The Kneading Conference 2011

[Photo Credits: Andrew Janjigian and Melissa Rivard]

At the end of last week I attended the 5th annual Kneading Conference, a two-day long bread and baking conference, held in Skowhegan, Maine, at the State Fairgrounds. I went both as a participant, to take workshops in bread and pastry baking, wood-fired oven building, baking with local grains, and more, and as an instructor, teaching a class on pizza doughs and the mechanics of baking pizza. Like last year, I had a great time, and learned a hell of a lot. The Kneading Conference is like Burning Man for breadheads—if bread and baking is your passion, this is the place to be. There is nothing more invigorating and stimulating than spending two days meeting and hanging out with fellow travelers, swapping stories, learning new techniques, and getting your hands in the dough.

Around 250 people attend the two-day affair, locals from Maine and New England alongside others who had travelled from as far away as Florida and Colorado. Each day began with a keynote address (day one: Michel Nischan, chef-owner of the Dressing Room in Westport, CT, discussing the role whole grains can play in human and environmental health; day two: Molly O'Neill, New York Times Magazine food writer, who spoke about the question of authenticity in American cooking). After that, people headed off to attend one of the many workshops on offer. My one and only gripe about the Kneading Conference is that since classes are scheduled in tandem, it's impossible for any one person to attend more than a handful.

If you have any interest in baking bread and pizza, I highly recommend you put The Kneading Conference on your calendar for next summer (it's held during the last week of July each year), I promise you will not regret it. (If you live on the west coast, or can get yourself there, I have good news: there's still time to sign up for the first annual Kneading Conference West, which will be held on September 14-15 of this year, in Mount Vernon, WA, just outside of Seattle.)