Kneading Conference 2010

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Kneading Conference in Skowhegan Maine, where bakers, farmers, millers, teachers, students, and friends came together for two days to celebrate grain and to bake and break bread together .

The keynote speakers, author and master baker Jeffrey Hamelman and sustainable agriculture leader Fred Kirschenmann, gave thoughtful and compelling talks.

All baking was done in wood-fired ovens…

… including some mud ovens that were built on-site in a day.

I wish I could have been in six places at once so I could have attended all of the concurrent lectures and workshops, but I guess that’s what next year is for. In some of the workshops I did get to…

Richard Miscovich demonstrated his hand-mixing technique…

…for lovely rustic loaves.

Ciril Hitz talked about what you can bake in your wood-fired oven once it cools out of bread-baking range…

…including cinnamon rolls…

…and linzer tarts.

Jim Amaral did a baking trial using different wheats, showing how the quality, variety, and processing of the wheat can make a remarkable difference in the end result. These two 100% whole-wheat breads used exactly the same formula but different freshly-milled wheats. There was also a discussion of how aging the flour after milling (which was not done here) can improve baking performance.

The take-home: not all wheats, nor all flours, are created equal!

Poster by Eli Rogosa

Kelley Hughes demonstrated gluten free bagels.

Cate Conway and Doug Brown made delicious, 100% whole-grain pastries, including these laminated-dough pockets…

…and sticky buns, ready for the oven.

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Chris says

    Tell us more about the made-in-a-day ovens, please! I’ve always regarded an oven like that as an unattainable fantasy, (and didn’t this very blog take somewhat more than a day to build itself a wood burning mud oven?). But you’ve seen it done in a day! Really? Thanks for sharing this — and, once again, for maintaining this consistently astonishing blog.

  2. Allison says

    Oh wow, what a conference! You must have had a wonderful time. I have just started to grind my own wheat, so the samples shown of the 2 different loaves from different wheat really caught my attention! Was one made from soft wheat and the other from hard wheat?

    BTW, we never hear of YOUR mud oven – how fares it?

  3. says

    Chris, yes, my mud oven did take quite longer than one day but it’s considerably larger than the ones made in this workshop. Small ovens are quite doable in a short amount of time. Two books on the subject are Earth Oven Adventure by Stu Silverstein, who taught the workshop at the Kneading Conference, and Build Your Own Earth Oven by Kiko Denzer.

    Allison, both were hard wheats but one was a spring wheat and one a winter. Also the wheat variety is not the only determining factor — how and where it is farmed (soil and climate conditions, etc.) play a role as well. And my oven is fine but I do not live with it full-time and haven’t gotten to visit it as much as I would like. Hopefully that will change sometime soon, especially since I am now full of renewed energy for wood-fired baking after this conference!

  4. says

    I would say this is awesome in all respects but that would just be such an understatement. Still, I suppose there are people out there who wouldn’t find this of any interest … but almost 100% of them would be loving the breads here.
    Oh how I’m wanting just even on of those laminated-dough pockets! and whole grain.

  5. says

    Thanks for writing about your experiences at the Kneading Conference. We begin planning the next one on the heels of the last one and somewhere during the year we lose objectivity. It’s good to hear someone’s perspective who isn’t looking at it from the inside out. If your readers are interested, in the coming weeks we will post photos and video of the 2010 gathering on our website .

    The Kneading Conference

  6. says

    Wow, what an experience! I am in love with those wood burning ovens. Unfortunately we can’t have one in our town. :(
    The breads look wonderful and yes, I am totally craving some of those ww pockets for breakfast.
    Thanks for bringing us along in your adventure!

  7. Wendy says

    I wanted to get there but it did not work into the schedule this summer… will be there next summer for sure! Thanks for the pictures!

  8. says

    OMG that is so wonderful you were able to attend. I would love to go one year. It is funny that you mentioned Jeffrey Hamelman. I am currenly working through his whole book bread for my Mellow Bakers club. Great post!

  9. says

    Lovely post — makes me wish I could be there.

    I can’t seem to find anything about Jim Amaral’s trials of different wheats; this is something that really interests me. I wonder, if you know of anything he has written about this? If not, well, I ‘ll write to him direct.


  10. says

    The conference was great! I was hoping to run into you after Jeffrey mentioned that you were there but I was distracted by all the bread. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to write about it later this week.

  11. says

    How wonderful that you have shared this super experience with us. Wood-fired clay oven…now added to list of things to work toward. Love the preceding comment ‘distracted by the bread’…sounds heavely.

  12. says

    What a great post! We sell affordable wood-fired ovens through out the UK and have baked bread often before, although never such a range… thank-you for the food for thought. Check out our website for affordable outdoor cooking in the UK at
    Looking forward to reports on more wood-fired foods in the future.

  13. Victoria says

    After coming upon your site looking for some great doughnuts to bake, I found this entry with one of my former instructors Chef Miscovich as well as Chef Hitz. Such great and laid back bread bakers! What a wonderful conference that must have been.


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