Festival of Breads Champ Crowned

Football fans and super hosts alike should pin or post this year’s winning recipe for the 2023 National Festival of Breads, the nation’s only amateur bread-baking competition. The invention of Gloria Piantek of West Lafayette, Indiana, the Cheese Lover’s Barbecue Bread Twists combine three types of cheese, sweet and smoky seasoning rub and crunchy smoked almonds into the perfect party snack. Add melted cheese in the middle and this dish becomes a tasty centerpiece.

“This cheesy comfort food fantasy is the perfect winner of the 2023 National Festival of Breads,” said Cindy Falk, co-chairperson of the event and nutrition educator for Kansas Wheat. “The creative ingredient combinations, the circular twisted shape and the undeniable taste made this recipe rise to the top of this year’s entries.”

The eighth NFOB was sponsored by King Arthur Baking Company® and Kansas Wheat, carrying on a proud tradition of celebrating the creativity of home baking. Additional contributions were made by Stafford County Flour Mills Company, Kansas Soybean Commission, Kansas Corn Commission, Texas Wheat, Hy Vee of Manhattan, and Manhattan Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“The National Festival of Breads celebrates the creativity of America’s home bakers,” Falk said. “Back in 1990, the Kansas Festival of Breads started as a humble, state-wide competition. After 16 years, the popularity and success of the event prompted the Kansas Wheat Commission to open it up nationwide every two years, inspiring thousands of amateur home bakers in nearly every state across the country to develop new yeast bread recipes and be rewarded for their baking skills, techniques and creativity.”

Home bakers from coast to coast put their best breads on the line as they submitted more than 200 recipes in one of four categories: Say Cheese!, Go Nuts, Wholesome & Healthy and Quick & Easy. Then, a group of culinary professionals, food marketing and baking educators sifted through the entries and judged recipes based on a set of criteria including recipe creativity and originality, ease of preparation, detailed instructions, nutritional value, eating quality, flavor and aroma.

After months of rigorous testing in the Kansas Wheat Commission Test Kitchen, four recipes emerged as the top finalists for each category. Finalists included Marian Evoniuk, from Austin, Texas, with her Mocha Coffee Pecan Babka in the Go Nuts category; Carol Adamek, from Dallas, Texas, with her Nutty Pumpkin Cranberry Dinner Rolls in the Quick & Easy category; Susan Wiebe, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her Knotty 7 Grain Rolls in the Wholesome & Healthy category; and Piantek, with her Cheese Lover’s Barbecue Bread Twists in the Say Cheese! Category. In addition to the four finalists, the judges also selected 23 Honorable Mention Awards.

Piantek was named the 2023 “Best of Breads” champion during the virtual NFOB event on June 1, 2023. The online celebration of the eighth NFOB shared stories about Piantek and her fellow finalists and their winning recipes. In addition to her overall crown, Piantek also won the People’s Choice award, based on online votes from across the country. The virtual event also announced Michele Kusma of Columbus, Ohio, as the winner of the random drawing for a Kitchen Aid Mixer.

In the spirit of sharing and breaking bread together, Piantek encouraged others to venture out of their kitchen’s comfort zone and try out something new — like her NFOB-winning Cheese Lover’s Barbecue Bread Twists.

“I’m sure you think that you would never be able to make this, but you could,” she said. “You don’t want to make this bread perfect. You want to make it the way you and your family and friends will enjoy it!”

View Piantek’s recipe — along with her tips and tricks for making this soon-to-be party favorite — and information on the other finalists and event sponsors at festivalofbreads.com.


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Story Written by Julia Debes for Kansas Wheat