The Fresh Loaf

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WheatStalk 2012!

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breadsong's picture
breadsong

WheatStalk 2012!

Hello everyone,

At the end of June, The Bread Bakers Guild of America presented WheatStalk 2012, a *wonderful* three-day
educational event in Chicago.

On the Guild's website, the event is described as:
“… a joining together of member bakers, millers and growers to learn and improve techniques, share ideas and build community”, and,
“…will feature three educationally packed days with hands-on classes, demos, lectures and oven building taught by the industry leaders and old friends…”.

This event was exactly as promised! :^)

WheatStalk attracted some incredible (and extremely hard-working!) instructors, teaching assistants and volunteers!
The event was so much fun to attend, very well-organized, and held at Kendall College (a superbly-equipped and immaculate facility), located right on the Chicago River:
                                             

How fortunate was I to be able to attend this event, study at Kendall College, and have a bit of time to explore Chicago.
What a vibrant city! The architecture  was gorgeous (so many beautifully-designed buildings!), lots of green space in the downtown area, lots and lots of public art on display – a real feast for the eyes!

The view from 95 stories Up! --->  

Skylines:
 
Beautiful trees in among the skyscrapers, and one example of the incredibly-beautiful outdoor artwork,
                                                                                                                   a mural by Marc Chagall:
       


I found this event to have a joyous atmosphere with so many friends connecting again and so many
nice, kind people to meet.
Everyone was very welcoming to a home baker like myself, and my instructors were patient and generous,
each one a wealth of knowledge.
The teaching assistants and fellow students were invaluable to learn from, also – people were asking such good questions.
By the end of the conference I was feeling quite awestruck by the collective knowledge and expertise of the bakers in attendance!


The first evening, Jeffrey Yankellow presented a Baker’s Math class.
Jeffrey emphasized the importance of knowing the function of ingredients in dough, of understanding the bread-making process and baker’s math, and of practical experience. With all of all of these, he said you can ask yourself, “What do I want this bread to be?” and create any bread you want :^)


The next three days offered almost-impossible choices (by that I mean, so hard to choose among the incredible classes and demos offered!):  the range covering artisan breads and pastries, gluten-free baking, wood-fired oven baking, decorative breads, milling, bread baking science, building a wood-fired oven, food photography, equipment maintenance...

The social gatherings organized were lovely and it was really good see so many people enjoying one another’s company!

My first class was Decorative Breads, with Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie / Team USA Silver medal winner
Harry Peemoeller :^)
I admired the way Harry ‘thinks outside of the box’ and uses all sorts of different things for molding pieces for his displays, the way he brings components together to create individual pieces and an overall artistic vision, and how he uses natural ingredients, powders, spices and glazes to make his pieces look so realistic.
Here is a picture displaying Harry’s craftsmanship using decorative dough, along with his artistic design and construction/engineering skill!:
 
(and, a link to a photo of Harry's Team USA Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie work of art!)


The next day's class was Baking with Sprouted Wheat Flour (and wood-fired oven baking), taught by
Richard Miscovich, a professor from Johnson and Wales University. Richard had such energy, enthusiasm and patience and was an excellent instructor! Richard taught us about sprouting wheat and how to use freshly sprouted berries a couple of different ways, mixed up two different types of lovely sprouted wheat dough, and also instructed us regarding wood-fired oven construction, insulation, proper burning/combustion, steaming and baking. Fascinating! I read in the latest Guild newsletter Richard is writing a book on wood-fired ovens (oh, I’ll be watching out for this book! ). Here are two photos showing what came out of that wonderful WFO :^)  
(a a 50% sprouted whole-wheat with sesame, and a 100% sprouted whole-wheat):
 

The last day I attended a Baking Science lecture presented by Lee Glass (a physician really good at explaining chemistry!) and Andrew Ross (a crop and food scientist and professor at Oregon State University). These gentlemen taught in an engaging way, bringing the subject matter to life with clear explanation and humor – it was very interesting, and enlightening.
Solveig Tofte (of Sun Street Breads in Minneapolis, MN) then presented an entertaining  demo on Scandinavian Baking. Solveig’s demo was touching as she discussed family recipes she’d worked on, and in the process, had been able to recapture flavor memories for her family. Her Vört Limpa Rye bread was one of the best ryes I’ve had the pleasure to taste; I was so preoccupied with its gorgeous flavor I didn’t even think to take a picture of it! Solveig described the flavor of this bread as “not sweet, and the spices don’t camouflage the flavor of the rye and fermented grain”. So true! – the bread’s flavor was beautifully balanced. Here is a picture of two beautiful Fyrstekake (“Royal” or “Prince’s Cake”, Norwegian almond-filled tarts) she demonstrated:
just loaded with almondy-goodness! :^)

