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Why do we love the smell of bread? UCD scientists find the answer

September 11th, 2017
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The smell of freshly baked bread is used in supermarkets to encourage shoppers to spend more while a loaf in the oven of a house for sale is a trick beloved of estate agents, but the reason why bread triggers feelings of well-being has only now been explained by a team of Irish scientists.

The smell is almost universally loved and promotes a Pavlovian response in almost everyone because it prompts “odour-cued memories” at a subconscious level which catapult people back to very specific points in their childhoods, according to a piece of research by UCD food scientists published on Friday morning.

Through a combination of scientific analysis, an extensive poll and focus group-based research, Dr Amalia Scannell and researchers from UCD’s Institute of Food and Health zeroed in on what people love about bread’s distinctive aroma.

They were able to detect over 540 distinct volatile compounds in a typical loaf of bread with just under 20 contributing to its aroma.

The key aroma compounds create between eight and 12 notes which create the familiar smell of bread.

Some combinations are to be expected, particularly the ones that create milky, buttery and malty aromas but the researchers also identified more unexpected undercurrents including cooked spaghetti, flint, green olives, grapefruit and baked onions.

Brain anatomy

“Bread is such a powerful trigger largely due to brain anatomy,” Dr Scannell said.

“Incoming smells are first processed by the olfactory bulb, which starts inside the nose and runs along the bottom of the brain. The olfactory bulb has direct connections to the two brain areas that are strongly implicated in emotion and memory.”

Bread is a staple food which features heavily in childhood, which is “why it is one of those smells that evokes such strong memories, particularly of family, childhood and comfort,” she said.

A survey of 1,000 people, which accompanied the scientific analysis has been published to coincide with National Bread Week which begins next Monday.

All told 89 per cent of people said the smell of bread made them happy with 63 per cent saying it evoked happy memories.

Those taking part in the poll were asked for a word which they associated with those memories and 29 per cent identified the word “mum” or “mother” while one in five referenced the word “childhood”.

Staple in the Irish diet

A further 16 per cent conjured up the word “home”, the same percentage that thought of the word “grandparents”.

The survey also showed that in spite of the negative press it sometimes gets, bread remains a staple in the Irish diet with a third of Irish consumers eating it every day.

“As part of a healthy diet everyone should be eating bread and we are trying to dispel those myths that say bread is somehow bad for you which I can assure you it is not,” said Gerald Cunningham, the president of the Flour Confectioners and Bakers Association.

He said that over the last 12 months there had been something of a turnaround in the fortunes of bread and “there is now more positivity and more upbeat reports about the benefits of bread. It contains minerals, folic acid, fibre and is a great source of calcium and iron.”

Source: The Irisih Times

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World Bread Congress to be “baked” in Merida

August 26th, 2017
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In October, the 77th edition of the World Bread Congress will be “baked” in Merida (Mexico), an event that will bring together leaders of associations from the four continents, as well as bakers, suppliers and owners of those businesses around the world.

The national leadership of the National Chamber of the Bakery Industry (Canainpa) reported that in conjunction with the government of Yucatan and the International Bakery and Pastry Union, they are organizing this meeting that will be held for the second time in Mexico since 2004, when it was held in Acapulco, Guerrero.

The event to be held in October 2-7 aims to jointly address the strategies to face the new challenges in the international market and the globalized world, as well as exchange experiences, innovations and reflections on the challenges for this industry with a Long-range vision.

The Canainpa emphasized that bread is the most complete food product and that Mexico has a long tradition in this field, because it is the country that has the most variety in the world, since it has been able to adapt and adopt creations from other nations.

“78 percent of the industry in the Republic is artisanal and the sector represents the third force generating employment, more than 200 congressmen from 50 countries are expected to attend, including Sweden, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Switzerland, France, Taiwan , Italy, Argentina,” said the corporate body.

Source: sipse.com

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Why Isn’t Bread Alcoholic?

August 26th, 2017
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If beer and bread use almost the exact same ingredients (minus hops) why isn’t bread alcoholic? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Josh Velson, part data scientist, part chemical engineer, on Quora:

All yeast breads contain some amount of alcohol. Have you ever smelled a rising loaf of bread, or better yet smelled the air underneath dough that has been covered while rising? It smells really boozy. And that sweet smell that fresh baked bread has under the yeast and nutty Maillard reaction notes? Alcohol.

