Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The New Face of Baking

Gale Collier just knew she had a winner. The Redmond, Oregon, mom developed a braided yeast bread recipe with fresh peaches and a crumb topping. It tasted like peach cobbler, only better.

So she typed it up and sent it to the National Festival of Breads cooking contest. Because the Festival has multiple categories, she also included her recipe for Quick Raisin Granola Breakfast Rolls, a recipe she developed for use in her bread machine.

"It's more a run-of-the-mill, everyday kind of bread," Gale said.

When Cindy Falk of Kansas Wheat called her a couple of months ago to let her know she was one of eight finalists for the 2011 National Festival of Breads in Wichita, Gale just knew it was her peach braid.

"Was I ever surprised when she said it was my raisin and granola rolls, a recipe that came about when I was throwing things together!" Gale said during the competition on Saturday. "I had a little bit of Raisin Bran sitting on my kitchen counter. It wasn't enough for cereal in the morning, and I didn't want to throw it away. So I just threw it in some rolls I was baking. That's one thing I love about using the bread machine. I can throw almost anything into it, and it will still come out great. I can forget about it until it's time for me to shape it into whatever I want for dinner - whether that's pizza or rolls."

Those everyday rolls aren't so run-of-the-mill anymore. Gale and her Quick Raisin Granola Breakfast Rolls won the grand prize at Saturday evening's awards ceremony in Wichita. She receives $2,000 in cash, plus a free trip to a King Arthur Flour Baking Session in Norwich, Vermont, and a year's supply of Fleishmann's Yeast.

And a bonus? Her kids have grown to love raisins after repeated test runs in her Oregon kitchen.

Before the winner was announced, Melissa Knific, assistant food editor with Family Circle magazine, said the contestants' offerings on Saturday were judged on three criterion: Taste, Appearance and Ease of Preparation.

Contestants began baking at 7:30 Saturday morning in eight makeshift kitchens in the ballroom of the Airport Hilton. They could make their recipes as many times as they wished until they were satisfied with the results or until they reached the 3 PM submission deadline. They needed one to submit to the judges, one for auction and two plates for The Great American Bake Sale, a fundraiser for Share Our Strength, a program that combats childhood hunger.

The eight contestants arrived in Wichita on Thursday. Gale brought her husband, Matthew, plus her 9-old son Canaan and 10-year-old daughter Rochelle.

"My name was on a sign at the airport," Gale said. "I felt like a celebrity!"

On Friday, they all got a chance to ride in a combine in a Sedgwick County wheat field, then followed the truckload of wheat to the local elevator. They also toured the Cargill Flour Mill.

"My kids really enjoyed riding the combine. It is called a combine, right?" Gale said. "I came away with a whole new appreciation for what goes into that bag of flour I pick up at the grocery store. Farmers in my area are much more likely to grow garlic than wheat, so it was amazing to get a look behind-the-scenes."

This was the second cooking contest in which Gale was a national finalist. Her first venture in the national spotlight was the Tillamook Macaroni and Cheese cookoff in 2009. But because the national competitors came to Portland, Oregon, she just had to jump in the car and travel to the contest. Her Smoky Jalapeno and Cilantro Pesto Mac and Cheese didn't win the grand prize.

But she did begin learning about the fine art of recipe contests with that entry. As a young mom, she got more interested in cooking as she looked for fun and nutritious ways to feed her family. She happened to see the mac and cheese contest online.

"I made macaroni and cheese that night and threw in some homemade pesto I had," Gale said. "After dinner, I typed up the recipe online and hit enter. Three weeks later they called me and said I was one of the finalists and that I was invited to come to Portland for the cookoff. I had to ask them to send me the recipe. I hadn't kept a copy."

Because the contest was in her own "backyard," she didn't realize the significance until she got there and found out other competitors had flown in from all over the United States.

"It seemed like everyone else had done it before," Gale said.

But she was hooked. The avid cook and baker enters some recipe contests online, though she is busy with two young children and helps her husband, Matthew, with their experimental aircraft building business in Redmond.

At the Saturday night banquet, Master of Ceremony Eric Atkinson of the K-State Radio Network asked each contestant about their start in baking. Gale thinks she's improved since her earliest days in the kitchen.

