I recently began a new professional adventure, joining the Seylou team to help open a bakery and mill on Blagden Alley in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C. As their Director of Breaducation (portmanteau credit goes to Nick), I'll be helping with bread sales and service, events, PR and other ways to bring neighbors into the community of farmers and bakers collaborating on the tastiest breads and pastries I've had.
We're planning to open later this Fall, so I'm using the interim weeks to learn as much as I can from our bakers, Jonathan Bethony and Charbel Abrache, and Jessica Azeez (Jonathan's wife and co-owner) before I look to #breaducate others. Here are a few cool things I've learned about bread so far:
- The part of grain we eat in bread is the seed! That may sound obvious, but I thought the little pieces that went into a flour mill were the "berry" or "fruit" of the plant. Glad we have that cleared up :-)
- Calling all paleo dieters: it turns out our caveman ancestors actually DID eat grains, as evidenced by the Sorghum found on tools used 105,000 years ago. This counters the idea that eating grains isn't "natural" because it only started relatively recently.
- Only 5 cents of the average loaf of bread goes to the farmer, according to a USDA study (this was referenced in a podcast with Nathan Myhrvold, who just released a book applying modern science to bread). No wonder American farmers haven't been incentivized to grow more nutritious, tasty or regenerative grains....until now, dun dun dun!
- Rye is dense and crumbly in baked goods, millet tastes nutty and gets stuck in your teeth, and sorghum is not only a grain but can be turned into potassium-rich syrup that adds sweetness and depth of flavor to cookies and cakes. As our team has tasted potential menu items I've enjoyed oats, buckwheat, camelina seeds and more.
Stay tuned for more #breaducation tidbits as we start baking in Seylou's wood-burning brick oven!