National Festival of Breads: Vermont to Kansas and back again

Since its inception in 2009, and every two years thereafter, King Arthur Flour has been a proud sponsor of the National Festival of Breads – America’s premier amateur bread-baking contest.

Producing the best flour has always been at the core of King Arthur’s mission, but so has encouraging and inspiring bakers to expand their baking know-how, including learning where their flour comes from.

This year hundreds of people submitted recipes to the contest. Eventually eight finalists from across the country were selected to navigate their way to Manhattan, Kansas to see how King Arthur flour is produced, and to bake their bread recipes – live, in front of an audience and judges.

National Festival of Breads via @kingarthurflour

As we all become more conscientious about where our food comes from, it’s a full-circle moment when you’re able to experience the entire supply chain – from walking through wheat fields, talking directly with a farmer, visiting a grain mill, and finally handling a bag of flour immediately after it’s been packaged. A tour of a farmer’s cooperative, which mills some of our King Arthur flour, was part of the program for the eight finalists.

“I’ve been an avid bread baker for over 40 years, but I’ll never look at wheat in the same way again. Along with days and days of fun and excitement, this experience has truly been an education for me,” finalist Patrice Hurd, of Bemidji, Minnesota, acknowledged.

Here at King Arthur, we know that to make outstanding bread you have to start with the best wheat and continue with the best milling practices. “As a consumer of your products it was such an affirmation to learn more about the people who care so much about the quality and consistency of the ingredients that go into my recipes. I have gained a whole new appreciation for what it takes to make great bread,” noted Lisa Keys of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania – whose recipe was eventually crowned the festival’s grand champion.

National Festival of Breads via @kingarthurflour

Every one of the nearly 1,000 attendees at the National Festival of Breads received their own free 2-pound bag of King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour, which contains wheat grown and milled in Kansas.

Keys’ winning recipe, Smokehouse Cranberry Cheese Bread, interestingly enough has a Vermont connection. “Memories of visits with my in-laws in Quechee, Vermont inspired this bread. My mother-in-law always had smoked cheeses from the local farmers and fresh maple syrup tapped from trees in town… This bread honors all of her goodness,” she said.

National Festival of Breads via @kingarthurflour

Lisa Keys, winner of the National Festival of Breads, holds up her trophy and winning loaf of bread.

As the winner, Keys will make her way back to Vermont to take her class of choice at our Baking Education Center in Norwich, only 10 minutes away from Quechee.

“For my recipe to be named the grand champion was a totally unexpected thrill of a lifetime. Never in a million years did I think it was going to be me,” exclaimed Keys. “I cannot wait to come to Vermont and become an even better baker and further spread the word of the goodness of King Arthur Flour.”

See the eight finalist recipes from the 2015 National Festival of Breads.

Katie Walker

Katie Walker was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. She graduated from American University in Washington, D.C., where she spent the last decade and a half before moving to Vermont in 2014 to work as King Arthur Flour's public relations manager. Since leaving the film ...


  1. Laura Fischer

    Oh, my! The Aleppo chickpea stuffed flat breads sound fabulous! Z’atar with sumac is one of my most favorite spice mixtures. I sometimes make a meal of just that, some whole wheat pita, and olive oil….yummmmmmm! Thanks so much for these recipes, I think I will be VERY busy this next week!

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      I’m a huge fan of aleppo pepper too, this is on my summer list now. ~ MJ

  2. Merry Graham

    As Lisa’s friendly fellow competitor, I loved tasting her winning bread, Smokehouse Cranberry Cheese Bread. The smokey flavor from the cheese was so unique and yummy in a bread. The tofu added a boost of nutrition and tenderness. The National Festival of Breads gives all contestants the opportunity to learn so much about yeast and flour! I will be eager to try again in 2017~ I already know one of the recipes I am going to try!

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      It’s wonderful when we as bakers have the chance to come together, share and learn. Can’t wait to hear about your run in 2017! ~ MJ

  3. sharon

    When I looked at the recipes (particularly the grand prize) I noticed tofu in the ingredients. I don’t think i’ve ever seen tofu in a king arthur bread recipe. How does the tofu work in the recipe? Is it put in to boost the protein? What purpose does it serve in the recipe? The winner obviously tastes good, just wondering how the tofu works.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sharon, you’re right–silken tofu is not something you see every day in a bread recipe! But there are many wonderful things that tofu can do when added to a bread recipe. The soy basically acts as a natural dough conditioner as it helps to bind the ingredients together (particularly the fats and other liquids). This makes for a more consistent crumb in your loaf as well as a softer bread that stays nice and moist. Overall, the addition of tofu makes a lighter loaf that stays fresher longer. It also add nutrition to your bread too, a happy side benefit! We hope you give it a try and see what you think for yourself. It sure worked for the contest winner! Happy baking! Kye@KAF


      Thank you King Arthur Flour, Red Star Yeast and Kansas wheat farmers for being major sponsors of the 2015 National Festival of Breads. Hundreds of original, flavorful, yeast bread recipes were entered this year!

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re honored to be a part of such a wonderful culmination of bakers from around the country. The range of flavors and textures among the 8 finalists looks impressive… surely everyone will be able find something to please their taste buds using these recipes. Happy baking to all! Kye@KAF

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