The Bread Lab: a growing partnership

In January, two King Arthur Flour bakers, Jeffrey Hamelman and Kelsey Fairfield, crossed the country to spend a week baking in the Bread Lab at Washington State University Mount Vernon. The Bread Lab is designed for testing and developing products and techniques for the craft baker.

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WSU Mount Vernon is run by the College  of Agriculture. The Bread Lab functions within the plant breeding & grains program, and is a place for bakers to interact with other bakers, scientists, farmers, and millers.

The lab provides immediate access to technical flour and dough testing equipment, such as the farinograph, alveograph, and falling number machine.

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While most wheat grown in the United States is bred for high yield and protein content, the bread lab is a great place to experiment with regional wheat varieties that favor other qualities, such as unique flavor.

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Jeffrey and Kelsey developed and executed a variety of baking tests to experiment with milling variations, wheat varieties, aged vs. fresh flour, and local wheat versatility.

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The resulting breads were evaluated on dough strength, crumb structure, color, flavor, and volume.

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The lab is equipped with professional baking mixers and ovens, which allow bakers to perform scientifically controlled tests without interfering with their own bakery’s day-to-day production.

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Twelve evaluators contributed feedback in blind taste tests. While this wasn’t a competition, the King Arthur Flour bakers were proud to find their Vermont-grown wheat was well received!

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The week-long visit was capped off by an open house at the Lab. Members of the community gathered to sample the results of the various tests, as well as experience what’s happening in nearby fields.

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So what does all of this mean for me, the home baker and consumer of baked goods?

Perhaps the opportunity to experience a wider variety of grain, grown locally and regionally. And to appreciate the diversity of wheat, which is a staple in so many our our pantries.

Amber Eisler

Amber Eisler was born and raised in Washington, DC. She is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and started her time at King Arthur Flour in the production bakery. Amber now works full-time in the Baking Education Center, and enjoys sharing her passion ...


  1. Leigh

    How cool! A post about three of my favorite things! Bread, my alma mater, and the town next door to my hometown! GO COUGS! 🙂

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Leigh – We are pleased this blog brought you back to some of the things you love (and miss?). Enjoy! Elisabeth@KAF

  2. Don Schmidt

    Have enjoyed your emails for years. Many of our favorite baking recipes and helpful suggestions
    have been one result of our reading your emails VERY carefully.

    Just keep doing what you’re doing!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We will try, Don! Let us know when we fall, OK? We appreciate the feedback (good and not so good!). Elisabeth@KAF

  3. judi raphaeli

    I switched over to using your King Arthur Flours exclusively a few years back; I have never looked back. Your flours make such a difference in all the breads that I make and I do make quite a bit. I love the flour and try turning everyone I know on to it!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We appreciate your loyalty, Judi! We are here for all your baking needs. Come anytime! Elisabeth@KAF

  4. Susie Jungemann

    Incredible! I am fortunate to live close by the WSU extension so a friend of mine and I went to the open house. It was So amazing to meet Jeffery Hamelman and Kelsey Fairfield, who did an amazing job. I’ve been involved in the science of baking bread for years and so I found this to be a fascinating trial of difference grains/aged and fresh flour plus the area it was grown. You really could taste a difference. they also had a sampling of different barley and wheal malts. Also an amazing difference. They will hold a Grain Gathering conference at the same place in August. I cannot wait to attend! I am constantly learning and find that I feel like a kid in science class totally curious and thrilled to learn.

    Thanks for being a major sponsor too!

  5. marionwilhelm

    I have been making our bread for years now using Sam’s Club flour- big bags and cheap. I switched over to KAF a few months ago and WHAT a difference. My favorite KAF recipe has oats, whole wheat as well as white flours and a teeny bit of cinnamon. This recipe produces a beautiful loaf, tender and tasty. Sorry, Sam-I’m dating Arthur now!
    Your catalogue, blog and recipes really push me to try new things, too. And with coupons, special shipping deals, etc it’s easy to save some money on the best. Thanks.

    1. Amber Eisler, post author

      Thank you, Marion. It is our goal to continually provide top quality ingredients and inspiration. Happy baking!

  6. Carol Ice-Foote

    Due to American Indian blood through my family, we deal with a lot of food intolerances and allergies. Can you please tell me if all/part of the grains you use in production are GMO grown? I know my family can’t be the only ones effected by the chemicals in our foods and are seeking organic as much as possible. Thank you so much,PLEASE keep up the quality I have found in your products!

  7. Nadine Ueno

    Hi, I found this very interesting and educational. I come from a small town in southwest North Dakota, right in the middle of wheat farming and ranching. My Dad just retired from farming this year, but our neighbors son is taking over. He raises some really good wheat crops. I just wondered if you had had a chance to try some of the wheat from this area?

    Thank you for all the baking tips and information!

    1. Amber Eisler, post author

      During this trip, Kelsey and Jeffrey baked primarily with Washington grown wheat. In the future we’d love to test wheat from more regions!

  8. Paul from Ohio

    Good blog. What’s the ‘take away’ from their ‘class’ time? Potentially a new flour being offered changes in bread baking methods?

    1. Amber Eisler, post author

      Both! The information gained is helpful for bakers and growers. For the baker, more is learned about dough handling when using different varieties/ages of wheat. For the grower, which varieties are attractive to the baker – to gauge potential demand for a particular crop.

  9. JoAnn

    Very interesting article as well as your GMO Statement. As a three-time cancer survivor, I am extremely concerned about the ingredients that are being put into our foods. Thank you for the non-GMO flours and products that you make available!

  10. Jodi Rauth

    I have been a fan for decades. Recently our daughter introduced our family her “boyfriend”. I love to cook and my kitchen counter have flour on the everyday. This “boyfriend” is now learning to make bread and buys only your flour when he bakes. Hooray for King Arthur Flour you have inspired another through your great grains. Please keep up the good work.
    Your greatest fan
    Jodi Rauth
    Lima , Ohio

  11. Fourth

    Well I remember your 5th grade bread eptxrimenes. I’m in Florida without all my bread cookbooks, but I’ll bring the best of them to you next month. It’s important to have enough sugar in the recipe, so that the yeast will have enough “food” to work on; too much salt keeps that reaction from happening. Timing the rising and controling the temperature are also vital-o-if the dough rises too fast or too far, then it falls flat. Good luck nothing’s better than home-made bread.


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