The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Kneading Conference West 2013 - Day 1

breadsong's picture

Kneading Conference West 2013 - Day 1

local wheat, ripening in the sun

Hello everyone,
I attended the third annual Kneading Conference West this past weekend – a celebration of local wheat and grains, and a wonderful gathering of people interested in breeding, growing, milling and baking with them.

We couldn’t have received a warmer welcome – Dr. Stephen Jones and the other people hosting this event made us all feel right at home.

Once again, the hard-working Conference organizers brought us the most interesting speakers and presenters, creating a schedule jam-packed with so many great seminars it was difficult to choose which ones to go to. And everyone at WSU Mt. Vernon outdid themselves with their hospitality – we were very well taken care of by the staff, volunteers and caterers, with delicious meals and treats at the tasting events.

One of the lovely details – fresh flowers gracing our mealtime table

It was a pleasure meeting so many friendly people, and to see people I’d met before at this Conference.
The spirit of friendship and generosity was everywhere – people exchanging contact information, tips, formulas, experiences – and bread! The same gentleman who brought a beautiful wood-fired miche to share last year, did the same this year and this time I was lucky to be there when he sliced it and offered it for tasting. The crust had rich, caramel, roasted flavor, the crumb flavor was superb, with beautiful wheatiness and acidity. Check out this gorgeous bread, and crust!

I am not surprised there were so many people there I’d seen before at Kneading Conference West - the event keeps getting better and better, and continues to provide a great opportunity to connect with other bakers and to understand more about milling and farming.

To read more about this year's Conference, please see these posts:

Notes on the seminars and talks I attended on Day 1 follow:
“Bread Culture” – Dr. Darra Goldstein
“Yeasted Crackers” – Naomi Duguid and Dawn Woodward
“The Role of the Mill in Community Life” – Tom Hunton

Keynote Address – “Bread Culture” – Dr. Darra Goldstein

The hospitality experienced at the Conference and was a theme touched on by Dr. Darra Goldstein in her keynote presentation, “Bread Culture”. 
Dr. Goldstein took us through a beautiful slideshow of paintings and images depicting the relationship between people and bread through the centuries: bread as a basic necessity to survive, the labor to get bread to the table, bread as a symbol of charity, heavenly abundance and faith providing sustenance, bread and salt as the expression of hospitality in Russian culture, bread as political, bread becoming art, bread becoming Wonderbread. 
Some of the images (this is one of the images in the slideshow) showed people holding bread close to their heart or carrying bread close to their body. Dr. Goldstein suggested we should bring bread close to us again, to effect a cultural change.


“Yeasted Crackers” – Naomi Duguid and Dawn Woodward


It was a pleasure to see Naomi Duguid and Dawn Woodward working with yeasted cracker dough, and I was glad I stopped by to catch some of their discussion about their beautiful crackers.

Checking on things in the wood-fired oven

Here were some interesting things Dawn and Naomi mentioned:
- baking on a baking stone helps the cracker
- when baking with more flavorful grains, less sugar and salt are required
- the miller’s art comes through when tasting flavor differences in coarse vs. fine grinds
- interesting patterns can be imprinted on crackers, using the bottom of a whisk, for example
- a pasta machine can be used as a ‘sheeter’ to get cracker dough really thin
- lentil puree (lentils brought just to the boil, then pureed to a thick paste), when added to cracker dough, makes a supple dough

Turbinado sugar, sparkling in the sun, finishing this sweet cracker

Everyone got to enjoy Evelyn’s Crackers later in the day – with gorgeous cheeses from Gothberg Farm, Samish Bay Farm and Golden Glen Creamery, and brew from Skagit Valley Malting. Truly refreshing! :^)



“The Role of the Mill in Community Life” – Tom Hunton

Tom Hunton gave an really interesting talk about the work he and his family are doing down at Camas Country Mill in Oregon.  He talked about the mill being a community food hub, connecting growers, consumers, restaurants and baking schools, and food banks – by defining specific needs, facilitating intentional growing, and creating custom mixes at the mill.

Tom also talked about their focus on education and farm to school outreach. In addition to supplying Oregon school districts with local wheat for cafeteria programs, they have relocated the Lower Fern Ridge Schoolhouse, built in 1888 and in use until 1936, to Hunton’s Farm  – and are restoring it to use as an education and community center.  The school operated in Alvadore, OR and Tom said it was the last piece of living history there – it is lovely to think this building will not be abandoned or destroyed, but used once again for education, teaching kids (and adults) about farms and wheat, and how flour is made!

The Lower Fern Ridge School, relocated and awaiting its new foundation

(more about this in Floyd’s post)

Next post:  Day 2!

2012 Kneading Conference West posts: Day 1Day 2, Day 3


Mebake's picture

Very inspiring conference. And a big thanks to you, breadsong, for your efforts to document and share this event with us. Those crackers are sublime! mmm, have to try them some day.


breadsong's picture

Hi Khalid,
I'm so glad you enjoyed reading about Kneading Conference West. Yes, this Conference was very inspiring, in so many ways; the gathering of people, the wheat varieties we tasted, the baking, the setting in the beautiful Skagit Valley...
The crackers were so delicious, on their own and with the cheeses! Fresh crackers are sublime and hope you enjoy making them sometime.
:^) breadsong