Young baker from Charleston takes the top honor in 2nd annual biscuit bakeoff

Light and fluffy or small hard hockey puck? Fortunately none of the entries in the 2nd annual Hudson Cream WV Biscuit bakeoff contest fell into that later category during the Autumn Harvest festival this past Saturday.  In fact, a lot of very experienced bakers got “schooled” by a precocious 5th grader with impressive baking skills.

The contest, started last year as part of the Autumn Harvest and Roadkill Cookoff celebration is the only biscuit baking contest in the state.  Cara Rose,  Executive Director of the Pocahontas County convention and visitors bureau, said reaching out to the Kansas-based company as a sponsor for the contest was a no-brainer.

“They sell the products throughout West Virginia, particularly here in Pocahontas County,” she said, “most bakers love Hudson Cream flour, so that’s why I sought out the sponsorship from that company.”

Louise Barnisky is widely acknowledged as the best baker in Pocahontas County and is a devoted fan of Hudson Cream flour.  As one of the judges in the traditional biscuit category, she offered hints to the other judges on what to look for in a good biscuit.

“When I went to college, after I went to work for the school service, the old professor, the first thing she taught us when it come to baking bread [and] biscuits she told us to press our finger in the top of it,” said Barnisky, “and it our finger went down in the top, turn it over and press it in the bottom, and if it went through, that was a good biscuit.  No matter if it was two or three days old.  And she said you can tell, if it don’t that’s not the right texture, it’s not the right thing.”

The contest was broken down into three categories, traditional, savory and sweet, with 14 entries in the traditional category and 7 entries combined for the savory and sweet categories.  A distinguished panel of judges smelled, pulled apart and tasted the entries and rated each one on a scale of one to five with five being the best for appearance, taste, and texture.  The judges were Louise Barnisky, local baker, Kevin Scott with the National Restaurant association, Mike Holstine representing the Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce, Steven Keith, food writer for the Charleston Daily Mail, Nikki Bowman, publisher of WV Living magazine, Dave Carte, chef at Elk River, Frank DeBerry, CEO of Snowshoe Mountain Resort, and yours truly, Heather Niday from Allegheny Mountain Radio.

The idea for the bakeoff actually came from Gil Willis, co-owner of the Elk River Inn and Restaurant.   Elk River was also a sponsor of the contest this year.  His wife and business partner Mary Willis was on hand to observe the judging Saturday morning.  She explained why they wanted to be a sponsor.

“Well we thought it would fit in with the Autumn Harvest Festival and the Roadkill Cookoff, sort of the home cooking, the local cooking thing and what better – everyone loves a biscuit!” she said. “You know everybody starts to get their competitive edge when you get those home cooks out and when you’re talking biscuits it’s just a fun way to showcase some of the local cooks and bakers.”

In the traditional biscuit category, an unknown and surprisingly young cook beat out many older and more experienced bakers to take the top prize.  Her name is Nola Todd, and she’s a 10 year old student at Shoals Elementary school in Charleston, WV.  Her winning entry was “Nola’s Cast Iron Buttermilk Biscuit”.   And she’s only been baking for about 2 years.

First place winner Nola Todd with Mary Willis

First place winner Nola Todd with Mary Willis

“I usually just make Bisquick biscuits, but I guess I just decided to do something different,” said Todd. “I saw a tv show, it was the Pioneer Woman and she was using a skillet and we used some of the things from her recipe, but not all of it and just did some of that kind of stuff.”

“So are you going to keep baking now?”

“Yeah, this gives me confidence I guess,” she said. “I didn’t like them myself because I don’t like the sour taste, but I guess other people do.”

Indeed they do.  Jean McClure of Marlinton won first place in both the savory and sweet categories.  Nola and Jean each won $50.00 certificate for Richardson’s Hardware, along with bragging rights until next year’s contest.


1st Place – Nola Todd from Charleston “Nola’s Cast Iron Buttermilk Biscuit”

2nd Place – Tina Barkley from Marlinton

3rd Place – Goldie Shearer from Marlinton  “Mom’s Country Biscuits”

Savory – 3 entries

1st Place – Jean McClure from Marlinton

2nd Place – Kate Nietling from Marlinton “Bacon Cheddar Biscuits”

3rd Place – Tina Barkley from Marlinton

Sweet – 4 entries

1st Place – Jean McClure from Marlinton

2nd Place – Kate Nietling from Marlinton “Caramel Biscuits”

3rd Place – Tina Barkley from Marlinton

Second place winners received a $25.00 gift certificate to a local craft store.  Each winner also received a ribbon and packages of Hudson Cream flour, corn meal and wheat flour.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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