Update: This blog post on Modern Baking's site is a lovely write-up about Solveig's presentation, and features her recipe for Harring Kake:
http://modern-baking.com/blog/glimpse-rich-family-history

To read more about WheatStalk, please see these lovely blogs, so well-written and filled with beautiful photos:
http://www.farine-mc.com/2012/07/wheatstalk-2012.html
http://thebakingblog.com/category/wheatstalk-2012
http://thebakingblog.com/2012/06/28/natural-ingredients-and-traditional-practices/
http://thebakingblog.com/2012/06/29/taking-inspiration-from-team-usa/
http://thebakingblog.com/2012/06/30/when-cardinal-rules-are-broken/


Update: Here are some more links to coverage regarding this event:
http://www.zingermansbakehouse.com/2012/07/wheatstalk-2012-i-was-there-man/
http://www.bakemag.com/Photo%20Gallery.aspx#id=album-339924&num=content-6344565

Lastly, here are a few pictures of some the lovely breads produced by some of the classes (wish I could have seen (and tasted!) them all!):

Easy Rye Breads, taught by Volker Baumann
 

The *most delicious!* kougelhopf,
kindly provided for breakfast by The French Pastry School 
(that was not my breakfast plate btw :^), limited myself to just one, willpower in action let me tell you!)

Bagels, Bialys and Pretzels, taught by Jeffrey Hamelman
 

An extremely-tempting-looking savory pastry, crafted by Ciril Hitz

Baking with Ancient Grains, taught by Frank Sally
   

Team USA Bread Demo, Jeffrey Yankellow and Mike Zakowski
    


Many, many thanks to the Guild and those who organized, taught, and volunteered at WheatStalk: a truly first-class event!
Thanks too, to Kendall College, Goose Island Brewery, and The French Pastry School for being such generous and gracious hosts.

I left this conference feeling so privileged to be able to attend, full of inspiration to learn more about baking delicious, nutritious, beautiful bread,
and *very grateful* to all of those organizers and teachers who put this event together for the benefit of the students.

Happy baking everyone!
:^) breadsong

Comments

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

to be around such professional bakers.  Learning from them all in one place must have been a treat!  Tasting the bread was a whole 'nuther one no doubt!  Glad you could attend and report to TFL'ers.

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Thanks, dabrownman!
This conference was such a wonderful thing to experience - it was an incredible gathering of people.
Two good friends of mine were able to go to the conference too, and that made it even more fun; and I enjoyed talking to previous instructors, and  meeting new ones!
The breads were stunning and food amazing - we were well taken care of by the culinary crew!
:^) breadsong

arlo's picture
arlo

My two managers at Zingermans attended this event. They stated how great it was to get in touch with friends like Jeffery H and Jeremy from Team USA.

Perhaps next year I will be able to attend. Thanks for the pictures :)

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hi arlo,
I hope you can go to the next Guild 'camp'. I certainly hope to!
I tried to look at peoples' nametags but don't remember seeing people from Zingerman's - but there were a lot of people there and your folks could have been on a completely different class schedule.
I'm so glad you liked the photos! I really enjoyed putting this post together, getting the chance to go through and review my pictures.
I wish I'd been able to get to each class, to photograph all that was created - I wonder what beautiful things I missed!
:^) breadsong

MC's picture
MC

...from Zingerman's in Ann Arbor was in my gluten-free class and he and I were actually were in the same team for that lab. He kindly (and patiently) gave me my first piping lesson ever! He's in charge of the school at the Bake Shop and his skills are impressive. You actually met him at lunch on Saturday (remember he showed us pictures of his WFO and also of his little boy and I joke that the baby had the same hairdo as his dad?) but his place of work wasn't mentioned in that (very short) amount of time and you had no way to know...

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Thank you, MC, and it's good to know I met someone from Zingerman's after all.
I remember the lovely  people we had lunch with that day, and also remember the photo
Shelby showed us of his adorable! baby boy.
You sure do work with a nice guy, arlo!
:^) breadsong

ananda's picture
ananda

One dreams of such fabulous learning opportunities Breadsong.

I am sure you had a fantastic time; thank you for telling us all about it.

All good wishes

Andy

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hi Andy,
We really enjoyed visiting Chicago and the conference was all I hoped for and more.
The organization, focus, hard work and preparation my instructors brought to the classroom really was fantastic - what more could a student ask for? Being an instructor and consultant yourself, I'm sure you appreciate the effort that goes into teaching, and the effort put in by the instructors at WheatStalk was so apparent.
I'm so happy you enjoyed reading about this event!
:^) breadsong

proth5's picture
proth5

I was chatting with "my teacher" about going to Wheatstalk and said that I had to get realistic with my priorities and I had chosen to do what I was doing rather than go.  Also with a lottery for spots and my bad Feng Shui this year, I decided not to take the risk of losing.