However, during the baking process, most of the alcohol in the dough evaporates into the atmosphere. This is basically the same thing that happens to much of the water in the dough as well. And it has long been known that bread contains residual alcohol, up to 1.9% of it. In the 1920s, the American Chemical Society even had a set of experimenters report on it: The Alcohol Content of Bread.

Anecdotally, I’ve also accidentally made really boozy bread by letting a white bread dough rise for too long. The end result was that not enough of the alcohol boiled off, and the darned thing tasted like alcohol. You can also taste alcohol in the doughy bits of under-baked white bread, which I categorically do not recommend you try making.

Putting on my industrial biochemistry hat here, many of the answers here claim that alcohol is only the product of a “starvation process” on yeast once they run out of oxygen. That’s wrong.

The most common brewers and bread yeasts, of the Saccharomyces genus (and some of the Brettanomyces genus, also used to produce beer), will produce alcohol in both a beer wort and in bread dough immediately regardless of aeration. This is actually a surprising result, as it runs counter to what is most efficient for the cell (and, incidentally, the simplistic version of yeast biology that is often taught to homebrewers). The expectation would be that the cell would perform aerobic respiration (full conversion of sugar and oxygen to carbon dioxide and water) until oxygen runs out, and only then revert to alcoholic fermentation, which runs without oxygen but produces less energy.

Instead, if a Saccharomyces yeast finds itself in a high sugar environment, regardless of the presence of air it will start producing ethanol, shunting sugar into the anaerobic respiration pathway while still running the aerobic process in parallel. This phenomenon is known as the Crabtree effect, and is speculated to be an adaptation to suppress competing organisms in the high-sugar environment because ethanol has antiseptic properties that yeasts are tolerant to but competitors are not. It’s a quirk of Saccharomyces biology that you basically only learn about if you spent a long time doing way too much yeast cell culture… like me.

Source: Forbes

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Inside the Grain Revolution and the Future of Bread

June 17th, 2017
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While it may sound old-fashioned, home milling could have the potential to redefine one of the world’s oldest processed foods—bread. The grain revolution is sparking the revival and innovation of traditional and new local wheat varieties, home milling tools, and unique recipes that are creating healthier alternatives to today’s highly processed grain and other flour products.

Grains have been a staple in diets throughout history. A nutritious source of fiber, vitamin B, omega-3, and vitamins and minerals, whole grains are comprised of three component parts: the bran, germ, and endosperm. When processed, these components are broken up and combined, creating flour that is turned into pasta, bread, pastries, crackers, and countless other foods.

Historically, processing grains involved milling by stone, allowing the nutrients in the grain’s component parts to be released and combined into a rich flour. But the introduction of the roller mill in the late 1800s transformed milling by breaking up and further refining the grain to remove its bran and germ components. While this allowed flour to be stored and transported without spoiling, it came with some unintended consequences.

To “deliver long-lasting products, large mills disrupt the natural balance of a grain’s composition,” says Paul Lebeau, Managing Director of the miller and grain mill manufacturer Wolfgang Mock. “They remove certain nutritionally key and truly tasty parts [of the grain], denature other parts, and re-compose what is left into something they label as 100-percent whole grain.”

As a result, these so-called whole-grain products lack a complete composition of whole grains. “About four-fifths of the grain’s beneficial fiber, minerals, and other micronutrients are missing from refined white flour,” notes Wolfgang Mock on its website.

“The fact that the products are truly adulterated is hidden by questionable marketing practices and protective regulatory conventions,” says Lebeau. “The biggest resulting problem, as we see it, is that the consumer is left uninformed about the food she or he is eating, and uninformed about the opportunity she or he has to get the most out of grains.”

Efforts are underway, however, to educate and reintroduce consumers, grain producers, and local economies to the concept of whole grains. Agriculturists, scholars, millers, chefs, and bakers alike are combining science and technology with nature’s natural processes, in the field and in the kitchen, to revive whole grains in the bread and baking industry.

