Saturday, August 5, 2017

"Wheat Nerds and Scientists Join Forces to Build a Better Bread"

From Wired:
A few days ago, in the middle of a field, Dawn Woodward and Jeff Yankellow presented me with a whole-wheat croissant, the thought of which would normally make me wretch. That pastry carried a pedigree, though. I was in Washington's fertile Skagit Valley at the Grain Gathering, a conclave of 250 of the best bakers, millers, grain scientists, and industry types from the United States, Canada, and five other countries. Woodward, a baker at Evelyn's Crackers bakery, and Yankellow, of King Arthur Flour, would have been fools to try to pull a fast one on this crowd.

As someone who's lived in France for 10 years and written about food for 15—and is cognizant of the bile likely to appear in the comment section at the bottom of this page—I will say this anyway: This pastry stood shoulder-to-shoulder with top-flight Parisian croissants.

Like me, legions of people are averse to whole-grain anything. Experts attending the Grain Gathering and their acolytes share that opinion, but they strive to make such foods so delicious that you might need to reconsider. Backing it up with a ton of lab and kitchen legwork, and taking into account the viability of everyone who deals with the grains, from the field to your table, the best minds in the whole grain field want to sell the masses on flavor.

The Grain Gathering is an annual event (this year's was the seventh) spearheaded by Stephen Jones, a Washington State University researcher who runs the WSU-affiliated Bread Lab. He enjoys a reputation as one of the most quietly powerful voices in food, and he, along with the Bread Lab, want to break the stranglehold of commodity wheat—the stuff that makes the white flour that bakers typically use and you typically buy.

"We want to grow wheat, mill it, and bake it right here," Jones says. Initially "right here" meant the Skagit Valley, but as the reputations of the Grain Gathering, the Bread Lab, and Jones himself grew, thousands of other right heres sprouted across the US and around the world.

In the current system, commodity wheat farmers are not exactly killing it financially. Jones wants to change that by working with everyone in the chain, from scientists like him to farmers, millers, bakers, and consumers. "We want to get value to the farmer and keep it here in the region," he says. Value? "Dollars," he says. "It has to work for the farmer. After that, we can figure out the rest."
Jones is the nexus for this, but the crowd at the Grain Gathering is what will make it happen. It requires an amazing amount of science, time, and hard work to bring a new grain to market, but everyone here knows the key to success is psychological: getting consumers to understand how good artisan whole-grain foods can taste....MORE
Along the same lines—and focusing on Jones and the Bread lab but a bit more science-y— is October 2015's "The Bread We Eat Is Junk Food: Blame the Wheat".
Worth a look for nutrition wonks.