Each year about this time, the wind in Asheville carries with it the funk of yeast, the tang of sourdough culture and the warm aroma of freshly baked bread. Yes, it’s true: The Asheville Artisan Bread Bakers’ Festival is back, and you’re invited to get a piece. The fourth-annual event begins next Saturday, March 29, at 10 a.m. with a bread tasting at Greenlife Grocery in downtown Asheville. More than 15 regional artisan bakers will be on hand to dispense samples and sell the fruit of their ovens at the affair.

Bring on the baguettes: Jesse Bardyn of City Bakery in Asheville tends the oven. The bakery will be one of several local businesses represented at the Asheville Artisan Bread Bakers’ Festival. Photo By Jonathan Welch

Saturday afternoon brings bread workshops, lectures and demonstrations, held at the Greenlife teaching kitchen and at field locations around the Asheville area. On hand will be Peter Reinhart, instructor at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte and author of Brother Juniper’s Bread Book (Running Press, 2005) and The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (Ten Speed Press, 2001). Reinhart will teach from his new book, Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques and Extraordinary Flavor (Ten Speed Press, 2007), during two workshops on Saturday afternoon.

Jeffery Alexander of the Culinary Institute of Charleston will return to the festival with a class titled “Five-star Quick Breads,” held at City Bakery on Biltmore Avenue. Pierre Lestieux, owner of Paris Bakery in Asheville, will teach a workshop called “Classic French Breads” in conjunction with the Swannanoa School of Culinary Arts, at his Merrimon Avenue business.

And for those for whom bread making is an act of commitment, Natural Bridge Bakery owner Jen Lapidus will give a four-hour, hands-on class about brick-oven baking and natural starters at her bakery in Walnut.

Sponsors of the festival this year include the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), Greenlife Grocery, Slow Food Asheville and the Bread Bakers Guild of America.

The event is free and open to the public. Space at the afternoon workshops, however, is limited to guests who have bought a loaf of bread at the morning tasting. For more information, contact Steve Bardwell or Gail Lunsford at 683-2902. Or visit the Asheville Artisan Bread Bakers’ Festival Web site (www.asapconnections.org/bread2008.htm).


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