“WheatStalk 2012″ I was there man!

A few of our bread and pastry bakers, as well as our BAKE! principal Shelby Kibler, recently returned from WheatStalk, a Bread Bakers Guild of America event that took place at Kendall College in Chicago. They all returned with new found inspiration and knowledge and we hope to share some of that with you at BAKE! in the future.

In the mean time, here’s a summary of the WheatStalk experience in Shelby’s words:

“It was three days of classes, workshops, lectures, and demonstrations that were taught by guild members and long-time bakers, with the goal of sharing knowledge & wisdom, inspiring and educating guild members, and also giving bakers from all over a chance to come together. The event was successful on all three accounts.

Day One…I heard Amy Scherber (of Amy’s Bread) and Leslie Mackie (of Macrina) tell the stories of opening their bakeries and a short history of their bakeries over the past 20 years. After that it was “Bread Showpieces” with Pierre Zimmerman, who is a master with turning dough into amazingly beautiful pieces of art. In two hours he showed us the basics of building an Eiffel Tower out of bread. Stunning. My day finished with Craig Ponsford, showing us how he laminates dough with whole wheat flour. He spoke about the importance of using whole grains for health and the strategies he is working on for coaxing flavor and texture out of whole grain flours. He made cinnamon rolls with whole wheat Danish dough, which were so delicious I went back for a second “taste”. Craig is a man on an important mission, in my opinion. Searching for baked goods that are full flavored, have wonderful texture, and also are healthy for the folks who eat them. His passion for making healthy baked goods is contagious.

Day two…Nine hours of hands-on experimentation and learning about the unique world of gluten free foods, taught by Michel Suas and his team from the San Francisco Baking Institute. High quality instruction that will help me immensely in refining the gluten free class we teach at BAKE! and coming up with some new ideas to share with our students. I found it illuminating to see so many gluten free flours and to have a chance to see what each type of flour brought to a recipe in terms of aroma, texture, and flavor. Definitely a well-spent day.

Day three…All day with Mike Zakowski, who showed us the breads that he took to the Coup de Monde in Paris earlier this year. Four breads, and we baked them all in the wood-fired oven. Very nice to hear Mike talk about his approach to bread, and how he developed recipes that would be more likely to impress the judges of the competition and contribute to our team’s success at the Coup de Monde. He mixed all four doughs by hand and as we managed the wood-fired oven he shaped them and spoke in depth about his passion for local grains and the use of flavorful preferments. I truly enjoyed hearing Mike talk about his baking and also his story. Mike owns his own small bakery, The Bajkr, located in Sonoma, and primarily sells at farmers markets.
At the end of day three, we all gathered for a closing ceremony. We had a chance to show our deep gratitude to Kendall College for hosting WheatStalk, and to all the hundreds of volunteers who helped to make it happen. The energy in the room was so positive and warm, and I felt in those closing moments just how genuinely valuable the Bread Bakers Guild is; I left with a renewed commitment to helping that institution in whatever way I can over the upcoming years.”

-Shelby Kibler
BAKE! instructor


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