Photo by Kim Binczewski

The Bread Lab is an integral part of the Washington State University-Mount Vernon Research Center plant breeding program, which studies the diversity of locally grown grains to determine those most suitable for craft baking, malting, brewing, distilling and pasta-making and other culinary creations. Professional bakers and chefs analyze and test their whole grain products under the technical guidance of Bread Lab resident baker Jonathan Bethony and center director/wheat breeder Steve Jones.

The 600-square-foot lab houses steam-injected ovens and commercial-quality equipment to test such dough qualities as rise, strength, mixing tolerance and protein content. Bethony assists the visiting bakers and chefs in finding the optimal hydration, temperature and times that bring out the desired characteristics of their featured grains, including wheat, rye and barley.

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.

Advisory Panel

Director: Stephen Jones, Wheat breeder. Dr. Jones has been laboratory testing for end-use quality of wheat since 1985 and developed the most widely grown club wheat in the U.S.

Jeffrey Hamelman, Certified Master Baker and bakery director for King Arthur Flour in Vermont. He is the author of Bread: A Bakers Book of Techniques and Recipes, which is used as a definitive resource by professional and serious home bakers.

Dan Barber, Founder and executive chef of the Blue Hill restaurants in New York State. A James Beard Award Outstanding Chef, he also writes about food and agriculture policy and features the principles of good farming at the table.

Leslie Mackie, founder, owner and chef, Macrina Bakery and Café, Seattle, Washington. Leslie has appeared with Julia Child on “Baking with Julia”, is a James Beard Pastry Chef Award nominee and a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier.

Scott Mangold, founder, owner and head baker of The Bread Farm, a small craft bakery in Edison, Washington. Scott is a leader in movements to bring local grains into our baking systems.

George de Pasquale, founder, owner and head baker of The Essential Baking Company, a major organic craft bakery in Seattle, Washington. George has been baking commercially for 35 years and is a leading force in the sustainability of baking, from field to table.

Tom Hunton, farmer and founder of Camas Country Mill, Eugene, Oregon. Tom is a leader in a drive to return grains to the Southern Willamette Valley.  His mill brings local commercial milling back to a region that has been without milling since the 1920s.

Thom Leonard, co-founder of Wheat Fields Bakery in Lawrence, Kansas and author of The Bread Book. Published in 1990 it captures the current movement that connects field to table as if it were written yesterday.

The Bread Lab is currently housed at Washington State University, Mount Vernon in a recently renovated $8M lab wing. An hour north of Seattle, it is the first public laboratory designed solely for the testing and development of products and techniques for the craft baker.

Bakers and chefs come to the lab to interact with scientists and to make contact with farmers, millers, maltsters and brewers.  The environment allows participants to learn, teach, and experiment in a functioning kitchen lab without having to shut down their own lines. The facility is equipped with a state of the art WP Kemper SP spiral mixer and Matador four-deck oven as well as a stone mill, 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, from one-day events to weeklong workshops, are scheduled each year. 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 entrepeneurs each summer.

For more information contact:  Stephen Jones at joness@wsu.edu or 360-416-5210