About The Bread Lab

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Photo by Kim Binczewski

The Bread Lab is an integral part of the Washington State University-Mount Vernon Plant Breeding Program which studies the diversity of locally grown grains to determine those that perform well for farmers, and that are most suitable for craft baking, malting, brewing, distilling, and other culinary creations. Professional bakers and chefs analyze and test their whole grain products under the technical guidance of Bread Lab Director and wheat breeder Dr. Stephen Jones and resident and visiting professional bakers.

During the summer of 2016, the Bread Lab will transition from its original 600-square-foot room at the Research Center to a 12,000 square foot building at the Port of Skagit.  In addition to the expanded Bread Lab, the new quarters will house a rheological lab for testing dough qualities such as protein content, mixing tolerance, and extensibility and elasticity, a King Arthur Flour state-of-the-art baking classroom, a milling lab, a professional kitchen under the guidance of James Beard Best Chef Northwest Blaine Wetzel, and a malting, brewing and distilling micro-lab overseen by Matt Hofmann, CEO and master distiller of Westland Distillery, and Will Kemper, co-owner of Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen.

The Bread Lab Mission

The goal of the Bread Lab is to combine science, art, curiosity, and innovation to explore ways of using regionally available grains to move the craft of whole grain bread baking and other grain usage forward.

Wheat is the number one source of food calories on the planet. A whole kernel of wheat is one of the most nutrient dense foods while white flour is one of the least. What we know is that with nutrients comes flavor. Can we change the food system to make products that are 100% whole grain, or nearly 100%, that people prefer? The answer, of course, is yes.

To accomplish this, the Bread Lab scientists and bakers explore and analyze the unique flavors and functionalities of thousands of grain varietals grown in the lab’s trial fields each year.

Starting with diversified farms, the Bread Lab’s research programs are directed to supporting regional non-commodity grain networks and economies. The lab’s small grains breeding program works to develop barley, oat, and wheat varieties specifically suited to whole grain usage and region-specific cultivation, and to maximize the nutritional value of flours.

We welcome collaboration with chefs, bakers, maltsters and other end users as a proven approach to adding value to small, diverse farming systems and as a powerful way to improve the nourishment of large groups of people who otherwise may be unreachable.

Bakers, chefs, restaurateurs, food entrepreneurs, community organizers, and writers come to the Bread Lab to interact with scientists and to make contact with farmers, millers, maltsters, distillers and brewers.  The environment allows participants to learn, teach, and experiment in a functioning kitchen lab without having to shut down their own production lines. The facility is equipped with a state of the art Wood Stone combination gas and wood-fired oven, a WP Kemper SP spiral mixer and Matador four-deck oven as well as several stone mills, a Country Living mill and Quadrumat experimental roller flour mill. The lab also houses sophisticated rheological testing equipment such as a Farinograph, Alveograph, Consistograph, falling number machine and micro-sedimentation.

Workshops in the new Bread Lab, from one-day events to weeklong workshops, will be scheduled throughout the year beginning in the Fall of 2016. The Bread Lab also is a centerpiece for the annual Grain Gathering which brings together 250 professional and serious home bakers, chefs, food lovers, brewers, farmers, millers, maltsters, distillers and entrepreneurs each summer.

For more information contact:  Wendy Hebb, wendy.hebb@wsu.edu; 360.707.4640.

Washington State University