SKOWHEGAN — An expert in bread production will speak on wood-fired oven cooking techniques at the annual Kneading Conference this week.
Richard Miscovich, a presenter at the conference since 2008, returns to this year’s seventh-annual event as the keynote speaker.
Miscovich is writing a book about baking and cooking in wood-fired ovens and was a contributor to “The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion,” which won the James Beard Cookbook of the Year Award in 2004. He’s also an associate professor at Johnson & Wales College of the Culinary Arts in Providence, R.I.
The two-day conference at the Skowhegan Fairgrounds, which is expected to draw hundreds of professional and home bakers to the area, will be followed by the Artisan Bread Fair on Saturday.
Miscovich, 45, said he plans to discuss how functionality, durability and beauty — the pillars of Roman architecture as laid out by the writer Vetruvius — can be applied to bread baking, oven building, grain growing and farming.
“Even though these are ancient crafts, there are always new things to learn,” Miscovich said Tuesday. “I think it’s very heartening to see how the grain movement has grown in places like Skowhegan as well as around the nation.”
The conference is sponsored by the Maine Grain Alliance and will include workshops, guest speakers, baking demonstrations and panel discussions that focus on handcrafted breads, wood-fired oven cooking, types of flours and grains, and the role of grain in the Maine economy.
Its goal is to revitalize the Maine grain economy and celebrate local and artisan grains.
Wendy Hebb, the conference program director, said this year’s conference will focus on diversifying grain production.
“I think there is a new wave of bakers adapting Maine wheat and it has inspired other categories of grains to be explored,” she said.
Preregistration for the conference is required, and Hebb said there are only a few spots left. Enrollment so far has been the largest in the history of the conference, she said.
In addition to the presentation by Miscovich, attendees have a busy schedule, including lessons on how to build a brick oven from scratch, presentations on how to bake with various grains including acorn flour, sourdough, rye and corn meal, and a beer and cheese pairing from a Napa Valley food writer.
• Ellen Mallory, University of Maine Sustainable Agriculture extension specialist and Maine director of the Northern New England Local Bread Wheat Project, will give a presentation on the project and its goal to help farmers increase the production and quality of organic bread.
• Dara Reimers, owner, head baker and operator of The Bread Shack in Auburn, will talk about her experience in the Coupe du Monde, an international baking competition in France.
• Julie Zavage, a member of the milling team at the Somerset Grist Mill, will moderate a panel discussion on grain and equipment strategies for small farms.
• Andrea and Christian Stanley, owners of Valley Malt in Hadley, Mass., will speak on the progress and challenges of growing grains for malt in New England.
Saturday’s Artisan Bread Fair is free and open to the public. The bread fair is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Skowhegan Fairgrounds. Parking at the fairgrounds is $2.
Last year, more than 2,500 people attended the fair, which sells breads, pastries and handmade wood-fired pizzas, as well as books and equipment for bakers, baking tools and kitchen linens. More than 60 vendors have signed up for this year’s fair and there will also be live music and baking demonstrations.
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368