And then my teacher said to me "To have so many people with sinilar passions in one place - that's the magic - isn't it?"

Apropos of nothing, but it must be said - Peemoeller's decorative work is so incredible he just blows me away. 

Glad you were able to go.  We'll see how priorities work for me next time.

Pat

 

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Pat,
I hope our priorities work for both of us, simultaneously, so that one day we might be able to attend the same event :^)
Yes, this gathering of *fabulous* bakers was magical; and yes, Mr. Peemoeller's decorative work was completely stunning!
I have a few more 'close-up' photos of Mr. Peemoeller's decorative work - hope you like these!
   
 

Thank you so much for your good wishes, Pat. I do hope our paths cross one of these days - à bientôt?
:^) breadsong

proth5's picture
proth5

for the extra pics - soooo beautiful.

Someday.  My classroom baking education is done for 2012 - but you never know where I'll turn up!

Pat

MC's picture
MC

It brought me back so keenly to this magical week in Chicago that I found myself savoring every line and picture (including those of that marvelous city). I love being able to see vicariously what was baked in the classes I wasn't able to attend. If you don't mind, I will link your post (and those you recommend) to my own WS post (thanks for linking to Farine). The more people know about what WheatStalk was all about, the more lively we'll keep the flame in all these bread-lovers' ovens across the country! 

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hi MC :^)
Your post brings back many good memories and helps me experience WheatStalk in new ways by reading about the things you got to see and do - thank you for writing and sharing from your perspective, and for linking to this post!
You have such a lovely way with words, and 'the more lively we'll keep the flame' resonates with me...considering how
'fired up' I was leaving the conference, sorry to go but looking forward to getting back home and getting my hands
in some dough!
:^) breadsong

varda's picture
varda

Wonderful that you were able to attend.  -Varda

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hi Varda,
As luck would have it my name was drawn in the lottery, so I got the chance to go, along with a couple of my friends.
It was a really great time but I wish there had been three (or four, or five!) of me so I could have seen and experienced everything that was going on!
:^) breadsong

isand66's picture
isand66

Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful experience.

It sounds like something anyone who enjoys baking bread would enjoy and learn a great deal from.

 

 

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hi Ian,
Thinking back, for anyone who loves bread, it might be impossible not to learn new things and enjoy yourself, given the environment and the people who taught and attended! Being in the company of so many other people with a similar interest and passion was really, really fun.
:^) breadsong

isand66's picture
isand66

I see above that you had to win a lottery to go, but if you don't mind me asking, how much does it cost if you are lucky enough to go?

Obviously I would think you would need to be a member of the group.

Thanks.
Ian

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hi Ian,
The cost to attend this conference was $56o, which included three days of demos, lectures, and hands-on classes taught by some of the best artisan bakers in the country,  beautifully-prepared breakfast, and lunch, daily,  three evening receptions, and a bag full of freebies.
When I think about where we were (Kendall College, so well set-up for our classes), the fine ingredients and equipment we got to bake with, and all that we experienced while there - I'd say WheatStalk was an absolute bargain! :^)
I believe membership was required to register for the event.
I wish an event like this were an annual one :^)  The next event could be organized and priced differently depending on size, location, and structure. I hope the Guild does organize another event like WheatStalk - I wouldn't hesitate to attend another Guild educational conference, given the wonderful experience this one was!
:^) breadsong

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

Your photos are beautiful.  You've expressed so nicely the whole amazing experience and wonderful time you and others enjoyed and the passion of so many bakers.  Thank you for sharing.  

Sylvia 

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hi Sylvia,
I've greatly admired and respected your talent with WFO baking, and even more so now, having had the opportunity
to see first-hand the planning and oven management involved in using one.
Thank you so much for your comment and I'm really happy you enjoyed this post!
:^) breadsong

LindyD's picture
LindyD

I really enjoyed your descriptions and great photos of the BBGA events, Breadsong.  Thanks!  

I had thought about getting day passes when they were offered, but that would have been like getting to taste a bit of the icing, but not the cake (Chicago is just on the other side of the "pond" - about six hours south by car).

Reading about your experiences makes me hope for more BBGA events in the Great Lakes area next year.   Hmmm.   The Great Lakes Culinary Institute is in Traverse City, MI and they have a bakery....  

