Bread lab helps artisan bakers analyze, perfect recipes


Jeffrey Hamelman, King Arthur Flour bakery director and award-winning author, is one of several visiting bakers who will put their recipes to the test at the bread lab at WSU Mount Vernon.

By Cathy McKenzie, WSU Mount Vernon

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. – Artisan bakers from King Arthur Flour will be the first of many from across the United States to add a pinch of technology to their recipes at the new bread laboratory at Washington State University’s Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center.

The lab is an integral part of the WSU Mount Vernon plant breeding program, which studies the diversity of locally grown grains to determine those most suitable for craft baking. Professional bakers will analyze and test their bread and pastry doughs under the technical guidance of bread lab resident baker Jonathan McDowell and center director/wheat breeder Steve Jones.

The 500-square-foot lab houses steam-injected ovens and commercial-quality equipment to test such dough qualities as rise, strength, mixing tolerance and protein content. McDowell will assist the visiting bakers in finding the optimal hydration, temperature and times that bring out the desired characters of their featured grains, such as wheat, rye or barley.

King Arthur Flour’s Bakery Director Jeffrey Hamelman and Production Baker Kelsey Fairfield are scheduled to visit the bread lab Jan. 6-9.

Hamelman is a certified master baker, award-winning author and former captain of Baking Team USA, which competed in 1996 at the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie, an international “bread Olympics” in Paris.

His last visit to WSU Mount Vernon, as keynote speaker for the 2011 Kneading Conference West, was before the bread lab was set up.

“I can’t wait to see it first hand,” he said. “The WSU Mount Vernon plant breeding program has grown a lot since my last visit there, and I’m looking forward to this collaboration between the King Arthur Flour Company and WSU.”

Hamelman and Fairfield will work with Northwest wheat varieties to determine just the right combination of locally sourced ingredients to bring out unique flavors that can’t be found on the typical grocery shelf.

“We see this as a kind of ongoing partnership through which our bakers will visit the bread lab possibly three times a year,” Hamelman said. “We will be sending out bakers to both learn and teach – a bit of cross pollination.”




Stephen Jones, director/crops and soils professor, WSU Mount Vernon NWREC, 360-416-5210,

Jonathan McDowell, bread lab resident baker, WSU Mount Vernon NWREC, 360-848-6144,