Earlier this month I spent a few days in Kansas with the Kansas Wheat Commission and Red Star Yeast. I was there with several other baking bloggers and together we stopped by a wheat farm, visited a stone-ground flour mill, toured the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center, and spent an afternoon baking bread with Zoë of ZoëBakes. And we crossed much of Kansas in the process! It was a packed but fun trip, and I’m so excited to tell you all about it.
Our first major stop on the #Wheat2Bread tour was Scott Van Allen’s wheat farm in Sumner County. While this wasn’t my first trip to a major farm, this was my first time in a wheat field and I was struck by the site of golden wheat fields blowing in the wind against a blue sky. So beautiful!
Our trip coincided with the summer wheat harvest and we had the pleasure of witnessing the harvest first-hand from Scott’s combine. We also learned about the different types of wheat (Scott grows hard red winter wheat), how farmers choose what types to plant (there are dozens of varieties to choose from), and the ways in which wheat farming has changed over the years thanks to technology and scientific research (hello, air-conditioned combine harvesters!).
I enjoyed our time with Scott and I was impressed with his passion for farming and commitment to doing it right. And I loved learning the story behind all that flour I use in my baking!
Stone Ground Flour Mill
Our next stop was Farmer Direct Foods where Bob Morando showed us how wheat is milled into flour. We walked through his mill where they manufacture all-natural stone ground wheat flours from local wheat. They have their own brand of flour, but also mill flour for companies such as King Arthur Flour. The wheat from Farmer Direct Foods is also “Identity Assured” meaning that a package of flour can be traced all the way back to the farmer’s lot where it was grown.
Kansas Wheat Innovation Center
Then we headed to Manhattan, Kansas! The next morning we arrived at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center on the campus of Kansas State University. It was built by the farmers of the Kansas Wheat Commission to house cutting-edge research in all things wheat. We walked through high-tech greenhouses and labs where we learned about the research that goes into developing new wheat varieties, and how researchers are able to breed genes from ancient varieties (some of them 10,000+ years old!) into modern wheat varieties. It was extremely fascinating.
Baking with Red Star Yeast
As wonderful as everything had been up to this point, our last portion of the trip was my favorite. We spent a few hours in the Kansas Wheat kitchen baking with Red Star Yeast and Zoë from the blog Zoë Bakes. Zoë has been a baking inspiration to me for years and meeting her in person and learning from her was a dream come true!
She showed us the famous master bread recipe from her book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day You just briefly mix it (no kneading!), put it in the fridge, then portion, shape, rest, and bake! And it can be used to make all of the breads you see in the photo below. Zoë taught us how to shape a boule, baguette, and several other shapes. Plus she also showed us how to cut designs and use stencils to get different looks.
We also baked alongside Julene DeRouchey from Kansas Wheat and she showed us how to make an enriched yeast dough. It’s different from Zoë’s recipe in that it includes butter, sugar, eggs, and milk. It’s sweet and rich and perfect for so many incredible sweet treats!
We split into groups to create a recipe using Julene’s dough and I had a blast baking with Sally from Sally’s Baking Addiction and Stefani from Cupcake Project. We made a twist star bread filled with candied orange peel, brown sugar, and cinnamon. A twist star bread is something I’ve been too intimidated to try, but it was quite simple. I’m planning to share a recipe and tutorial in the future, so stay tuned!
And here’s just a sampling of the goodies the whole group baked— nutella babka, cinnamon star twist, raspberry-filled doughnuts, our orange-cinnamon-brown sugar star twist, raspberry cream cheese braid, chai spice and sugar doughnuts, and cherry chocolate braid.
We snapped a few quick photos and then dug in! And wow, it was all incredible. I’m pretty sure heaven will be filled with beautiful delicious breads just like these.
Red Star Yeast is one of my favorite clients I’ve worked with and it was such a treat to spend a few days with them getting the inside scoop on baking with yeast. If yeast breads still intimidate you, you’ve gotta try their Platinum Yeast. It helps bread come out their very best every time. Plus, look for some great new yeast products coming out this fall!
And with that, our #Wheat2Bread tour came to an end!
And a thank you to my fellow bloggers for helping make this trip such a great experience— Sally from Sally’s Baking Addiction, Stefani from Cupcake Project, Lori from The Kitchen Whisperer, Kristin from Baker Bettie, Abby from Heart of a Baker, Adriana from Adriana’s Best Recipes, Jamie from Love Bakes Good Cakes, and Jessica from A Kitchen Addiction.
Disclosure— This trip was sponsored by the Kansas Wheat Commission and Red Star Yeast. All opinions are always my own. Thank you for supporting partnerships with brands I believe in.