"When I was about 10, I made biscuits for my family. They probably could have been used for hockey pucks, though everybody said they liked them. I've gotten better."

Yes, indeed. She has the title of the National Festival of Breads Champion to prove it.

Here's Gale's winning recipe. For recipes from other finalists, go to the festival's website. They should be available soon. (And as someone who got to sample all the finalists' yummy work, I highly recommend checking out all the recipes!)

Quick Raisin Granola Breakfast Rolls

1 cup Raisin Bran cereal
1 cup granola*
1 1/2 cups water, room temperature (80 degrees F)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
2 tbsp. nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1 1/3 cups King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour
1/2 cup raisins
2 1/4 tsp. Fleishchmann's Active Dry Yeast

1 cup granola
1 egg white, beaten

* Quaker Natural Granola with Oats, Honey & Raisins
  1. Place Raisin Bran cereal and granola in large plastic bag. Using a rolling pin, finely crush the cereal.
  2. Have ingredients at room temperature. Add the ingredients to the bread machine's pan as suggested by the manufacturer. Start bread machine using the DOUGH cycle (about 1.5 hours). Open the machine and touch the dough to check its consistency after 5 minutes. The dough should form a ball around the kneading blade. If it's too dry, add 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of water; if dough is too wet, add 1 tablespoon flour at a time until the right dough consistency is reached.
  3. Meanwhile, for topping, place 1 cup granola in bag; use a rolling pin to finely crush. Place egg white in small bowl and beat with fork.
  4. When cycle is complete, remove dough and divide into 18 equal pieces. Shape into uniform rolls.
  5. Dip each roll in egg white and granola, lightly pressing granola onto dough.
  6. Place rolls onto greased 13- by 18-inch sheet pans. Cover; let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk (45 to 60 minutes).
  7. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 17 to 20 minutes, depending on size, or until golden brown. Remove rolls from pan and cool on wire rack.
Note: This recipe makes 18 rolls but it can also be made into smaller sizes that fit perfectly in the kids' lunch for a snack.

One roll provides approximately 194 calories; 6 g protein, 38 g carbohydrate; 3 g dietary fiber, 3 g fat (1 g saturated); 4 mg cholesterol; 50 mcg folate; 2 mg iron and 195 mg sodium.

Kansas Wheat Test Kitchen Note:

If you don't have a bread machine, follow these easy steps to make the dough, then continue with Step 3.
  1. Place Raisin Bran cereal and granola in a large plastic bag. Using a rolling pin, finely crush.
  2. Have ingredients at room temperature. In electric mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm (100 to 110 degrees F) water. Let stand 10 minutes.
  3. Add crushed Raisin Bran Cereal, granola and raisins. Add dry milk, buttermilk, brown sugar, honey, whole wheat flour, 2 cups bread flour, cinnamon, butter and salt. Mix 2 minutes on medium speed.
  4. Gradually add enough of the remaining 1/2 cup bread flour to make slightly sticky dough. Knead dough by hand or with dough hook 8 to 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place in lightly greased bowl, turning to coat top. Cover; let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk. Punch down dough.
  5. Proceed with shaping and second rise as directed above.

I guess the old reporter in me came out with this blog post. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to Gale and to the other contestants throughout the festival day. They were all extremely gracious to talk to people as they came by their individual kitchens scattered around the exterior of the hotel ballroom.

I think the judges chose well. Gale's recipe is one that won't intimidate new bakers. It's not a complicated-looking braid. You don't have to be a phenomenal dough shaper or have tons of yeast bread experience.

I like to think that Gale is the new face of home baking. Gale was the youngest contestant there. The oldest proudly shared that she is 81 years "young." But choosing Gale and her rolls just might make young moms think that they, too, can do this: She shows you don't have to rely on pizza delivery or driving through a fast-food delivery lane to put a meal on your table at home. And, if kids are involved in the baking process, they may even learn to love new foods ... like raisins!

One thing that will stay with me was the contestants' universal pleasure at visiting the farm to see where wheat is grown and harvested. It didn't seem at all disingenuous.

And they all mentioned what friendliness and hospitality they found from every corner - from the other contestants to the contest organizers to the people who came to the festival for fun. It made me proud to be a Kansas farm wife!

No comments:

Post a Comment