Slicing the Loaf:  Bill Gates limns the art and science of Modern Breads

Slicing the Loaf: Bill Gates limns the art and science of Modern Breads

by Shubhangi Jena August 3 2017, 2:18 pm Estimated Reading Time: 2 mins, 40 secs

From ‘The starry night’ cappuccinos and galaxy doughnuts to the Atkins diet or The Zone diet, we have come a long way in our journey for ‘food’ (remember how our ancestors started off with raw tube roots)?  But what factor exactly is souping up the austere dishes into gourmet meals?  One would say mere creativity peppered with miraculous serendipity is what brings in exotic new dishes. But imagine a full-fledged laboratory of researchers committed to dishing out baked unsweetened confections. Bill Gates blog post ‘The Bread Lab in My Backyard’ throws light on one such proving ground near his home town, that is clearly emerging as the ‘best thing since sliced bread’.

In his blog post, The Bread Lab in My Backyard, Bill Gates expresses how amused he has been to see a lab of its kind: a full working kitchen. The Bread Lab, a Washington State University initiative, is a baking kitchen that conducts research on lines of whole grains. Selecting for flavor, nutrition, and distinctive characteristics, samples of the most promising varieties are brought into the Bread Lab for analysis to determine the product that best utilizes and manifests their unique characteristics. Bill Gates writes about how the aroma lured him the moment he stepped on the threshold of this kitchen. He also describes how the interior appeared utterly impressive with the canisters of flour from different types of wheat lining the walls or seeing the bakers pull out warm rolls out of the ovens. The lab also stations a farinograph- an instrument which measures the quantity of proteins in the flour or rather the strength of dough.

But looks like Gates was a bit skeptical about the taste of their baked loaves of breads. He writes, “Although eating whole-grain bread might make me feel virtuous, in my experience it just never seems to taste as good as white bread.” To his surprise, the bread, the croissants were too good! Bread Labs also applies their expertise to the problem of malnutrition in poorer countries. Gates reflects, “I met a Pakistani Ph.D. student, Farah Ahmad, who’s looking at ways to make chapattis, cookies, and other foods from her home country using approaches developed by the Bread Lab.”

Further Gates has also embedded a short film of his tour to the lab on his blog Gates Notes. The short film takes a tour of the laboratory, sneaks-a-peek into the various procedures and highlights the vision which the team holds. Dr. Stephen Jones, Plant Breeder at the WSU Bread Lab says, “The idea is to bring everybody together. We have the farmers, the students, the scientists. We also bring in the bakers, chefs; folks throughout that chain come in together and form each other.”

The video concludes with wheat fields swaying under the glinting sun and Gates sharing how he learned many new varieties of grains and the efforts that the team puts forth in innovating newer kinds of breads. All in all, Gates marks the experience at this bread lab in his backyard as an enlightening one!

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