How long does it take to harvest wheat and bake a loaf of bread? For producer Neil Unger, only 16 minutes and 30 seconds — field to loaf.
Unger, from Queensland, Australia, had read about the previous record of 18 minutes and 11 seconds set 14 years ago in England, and decided to take a shot at breaking it and raising money for charity at the same time.
Unger and his team would need to cut wheat; mill wheat; mix dough; add baking ingredients; and bake it — all in less than 18 minutes.
"It took about 20 seconds to get the grain harvested. It took us about another 20 seconds to get grain through the mill and then about another 20 seconds to sieve it. I believe the mixing, it wouldn't have taken that long either. Let's say three or four minutes. Everything got shot into the oven," Unger told PM.
All the equipment had to be portable and there was plenty of room for error.
“The afternoon before was our practice run and we didn’t even have the headers there. We just grabbed a bucket of wheat out of the silo and thought it was impossible when we went to bed that night. But it’s amazing what you can do when you have to. The next morning everything clicked and everything worked — we did it. At the end of the day, there was probably hundreds of people involved in the whole thing from start to finish,” Unger told ABC Radio.
On a hot Australian day in January of 2013, the Unger team ran a combine into a standing wheat field, filled a 5-gallon bucket with cut wheat and rushed it to a trailer for milling and mixing, which took over four minutes. Then baker Morton Staer pushed 13 loaves into a portable oven and less than 12 minutes later, the baker’s dozen was ready.
Unger and Staer shattered the previous record of 18 minutes, 11 seconds, set by an English farming team in 2012.
Unger relished his win over the English “poms” which raised approximately $10,000 for charity. “The edge obviously was first of all our climate. Don’t forget it was pushing over 40 degrees [104 F] that day where as the poor old poms, they’d have had fog and everything else. Obviously our temperature: The wheat itself was pushing 6 or 7 percent moisture whereas the poms would normally have had moisture content at 18-20 percent. It flew through the mill where they probably had to poke it through with a stick.
“The huge worry we had … if we’d have had a thunderstorm or rain the day before, it was all over. It’s one of those things that there was a hell of a lot of luck involved, like it didn’t rain from harvest to our attempt, which I’ve never seen before.”
Unger’s time is now official: After he submitted video and affidavits and waited months for a world record nod, Guinness declared Unger as the new record holder in October.
And where from here for Unger?
“The record we have is for the team event … I have found out there is a second record which is a singular event, whereas one person does everything. I’ve got to get the details on that.
See below for a video of Unger and his team setting the field to loaf record.
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