The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Kneading Conference West 2012 - Day 1

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Kneading Conference West 2012 - Day 1


Having had such a wonderful time at last year’s Kneading Conference West, I jumped at the chance to attend this year’s event and be immersed, once again, in all things grain. It was really good to see friendly faces from last year and meet new people – so many interesting, and interested people to chat with, and learn from!

***To see some wonderful write-ups of this event, and more pictures, please see these posts:
Naomi Duguid's
Rhona McAdam’s
Teresa from Northwest Sourdough's
Teresa from Northwest Sourdough's

Washington State University’s Mount Vernon extension, where the event was held, is located in the beautiful
Skagit Valley and is an ideal location for this event – lovely fields and orchards, conference spaces and labs –
and the staff there are such gracious hosts! Here is the extension’s director, Dr. Steve Jones, serving up some yummy pretzel samples,
freshly-baked in Andrew Meltzer’s class:  

More sharing of good bread: a gorgeous wood-fired miche someone brought; check out the brick pattern imprinted on the bottom during the bake :^)

      I regret I didn’t get to taste this: 

We enjoyed some pretty amazing company: Keynote Speakers Naomi Duguid and Andrew Whitley;  so many great instructors, volunteers, bakers, millers, and maltsters;  old, and new friends;  and also, enjoyed very delicious ‘tastings’, accompanied by glorious and perfect late-summer weather…

...a lovely orchard apple, ripening in the September sun  

The conference opened with Naomi Duguid’s keynote address, “Bread Over Time”.
Naomi talked about looking back – how we are standing on the shoulders of peoples’ determination, creativity, labor and achievements in the absence of technology, in using grain - a rich and difficult resource - to survive; and discussed respect and how we may be able to give grain-based foods value again by getting back to local grains, individual varietals with local, distinctive flavors – so we might know where our grain comes from, recognize the effort it takes to produce food from grain, have a commitment to a piece of our bread’s production and a relationship with those that have a part of producing it. MC-Farine has captured so well Naomi’s address!:


The next session I attended was “Whole Grains: We Need the Whole Story” presented by Bob Klein, Tom Hunton, Cliff Leir, and Andrew Whitley. The panel discussed milling methods and that ‘whole-wheat’ might not mean ‘whole-grain’.
As part of this panel discussion a video was shown that described (and I hope I’m paraphrasing correctly) “A wheat kernel may be more than the sum of its parts – it’s a system – all pieces are designed to work together; how can we outsmart a well-designed seed?; we may not have all of the science yet to know what phytochemicals we may be missing when we exclude certain parts of the grain from our flour”.
It was noted “what’s in the mixing bowl may not be usable by our bodies” and how study is needed to determine how long fermentation may help make the nutrition in the grain more available to us.

Bob Klein, of Community Grains, presented an example of product labelling that might help the consumer understand what they were purchasing:

I remember seeing coffee beans for sale at a market once, which listed on the package, the place and elevation where the beans were grown, along with the name of the farmer that grew the coffee. That packaging, as with this labelling from Community Grains, causes me to think of the people behind the product :^)

There was discussion too, on how to improve consumers’ perception of whole grain flour, perhaps by emphasizing freshness, that the product was produced with integrity, the product’s good/distinctive flavor and by creating more positive connotations of the product with better description (describing a bread as “golden” instead of “brown”, for example).


In Julie Richardson and Laura Ohm’s class, they were preparing some beautiful pies and tarts; these were peach and plum with raspberry – pleated pie and pastry perfection! (a picture of baked ones coming up, next post): 



In the afternoon, we enjoyed a Skagit Valley Tasting - incredible beer from Skagit Valley Malting, delicious goat cheese from Gothberg Farms, and crispy, flavorful, hand-crafted crackers from Dawn Woodward, of Evelyn’s Crackers:

And from the gorgeous gardens, a yellow poppy,
catching some of the last of the day’s sunshine :^)


After the beer, cheese and cracker tasting, and a extremely tasty wood-fired-pizza dinner (thanks to Mike Dash of Rolling Fire Pizza, and Mark Doxtader of Tastebud Farm), the day ended with a talk given by Richard Scheuerman about the heritage of grain-growing and the agricultural history of the Hudson’s Bay Company in the Pacific Northwest, illustrated with beautiful artwork
(really lovely botanical drawings of various heritage grains): 

Richard talked about the biodiversity of the grains that used to be grown in the Puget Sound region and explained these grains were landrace grains, strains with rich genetic diversity that adapted over time to the locales in which they were grown. I thought I heard Richard say some of the historical varieties he researched are now being grown at the WSU extension (I hope I heard correctly), because if that is the case, isn’t it wonderful the ‘terroir’ of some of those Pacific Northwest grains is being preserved? :^)

Continued with next post: Kneading Conference West 2012 - Day 2

Last year's event: Kneading Conference West 2011