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Grain science a modern marvel

History Channel team films K-State millers, bakers, for show on bread


K-State faculty, staff and students recently rolled up their sleeves to help a crew filming a television series about the technology behind everyday objects.

The crew was on campus in February taping segments for an episode about bread for the History Channel show "Modern Marvels." The series tells the stories behind everyday items, technological breakthroughs and man-made wonders. The cable network describes the show as "celebrating ingenuity, invention and imagination brought to life on a grand scale."

This episode of "Modern Marvels" can be seen March 24 on the History Channel.

Joined by a sound and film crew from Kansas City, Bob Niemack, a producer with "Modern Marvels," came to K-State to interview faculty about making bread and the science behind it, from milling to baking.

The crew began at the Hal Ross Flour Mill with Kendall McFall, instructor of grain science and industry, to learn how grain is milled into flour. McFall's students arrived early to get the mill up and running to process hard red winter wheat to demonstrate the mill's capabilities. McFall explained to the crew how the flour travels in tubes throughout the mill's five floors. He also said that about 75 percent of what is inside a kernel of wheat goes into making white flour while the rest is used for feed or the bran in breakfast cereals and other products.

Crew members next took their cameras to Throckmorton Hall to talk with Rebecca Miller, who directs the wheat quality lab. Miller talked to them about the role gluten plays in the process and showed the crew the lab's testing equipment. This included the extensograph machine that shows how well dough responds to kneading and mixing, as well as the alveograph. This equipment shows how well the dough will retain the bubbles of carbon dioxide created by fermenting yeast.

Then the crew visited Dave Krishock, instructor of grain science and industry, in the baking lab at Shellenberger Hall to learn the steps professional bakers take to make a loaf of bread. He explained how professional processes differ from what home bakers do.

Film crew from "Modern Marvels"For instance, Krishock said that rather than relying on dry and liquid measures, professional bakers weigh their ingredients, from flour to water. He said this avoids the slight differences in measuring cups, which don't mean much to a home baker but can make a big difference in large-scale baking.

Jon Faubion, professor of grain science and industry, followed up by demonstrating more lab equipment like the texture analyzer, which evaluates the firmness of baked bread. Faubion also talked more about the science behind bread, including how ancient people discovered, purely by accident, the leavening abilities of yeast.

Students pitched in at the laboratories as well by helping faculty demonstrate the equipment and the testing processes.
Other K-Staters helped out behind the scenes. Steve Ballou, communications specialist with the department of communications, helped the crew get footage of campus as well as footage of grain being harvested.

Media relations staff helped facilitate the filming. Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, science/research news coordinator in media relations, made the initial contact with the Modern Marvels producers, and accompanied them during their campus visit.


Photo: Kendall McFall, instructor of grain science and industry, explains the milling process for a film crew from the "Modern Marvels" television show. The crew came to K-State in February to film segments for an episode on bread. Photo by Steve Ballou, department of communications.