Friday, May 24, 2013
FROM SEED TO LOAF
By Doug Harlow firstname.lastname@example.org
SKOWHEGAN -- The fourth annual Kneading Conference is set to open Thursday with two days of lectures, workshops and hands-on demonstrations on the life of bread, from grain to grist mill to kitchen table.
The conference, and the second annual Maine Artisan Bread Fair on Saturday, are at the Skowhegan State Fairgrounds, off U.S. Route 201, north of downtown Skowhegan, said organizer Amber Lambke of Skowhegan.
The idea for the event started as a way to revive the art and science of locally grown and milled grain, bread-baking and use of wood-fired ovens, Lambke said.
"Our work to restore wholesome bread production from seed to loaf -- farmers growing grain, millers milling flour, and bakers baking bread -- is inspiring a lot of good things happening in communities across the country," Lambke said. "Farms stay vibrant, local economies grow stronger, and communities gain self-reliance and food security."
The conference this year is sponsored by King Arthur Flour and Heart of Maine Resource, Conservation & Development. More than 230 people, coming from as far away as New Zealand, have signed up for the two-day conference.
Conference admission is $300. Saturday's bread fair is free. The fair runs from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Featured guests are to include bakers, oven builders, grain millers, live music, artists and seed and equipment vendors.
The conference gathers novice and professional bakers, millers and farmers from around the United States, Canada and Europe to learn and exchange new information about making artisan breads and pastries, growing grains sustainably, and building and managing a wood-fired oven, said conference coordinator Wendy Hebb of Damariscotta.
"The idea is to encourage, through education, a staple being grown entirely locally, which would be Maine farmers growing the grain, and Maine millers milling the grain, and Maine bakers converting it into bread," Hebb said. "The conference brings together all of those people; the professionals come from around the country."
Dr. Fred Kirschenmann, farmer, author, president of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture and a leader in the movement to build a more ethical and durable agriculture, will speak at 9 a.m. Thursday. The address is called "It All Begins with the Soil."
Jeffrey Hamelman, author, certified master baker and director of production baking at King Arthur Flour, will speak at 9 a.m. Friday on "Accomplishments and Challenges: One Baker's Perspective on the Evolution of Our Trade Over the Past Third of a Century."
The schedule of topics is available on the Kneading Conference website, www.kneadingconference.com. Topics include grain cultivation for the small farm, soil fertility, sourdough, no-knead, and gluten-free baking.
Other categories include pastries with whole grains, ancient grains, brick-oven and earth-oven construction, crackers and flatbreads, the business of baking, artisan bread 101 and starting a pizza catering business.
Now in its fourth year, the Kneading Conference began with a group of Skowhegan-area residents, oven builders, millers and bakers who were motivated by the need to address wheat production in light of a growing local food movement, according to conference promotional material. The first Kneading Conference was in July 2007 in Skowhegan, where wheat production fed more than 100,000 people annually in the mid-1800s.
The Maine Artisan Bread Fair was a big hit last year, Lambke said. "Last year, the fair drew a crowd of over 600 in- and out-of-staters to sample bread, cheese, buy books, wares, freshly milled flour and all things that go with bread," Lambke said.
"This year, we have changed venue to the Skowhegan State Fairgrounds in order to accommodate the expected swell in the crowd."
The bread fair also will have a 24-hour bakery, Lambke added.
"Participants in a production baking workshop on Friday afternoon will prepare dough and bake it off in the wee hours of the morning to be ready for the crowd of bread enthusiasts on Saturday," she said.