In an effort to learn more about the value of whole wheat, some of the staff here at Country Living Productions were fortunate to spend a weekend on beautiful Whidbey Island in Washington State attending a two-day conference that was geared toward baking with 100% whole wheat.
The Grain Gathering, as it’s called, is sponsored by Washington State University’s Mount Vernon Research Center. This was a unique opportunity for professional bakers, serious home bakers, and novices to come together and enjoy workshops and delicious meals.
I thought I would share a few interesting tidbits from the conference.
• In 1890, in the United States, 90% of households baked their own bread.
• By 1930, those statistics had reversed. Only 10% of households baked their own bread. The industrial revolution had changed how we eat.
• Today there are 20-25 ingredients in plastic-wrapped store bread. Only three or four of those ingredients are actually needed.
• There are over 40,000 varieties of wheat, including some in black, yellow and purple!
• The most common commercial varieties are Hard Red Wheat and Soft White Wheat. Hard red is typically used for breads and soft white for pastries.
Speaking of pastries, for breakfast Saturday morning, I was amazed to see a large display of baked goods, all made from 100% whole wheat. We often worry that wheat is too heavy and can’t be used for pastries, but these bakery items would win over any skeptic. There were cinnamon rolls, muffins, croissants, Danish rolls, and scones. I sampled four of the offerings and was thoroughly impressed with the lightness and flavor. So my compliments to Larry and Gerry of Tree-Top Baking for going all the way with wheat!
Spinach Cheese Croissants (photo courtesy of www.tree-topbaking.com)
Our Country Living Grain Mill was, of course, a highlight of the conference. The professional bakers were grinding their wheat in their motorized Country Living Grain Mill during their classes and using it within minutes of grinding. It couldn’t be any more fresh than that! One of the bakers was Jeffrey Hamelman, certified master baker and director of the King Arthur Flour bakery in Norwich, Vermont (www.kingarthurflour.com). We held an auction for one of our mills and Jeffrey was the highest bidder! We are proud to say that our mill is now being used by one of the most famous bakers in the country.
Here is Jeffrey Hamelman (Master Baker at King Arthur Flour), left, with Jack Jenkins (Founder of Country Living Productions) and of course, the prized Country Living Grain Mill at far left.
In short, the Grain Gathering was an inspiring event. We learned about the high nutrient content of whole wheat, how to bake with it, and got to taste the mouth-watering results. Best of all, we home bakers were revitalized in our desire to bake with the best – whole wheat.
(For more information on the Grain Gathering, visit www.thegraingathering.com)