This isn’t your typical bread and butter. Rather, the carbs coming out of the Bread Lab at Washington State University are a combination of taste and technology, as the lab seeks to take bread where it’s never been before. By conducting research on thousands of wheat, barley, buckwheat, and other small grain lines, researchers, farmers, and bakers are coming together to bring us our daily loaves.
Initially begun in 2011 as a small lab project in WSU’s Mount Vernon Research Center, the initiative has now grown to encompass a research and baking kitchen, a cytology lab, the King Arthur Flour Baking School at the Bread Lab, and the expertise of master bakers from La Brea Bakery. Taking their seat at the delicious intersection of food and science, folks from La Brea Bakery are providing feedback to farmers and scientists to help create new cultivars, develop new strains of wheat, all in the name of epicurean delight. After all, you don’t get artisan bread simply by accident.
“We select for a number of things,” Jonathan Davis, one of La Brea Bakery’s expert bakers, told Digital Trends. As the folks closest to the bread, it falls upon Davis and his colleagues to bake and sample loaves to determine what flavors are most intriguing. “It’s key for bakers to work with farmers to let them know what works and doesn’t work,” Davis continued. And ultimately, the goal is to combine flavors of ancient grains with the performance of modern wheat, with respect to volume and flavor.
The result has manifested itself in products like La Brea Bakery’s Reserve line, which is bread made with single-origin heirloom wheat from Montana. “When we decided that we wanted to work with farmers directly to understand where our flour was coming from, it was a shock to the system,” the bakery noted on its blog. “Instead of dealing with third parties, we skipped the middle man and went directly to the source.” As the feedback loop continues among La Brea Bakery, farmers, and researchers, the hope is that we will be presented with increasingly flavorful bread.
“The experiments may take years to refine, due to the patient process so common with growing, but the end results are extremely promising,” a La Brea Bakery spokesperson told us. Those certainly seem like results worth waiting for.