Earlier this summer, Amanda Benson, who leads the Bakehouse’s Bread Bakery and is the first ever Certified Bread Baker from the Bread Bakers Guild of America (BBGA), headed to the Pacific Northwest to join fellow guild members for an immersive 2-day Raspberry Showcase in the nation’s raspberry capital, Lynden, Washington. Co-sponsored by the BBGA, The Washington Red Raspberry Commission, and the King Arthur Baking Company, the interactive program on Day 1 included an extensive tour of Enfield Farms, a second-generation family raspberry farm and processing plant. Here Amanda got to talk with the farmers, tour the raspberry fields, taste raspberry varieties in test plots, and see how a processing plant and adjoining breeding program operate. On Day 2, Amanda, with her fellow guild members, joined two award-winning artisan bakers at the King Arthur Baking School in Burlington, Washington for a full day of hands-on baking. The day also included lunch with The Bread Lab, where Dr. Stephen Jones discussed wheat breeding and revitalizing the local grain economy.
Amanda recounts her razzle dazzle raspberry experience:
Imagine a beautiful sunny day with a gentle breeze in July and you’re standing in the middle of a field of raspberries located in northern Washington. Now imagine you are getting to taste as many raspberries as you want in order to explore the different raspberries involved in a breeding program. Well, this was my reality at The Raspberry Showcase. A two-day class put on by the Bread Bakers Guild and The Washington Red Raspberry Commission.
I started my experience by spending the day at the Enfield Farm. A second-generation family run farm located in Lynden, WA. It was started in 1977 and is currently run by brothers, Adam and Andy. We were taken on a tour through the raspberry processing factory. I love a good factory tour, and this one did not disappoint. The raspberries are taken right from the fields and cooled before being washed, sorted and then quickly frozen before they get rescanned for quality and then packaged. I think I love factory tours because there is so much attention to systems. How to make things efficiently with a high quality and to get something from start to finish in the best way. We at the Bakehouse rely on a lot of systems, so I can appreciate the thought that goes into creating them. Plus how cool are the machines?
Frozen raspberries are some of the most flavorful berries. Raspberries that are going to be frozen are picked right when they are ripe. 90% of the nation’s frozen raspberries are grown in and around Lynden. Fresh raspberries, on the other hand, are picked before they are ripe so they have the shelf life to make it to the grocery store on a truck. So, in the future, think about using frozen berries in your baking for a really nice flavor.
The Enfields also have a breeding program. They have partnered with a lab in New Zealand to work towards new varieties together. It takes a minimum of ten years to work towards a new variety. The Enfields are specifically working towards varieties that can be machine harvested. With such a short harvest window of four to six weeks, they need to harvest with machines to get them all picked at the right level of ripeness.
Dr. Lisa Jones, who works in the lab, spent the afternoon with us talking about how her job works as the breeder. They grade the test raspberries according to flavor, firmness, machine harvestability, size, color, and yield. They allowed us to eat the raspberries down a row of the test plot and it was amazing how different each raspberry was, bush to bush. You really could taste a difference.
The second day I spent in the kitchen with artisan bakers Solveig Tofte, owner of Sun Street Bakery in Minneapolis, MN, and Leslie Mackie, owner of Macrina in Seattle, WA. Both really knowledgeable and creative bakers proceeded to work through multiple recipes featuring, you guessed it, raspberries.
Leslie made this beautiful dessert, a Charlotte. The juices from the berries soak through the bread and when you unmold it, it shows this beautiful color. When you take a bite of the full flavored berries it is such an impactful, simple summer dessert.
After lunch we went next door to the famous Bread Lab where Dr. Stephen Jones took us on a tour of the lab. They are working on a lot of interesting projects there but after our experience at the farm, I couldn’t help but draw some parallels to what the raspberry breeders are doing. At the Bread Lab they are trying to find varieties of wheat that can hold up to what he referred to as “climate chaos.” They are currently working on a Climate Blend. This technique is where you grow a lot of varieties of wheat in a single field. The variety that thrives is dependent on the weather, but no matter the season you will still get a yield of wheat. But in order for this method to work, the millers need to accept the wheat from the farmers. The bakers need to embrace what the millers have, and be able to bake with the characteristics the grain is offering. As the climate changes, so will our approach to baking, by responding to the wheat. I felt like Dr. Jones has so much knowledge to share, that I could not possibly take all information in during an hour-long tour. A follow up visit to the Bread Lab is probably needed.
Reflecting on the two-day Raspberry Showcase, the event exceeded my expectations. It was great to get out into the field to see how others are working towards great food. I got to hang out with other bakers who too have a passion to take great ingredients and produce great products. Leslie said something that stuck with me. She said, our job is to showcase great ingredients, not by overcomplicating things but by creating the right combinations of flavors to showcase what others have dedicated their life to making great. After these two days, I know I will keep raspberries in mind for a while.
Hungry for more?
- Get your raspberry fix with a host of Bakehouse treats, including Rugelach, Patti Pockets, Raspberry Swiss Buttercream filling in between the layers of our Buttermilk Cake, and our Hungarian Tokaji Cream Cake!
- Learn more about Amanda on our blog
Head here for more information on:
- Bread Bakers Guild of America (BBGA), a non-profit alliance of professional bakers, farmers, millers, suppliers, educators, students, home bakers, technical experts, and bakery owners and managers. The Bakehouse has been a guild member since its founding in 1993.
- Enfield Farms, Lynden, Washington
- The Bread Lab, Washington State University. The Bakehouse developed its State Street Wheat Bread as a member of the Breadlab Collective with the mission of making bread that is approachable, accessible and affordable.
- Solveig Tofte and Sun Street Breads, Minneapolis, MN
- Leslie Mackie and Macrina Bakery, Seattle WA