Lindy

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hi Lindy,
Chicago was a lovely place to visit, and I bet Michigan would be too (wouldn't it be good if there were an event that coincided with cherry season?!).
I'm so glad you liked the photos and reading about this event - here's hoping the Guild will organize other events like WheatStalk - finding good facilities that can accommodate that many bakers must be a challenge!
:^) breadsong

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi breadsong,

What a terrific learning opportunity that must have been, and so many choices. I can understand why it must have been difficult to settle on just a few but it sounds like you picked some good ones. Thanks for sharing this experience, and as well for the super writeup and photos. A very enjoyable post!

Cheers,

Franko

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hi Franko,
Given the variety of classes and demos offered, and who was teaching them - it was so hard to try to choose which to attend but I was very happy with the classes and demos I was able to go to :^)
Thanks, Franko, and I'm glad you enjoyed reading about WheatStalk!
:^) breadsong

lumos's picture
lumos

Beautiful array of breads! You're so spoilied in US with all those bread-related events taking place. Wish it were a little bit like that over here, too.....

Thanks you for your wonderful report, as always.  :)

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hi lumos :^)
The breads were beautiful, weren't they? And I wonder how many lovely loaves there were, that I didn't get to see...
Yes, I think I was spoiled by this event. It was amazing. There was so many wonderful bakers there, and such a variety of topics covered...
Re: bread-related events, is there a Bread Bakers Guild in the UK? Maybe the get-together of UK TFL'ers you organized could be the start of something!
:^) breadsong

joyfulbaker's picture
joyfulbaker

Can't help oohing and aahing--your photos bring the breads to mind so well that I can almost taste them.  What a fantastic time you must have had.  Chicago is such a beautiful city; I went to university in Evanston all those many years ago, and the last time we visited family there, we took the architectural tour on the river; fabulous!  The bread art is unbelievable.  I especially noted Jeffrey Hamelman's lesson and wondered how the bialys turned out (no pics?).  Thank you, Breadsong, your post is inspiring!

Joy

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hi there Joy,
Thanks so much for your comment, and I'm so glad you like the bread photos!
I was between seminars on the last day and popped into Jeffrey's class to see what was going on - I may have arrived a bit early, before the bialys were baked.  I took pictures of what was close by, but didn't venture into the lab to look further as Jeffrey was addressing his class when I got there. I would have loved to have seen the finished bialys, and definitely would have taken a picture of them, if I had :^)
We took the architectural tour on the river too, and loved it! It was such beautiful weather, and the lady hosting the tour was so passionate and knowledgeable about her city. I hope you enjoyed your time in Evanston - we didn't go that far north but really did enjoy what we could see of Chicago. We did  a river tour on the Colorado River once, from Laughlin to Lake Havasu, and experienced the desert in a completely and wonderfully different way; when we discovered architectural river tours were offered in Chicago, we couldn't miss the chance, knowing a tour like that would give us a different,
and lovely, perspective of the city.
Mr. Peemoeller's bread art really is amazing - as were the decorative pieces created by the other students in my class.
One group was building an Eiffel tower. Too bad we didn't think of trying to re-create one of those Chicago landmarks...!
:^) breadsong

joyfulbaker's picture
joyfulbaker

and thank you, breadsong, for more info on the rest of the trip.  It amazes me what talented people can do with dough--besides preparing "the staff of life" for consumption!  Sounds like you had such a wonderful time in Chicago; what a great city it is.  As for bialys, I need to get busy baking some; my cousin put in an order for some with a crunchy, cornmeal bottom crust (good for sandwiches, he says).  He should know what he's talking about, as he and his wife have three bakeries/cafes in the Bay Area (Rustic Bakery--hope a plug is allowed).  I'm now reading The Bialy Eaters by Mimi Sheraton--great book!  Another cousin was a law school colleague of the youngster mentioned in the book who used to deliver Kossar's bialys on his bicycle!  Who knew?

Joy

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hello Joy, and thanks -
Glad you're enjoying Ms. Sheraton's book, and that you have that connection to Kossar's, and their bialys,
through your cousin :^)
I hadn't heard of this book so looked it up and found a short review on the NY Times site.
Ms. Sheraton's book must be full of connections to history and the past.

It is time for me to make some more bialys, too - and like the idea of crunchy cornmeal.
I'm sure your cousin will love your onion-filled bialys (your cousin is wise to put an order in with a talented baker like you)!
Re: Rustic Bakery - locations are just north of San Francisco?  www.rusticbakery.com
My mouth is was just watering, looking at the online offerings for sale!
The flavor combinations of those flatbreads, and everything else...
If I find myself in the area again, I will definitely stop in at one of the bakery's locations.
 :^) breadsong

joyfulbaker's picture
joyfulbaker

Your kind words are appreciated.  

Better get busy with those bialys--this week for sure.  I'd better post the results--cornmeal away!

Joy