I have been dreaming of a trip to Asheville, NC for some time and when I learned that this year's Bread Festival would be helmed by my miller, Jennifer Lapidus of Carolina Ground AND it would be held at the New Belgium Brewery AND there would be a master class with bread rock stars Stanley Ginsberg, Harry Peemoeller and Lionel Vatinet, well any one of those would be enough of a reason to pack up the Cracker Van and hit the road.
The festival consists of a Bread Fair with vendors from across the region selling artisan bread, jams, oils, and spreads. I am glad I brought crackers, because it would be tough to stand out in that crowd of world-class loaves! Bakers set out around the city for workshops and panels held at various venues around town. Later, three mobile wood-fired oven were cranking out pizza for the crowd. I was tempted to stay late and try out all the New Belgium brews on tap, but decided to play it safe and be refreshed for the next day's Master Class.
Bread bakers are unique in the culinary world. We don't have secret recipes. Egos are kept in check most of the time. The more experience you gain the more you realize there is always more to learn. Maybe that is why in my short career I have had the opportunity to bake with so many of my heroes who have been generous and eager to share. The theme of the class was Rye. In traveling the world to research his book, The Rye Baker, Stanley Ginsberg has become the foremost expert on the subject. He was joined by Lionel Vatinet, French Master Baker and owner of La Farm Bakery, and Harry Peemoeller, German Master Baker and senior instructor at Johnson & Wales University. A group of about 30 of us gathered around the bench, got our hands in the dough, shaped some loaves, shared some jokes, and gained a bit of experience with rye.
The thing about rye is that after baking it needs about 12 hours to cool and set up properly before slicing. That means that all we could do at the end of the day was take beautiful Instagram shots of our work. We would have to wait a day to sample the goods. There were enough loaves to go around, so we each collected out share, said our farewells, and headed home.
This was one of those experiences that will last a lifetime. It is incredibly refreshing to visit and make new friends and feel part of something much bigger than myself and my tiny bakery. I can't wait for my next visit to Asheville and I hope you will consider joining me at the Asheville Bread Festival next time it comes around!