, was one of the competitors in the home baker division. Her loaded baked potato bread got her into the competition.
“I had this idea in my mind of a baked potato bread,” she said. “Thankfully, I had a ton of leftover mashed potatoes one day and I said, ‘Okay, let’s try this bread I’ve had in my head forever.’ It worked out perfectly on the first try.”
Katz, who won the first season of ABC’s “The Great American Baking Show,” said she saw the fun her friends had at the last festival in 2017 and wanted to try. She entered a bread and won an online award two years ago, but didn’t get to come to the festival.
“I wanted to be here and show my bread, and so I’m thrilled to be here,” she said.
She got into baking about 20 years ago, but said she only got interested in bread around eight years ago when her friend gave her a sourdough recipe.
“At first I wasn’t sure, but now I love it,” she said.
In another room, Sharon Davis of Home Baking Association of Topeka, and Connie Nieman of Kansas Wheat, were emphasizing the importance of food safety.
Davis said people become desensitized to consuming raw foods because of things like cookie dough.
“The risk is always there, it’s what we do with it,” she said.
She said flour should be treated like eggs and hamburger meat and should never be consumed raw. She also said people need to take extra care and wash workspaces and utensils if working with flour and then moving on to something else.
“You wouldn’t put hamburger meat raw on a cutting board then chop the lettuce there,” she told the crowd. “If I walked up to you with a raw chicken leg, you wouldn’t take a bite.”
Nieman said an effective way to teach food safety to children is to incorporate cleaning steps into the recipe. The first step, she said, should be to wash hands, utensils and baking surfaces. She said to incorporate cleaning steps throughout the recipe.
At the end of the day, the judges announced the winners of the competitions.
Competing in the home baker division were
• RaChelle Hubsmith, North Logan, Utah — Chai Ube Rosette Rolls
• Lauren Katz, Ashburn, Virginia — Loaded Baked Potato Bread
• Brenda Watts, Gaffney, South Carolina — Sicilian Star Bread
• Tiffany Aaron, Quitman, Arkansas — Mulled Spice Apple Cider
Competiing in the food blogger division:
• Merry Graham, Newhall California — Blackberry Ginger Speculaas Danish Wreath
• Shauna Havey, Roy, Utah — Beetroot Amaretto Rolls
• Kristin Hoffman, Chicago, Illinois — Tart Cherry, Pecan and Rosemary Boule
• Suzy Neal, Sautee Nacoochee, Georgia — Peanut Butter Pretzel Rolls
Hubsmith won the people’s choice winner, and Havey won the social media event before the festival started.
Hubsmith won the home baker category. Graham won the food blogger competition.