Tastes might be chang­ing, but baked fresh, us­ing healthy, in­no­va­tive, top qual­ity in­gre­di­ents, this cen­turies-old sta­ple still has a bright fu­ture

Hospitality News Middle East - - FRONT PAGE -

Browse through most health and fit­ness ad­vice and chances are you’ll find bread listed in the cat­e­gory of foods to cut down on or con­sume with cau­tion, grouped in the carb-heavy bracket with fel­low of­fend­ers, rice and pasta.

Yet re­search sug­gests that bread in some forms is en­joy­ing a new lease of life, buoyed by de­mand from to­day’s ad­ven­tur­ous con­sumers who are keen to ex­per­i­ment and en­joy more un­usual ver­sions of this cen­turiesold sta­ple. In fact, cre­ative, health­ier del­i­ca­cies, such as multi­grain sour­dough and rye bread, for ex­am­ple, are fly­ing off the shelves, es­pe­cially those of smaller, ar­ti­san bak­eries.

So what’s re­ally go­ing on in the bread mar­ket?

Are we turn­ing away from this food­stuff, so long a part and par­cel of our daily diet, or em­brac­ing it? It would seem the an­swer is yes on both ac­counts, ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try ex­perts. Con­sumers, it would ap­pear, have lost their ap­petite for overly pro­cessed bread, but are in­creas­ingly grav­i­tat­ing to­ward fresh, good qual­ity, tasty, health­ier op­tions.

In­spired by global travel, TV food pro­grams, so­cial me­dia and the fit­ness/well­be­ing drive, they are look­ing for bread that’s cleanly/ clearly la­beled, cre­ative and made with first­class, nat­u­ral, or­ganic in­gre­di­ents, re­search sug­gests. As Phyl­lis En­loe, vice-chair of the Board of Di­rec­tors, Bread Bak­ers Guild of Amer­ica, put it, “Con­sumers may not know why some bread taste bet­ter, but they rec­og­nize it when it does.”

Ac­cord­ing to Euromon­i­tor In­ter­na­tional’s Coun­try Re­port, ti­tled Baked Goods in the USA and pub­lished in De­cem­ber 2017, “In­creas­ingly health-con­scious US con­sumers have demon­stra­bly moved away from high­lypro­cessed prod­ucts con­tain­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­gre­di­ents and fla­vors in re­cent years in fa­vor of food per­ceived to be more nat­u­ral due to shorter in­gre­di­ent lists and less reliance on preser­va­tion meth­ods.”

The push to cre­ate, fresh, free-from prod­ucts

is cer­tainly gain­ing mo­men­tum among bak­ers as the in­dus­try moves to meet de­mand for prod­ucts whose in­gre­di­ents can be traced across the en­tire sup­ply chain and are made with min­i­mal pro­cess­ing.

Nu­tri­tional and fla­vor ad­van­tages to eat­ing healthy

Joanna Chang, US chef, owner of the Flour Bak­ery + Cafe, and James Beard Foun­da­tion Award win­ner for Out­stand­ing Baker in 2016, be­lieves that cur­rent trends, driven for­ward by a more savvy and dis­cern­ing mar­ket, sig­nal good news for ar­ti­san bak­ers. “I think peo­ple are much more aware and in­formed of their choices in what to put in their bod­ies,” she told HN. “We in­tro­duced a whole­grain cam­paign this year and the re­sponse has been tremen­dous. Peo­ple are re­al­iz­ing the nu­tri­tional and fla­vor ad­van­tages of eat­ing items made with whole­grains. We’re cap­i­tal­iz­ing on this by con­tin­u­ing to add more whole­grains to our foods and breads and pas­tries.”

An­cient grains are prov­ing es­pe­cially pop­u­lar, and were a key talk­ing point at Wheat­stalk, the ma­jor US ar­ti­san bak­ing event held re­cently, with spelt, sours, rye and ka­mut, along with oth­ers, play­ing a key part in bring­ing new fla­vors and tex­tures to both sta­ples and nov­el­ties.

“True an­cient grains and spe­cialty grains are hot,” En­loe told HN. “Th­ese in­clude einkorn, em­mer, kho­rasan, bar­ley, spelt, buck­wheat and more.”

Chang agreed that grains such as teff, ama­ranth and kho­rasan were not only be­com­ing as com­mon as wheat and rye, but looked likely to hold their own go­ing for­ward. “We're con­tin­u­ing to see all of th­ese es­o­teric grains be­com­ing more main­stream,” she said. “I think whole­grains are here to stay! The fla­vor and nu­tri­tional ben­e­fits are hard to deny.”

