Asheville Artisan Bread Bakers Festival, Asheville, NC

Challah from Creme Patisserie in Asheville, NC

Sample great bread and learn a few baking techniques during an extraordinary convergence of bread bakers on April 2.

by Bakery Boy

A variety of loaves from City Bakery in Asheville, NC, will be among those available to sample during the Artisan Bread Bakers Festival's "Showcase" event April 2.

If you’re a big fan of good bread, you need to be at this gathering.

For baking enthusiasts, the Asheville Artisan Bread Bakers Festival—April 2, 2011, in Asheville, NC—might as well be Shangri-La, Paradise, Nirvana, El Dorado, and Heaven all rolled into one. It’s an all-day tribute to crusty, chewy, aromatic, wholesome, air-hole-laced breads. It’s a participatory ode to time-honored, Old World, slow-rise techniques, and top-quality natural ingredients. It’s a showcase for dedicated bakers who consider their vocation to fit somewhere between an art form and a religion.

Expect to hear plenty of talk about wild yeast, whole grains, sourdough starters, wood-fired brick ovens, fermentation, organic ingredients, and other bread-centric topics. Also join in conversations about sustainable agriculture, organic farming, the slow food movement, and related subjects.

The two-part festival starts with bread tasting during a Bakers’ Showcase to be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Whole Foods Markets’ Greenlife Grocery, 70 Merrimon Avenue. You’ll find loaves for sale too, ranging from baguettes to brioche, challah, ciabatta, focaccia, rye, walnut, raisin, spinach-feta, and whatever else bakers representing as many as 16 area bakeries bring to their tables. Local millers, cheese makers, and brick-oven builders will be on hand doing demonstrations. Admission to the showcase is free.

An afternoon series of workshops and lectures ($10 admission per session) takes place from noon to 6 p.m. at nearby Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (A-B Tech), 340 Victoria Road. This year’s featured presenters include:

Didier Rosada of Uptown Bakers in Hyattsville, MD

• baker Didier Rosada of Uptown Bakers in Hyattsville, MD (near Washington, D.C.), who will show home bakers how to make his signature pear buckwheat bread and share techniques for making sweet breads such as one he calls German almond butter bread

• baker, author, and Johnson & Wales University (Charlotte, NC) teacher Peter Reinhart, who will demonstrate making bread with sprouted whole wheat flour

• baker, author, and chemist Emily Buehler, who will lead a workshop about the chemistry of bread dough—explaining what actually happens during the mixing, kneading, rising, and baking stages—and demonstrate hand-kneading techniques

• baker Jennifer Lapidus—director of the North Carolina Organic Bread Flour Project linking local wheat farmers, millers, and bakers—who will talk about bread’s journey from planted wheat seed to steaming loaf, with emphasis on all that happens before the baker takes over for the final stages

Walnut-Sage bread from La Farm Bakery in Cary, NC

• baker Lionel Vatinet of La Farm Bakery in Cary, NC (topic to be determined, but one look at the gorgeous breads he makes, such as those shown at right, and you know it’ll be worthwhile)

Now in its seventh year, the festival was initiated by Steve Bardwell, an artisan baker who runs Wake Robin Farm Breads in the western North Carolina community of Sandy Mush. Area bakeries planning to participate in the Showcase tasting include Annie’s Naturally Bakery, Sylva, NC; Bracken Mountain Bakery, Brevard, NC; Carolina Mountain Bakery, Hendersonville, NC; City Bakery, Asheville, NC; Crème Patisserie & Confectionery, Asheville, NC (click here to see the Bakery Boy Blog profile of Crème Patisserie); Hillside Bakery, Knoxville, TN; Farm and Sparrow, Candler, NC; Flat Rock Village Bakery, Flat Rock, NC; Loaf Child Bakery, Marshall, NC; Rising Creek Bakery, Morris, PA; Simple Bread, Asheville, NC; Stick Boy Bread Company, Boone, NC (click here to see the Bakery Boy Blog profile of Stick Boy); Underground Baking Company, Hendersonville, NC; Wake Robin Farm Breads, Marshall, NC; West End Bakery, Asheville, NC; and Wildflour Bakery, Saluda, NC.

Festival sponsors include the Bread Bakers Guild of America; Lindley Mills in Graham, NC; Whole Foods Markets’ Greenlife Grocery; the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project; Slow Food Asheville; and the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association.

For more information visit www.ashevillebreadfestival.com or contact key organizer Steve Bardwell at wakerobinfarmbreads@main.nc.us or 828-683-2902.

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