King Arthur Flour regards itself as not only being in the business of selling flour, but of educating bakers and creating community. How earnest is that?

About as earnest as a slice of homemade bread, which is among the specialties being taught when the company brings its popular free baking classes to the Twin Cities in two weeks.

New to its traveling baking shows are the classes on festive cookies and pies, with an eye toward encouraging people to think of baked goods as holiday gifts.

"But we're also doing yeast breads because so many people are afraid to bake with yeast," said Allison Furbish, who handles media relations for the Vermont-based company. "We introduce some of the science of yeast and once people understand, say, why salt isn't added until a particular moment to help your bread rise, they have more confidence."

Furbish said home-baking is having a renaissance due partly to the economy, but also to people's desire to slow down and reconnect with traditions. According to King Arthur's calculations, a loaf of basic white bread costs about $1.89 in ingredients. That doesn't count for your time, or for turning on your oven, Furbish said, "but baking bread is all about taking care of the people we love by nourishing them."

A noble inspiration

King Arthur Flour was founded in Boston in 1790 and for almost 100 years was known as Sands, Taylor & Wood Co. While developing a higher-quality flour, owner George Wood sought a new name for the company. He remembered a musical production about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and how Arthur upheld the ideals of strength, purity and honesty. And so King Arthur Flour was introduced at the Boston Food Fair in October 1896.

King Arthur uses only U.S.-grown wheat and has strict specifications for the protein content of its flour, which can vary by no more than .2 percent, Furbish said, adding that some industry brands vary by as much as 2 percent. Consistently high protein produces stronger gluten, which lends bread its shape and structure.

One of the company's newest educational initiatives is the Life Skills Bread Baking Program in which instructors visit middle schools and offer free instruction. Going home with a bag of flour, students are asked to bake two loaves over the weekend and bring one to school to be donated to a community program. "That way, they gain skills, but also experience what it feels like to give back," Furbish said.

The baking classes are free and public, with no reservations taken, although Furbish said they generally can handle about 300 people at each session. For more information, go to

Kim Ode • 612-673-7185