While whole­grains might be in, other el­e­ments, such as gluten, are out for a grow­ing num­ber of food­ies.

No gluten and a surge in flat­bread

In its over­view for a sep­a­rate re­port, pub­lished in Jan­uary 2018 and ti­tled Baked Goods in West­ern Europe, Euromon­i­tor In­ter­na­tional high­lighted this trend, not­ing, “Many con­sumers are opt­ing to pur­chase gluten-free baked breads and cakes, and are also de­creas­ing their con­sump­tion of stan­dard bread.”

Nicolas Tsikis, cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tive chef at Alto-shaam, renowned man­u­fac­tur­ers of cook and hold ovens and hot-hold­ing so­lu­tions, be­lieves the trend is part of a broader re­turn to heartier, tra­di­tional bak­ing. “We’re get­ting away from the mod­ern ap­proach of lots of yeast and air and re­turn­ing to plain, some­times heav­ier bak­ing, us­ing top qual­ity, nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents. Gluten is among the items that cus­tomers don’t want,” he said.

Per­haps be­cause of the shift away from gluten and move to­wards plain bak­ing, un­leav­ened and other eth­nic flat­breads, such as roti, cha­p­ati, pita and tan­nour, the tra­di­tional Le­banese bread, are all en­joy­ing a surge in pop­u­lar­ity out­side of their mar­kets of ori­gin.

Greg Ner­ces­sian, mar­ket­ing man­ager at Saltek, a lead­ing Le­banese man­u­fac­turer in the pro­duc­tion of pita bread and flat­bread ovens, points out that tan­nour bread is not only gluten free, but is also made with­out sugar, an­other bonus for the health con­scious.

In fact, flat­breads have be­come so pop­u­lar that even pack­aged va­ri­eties are sell­ing well in west­ern Europe, ac­cord­ing to Euromon­i­tor’s find­ings. “Bread types such as pitta, naan, tor­tilla and rote have in­creased their pres­ence in su­per­mar­kets, and con­sumers are now ex­posed to a wider range of prod­ucts,” it noted in its Jan­uary re­port.

Cook­ing smart

Pro­duc­ing top qual­ity bread time af­ter time comes down to both the baker and the equip­ment, as top ar­ti­sans ac­knowl­edge.

Tsikis agrees that while there is plenty of equip­ment around now, bak­ers still need to be ex­cep­tional at what they do.

“To­day’s ovens cook more evenly and give the ex­act in­jec­tion of wa­ter re­quired to help bak­ers get that ex­tra crispi­ness they’re af­ter, while other equip­ment, like mod­ern mix­ers make it eas­ier to work at the ex­act right speed,” he said. “The ma­chines are cut­ting down on the work, mak­ing life eas­ier and en­abling bak­ers, some of whom are still fol­low­ing the old style of bak­ing, to cook smart.”

En­loe be­lieves that over the years, en­gi­neers have learned how to de­sign equip­ment geared to­ward bet­ter meet­ing the needs of the ar­ti­san baker, whose loaves tend to be softer, stick­ier and more fer­mented. “This equip­ment pre­serves the in­tegrity of the loaf in a way that older tech­nol­ogy does not,” she said, but added, “It is still im­por­tant for the baker to make con­sis­tent dough that gets sent to the ma­chines ev­ery day in or­der to get con­sis­tent re­sults.”

Ner­ces­sian agrees that con­sis­tency is cru­cial, es­pe­cially for pro­fes­sion­als work­ing on a large scale. “Bak­ers mak­ing tan­nour bread re­quire con­sis­tency and qual­ity through­out the en­tire process, from the cut­ting stage, which en­sures the ex­act thick­ness of the dough, to the cook­ing process; the en­tire process is in­ter­re­lated,” he told HN. “Our ovens al­ways give the same re­sults, that’s our line’s guar­an­tee. Users also have the re­as­sur­ance that the ovens com­ply fully with Euro­pean Com­mu­nity safety and hy­giene stan­dards.”

Chang is per­haps the typ­i­cal ar­ti­san baker, us­ing a still deck oven for some of her ar­ti­san loaves, and ro­tat­ing rack ovens and a combi for her bread. “The combi oven is new to us,” she ex­plained. “It al­lows us to reg­u­late steam and tem­per­a­ture in a very con­trolled en­vi­ron­ment that helps with our cia­batta which can be fickle.”

Nicolas Tsikis Joanna Chang Greg Ner­ces­sian

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