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! --->
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:
To read more about WheatStalk, please see these lovely blogs, so well-written and filled with beautiful photos:
Update: Here are some more links to coverage regarding this event:
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!