Small-scale grain producers and flour millers are at work, growing diverse wheat varieties and processing the grains using more traditional milling styles to create rich and flavorful flours that are shaking up the bread and baking business. Among them is Dr. Stephen Jones, a wheat breeder and the Director of The Bread Lab at Washington State University, who is experimenting with different wheat strains localized to different regions in an effort to make wheat a regional product again.

According to Jones, “today [there are] three basic millers that control at least 80 percent of [flour] production” in the United States. In the late 19th century, about 23,000 regional flour mills existed across the U.S., tying locally produced grains to local bakers and consumers.

Inspired by the great flavor potential, nutritional quality, and community impact of locally produced grains, numerous chefs are also getting behind uber local milling, incorporating wholesome grains into their menus and products. Committed to bringing local and sustainable food to the table, Dan Barber of New York’s Blue Hill restaurants developed, in collaboration with Jones and The Bread Lab, his very own wheat strain, “Barber Wheat.” He and Jones bred the strain to prioritize its flavor and offer Blue Hill’s guests a deliciously unique and educational tasting experience. In addition to being used for Blue Hill at Stone Barns’ breads, Barber is also growing his wheat on the property’s fields in Pocantico Hills, New York.

To further educate, collaborate, and expand the whole grain movement, Johnson & Wales University (JWU) recently hosted an inaugural International Bread Symposium, On the Rise: The Future of Bread in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Symposium allowed scholars, millers, bakers, authors, farmers, and other bread enthusiasts from around the world to come together to talk bread. Curated by bread master and JWU faculty member Peter Reinhart, the Symposium featured a lineup of numerous noteworthy figures in the bread world, including Chad Robertson, co-founder of Tartine Bakery; Glen Roberts, founder of Ansen Mills; Wolfgang Mock, inventor of the MockMill; and Francisco Migoya, head chef at The Cooking Lab and a co-author of Modernist Bread.

View highlights from the Symposium and the recorded sessions here.

Source:  foodtank.com

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Before there were chocolate eggs, there was Easter bread

April 15th, 2017
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But on Easter, none of those year-round favorites can compete with Easter bread. Glossy with egg and sparkly with sprinkles, possibly even harboring a few dyed eggs, it says spring is here in no uncertain terms. Also, if one is of a religious persuasion, it says, “He is risen! He is risen, indeed!”

Chocolate eggs are a fairly recent development in Easter treats, having come about in the 19th century. By comparison, Easter breads, dating back to the Middle Ages, are positively ancient.

Back in those days when the Lenten fast was taken seriously, 40 days without animal products would have been endured by the time Easter finally rolled around. And if a strict interpretation of animal products included eggs, and perhaps butter and milk, bread made from a rich, eggy dough would have been very enticing indeed. And made a sight for sore eyes in a bakery window, if there had been bakeries. Centuries later, when Lent is not enforced by law and is not such an ordeal for most folks, it takes more than some eggs and a little butter to get people jazzed about the end of Lent. Sprinkles serve that purpose nowadays. It takes a pretty jaded person not to be enchanted by bread with sprinkles.

The food of Italy varies greatly from one end of the boot to the other, and Easter bread is no exception. It’s a yeast bread, usually lightly sweet, made with a rich, eggy, dough, but the similarities end there.

It’s often, but not always, braided, with the three strands of the braid representing the Holy Trinity. The loaf can be formed into a wreath shape to symbolize the crown of thorns worn by Christ. Or the bread can be in the form of a dove or a cross.

The bread is usually flavored with anise and there might be bits of dried fruit or raisins inside.

There may be dyed eggs nestled in the bread, sometimes dyed before baking and sometimes dyed after. The eggs seem to be the great divider. For some folks, it’s just not Easter bread unless it’s a braided crown of bread, chock full of multi-colored eggs that more closely resembles a bird’s nest filled to capacity than a crucifixion accessory. And then other’s think the eggs are just plain weird. Weird or not, they do make for a more complete breakfast.

But one aspect of Easter bread that most everyone agrees on is sprinkles. For some inexplicable reason that defies Biblical explanation, Easter bread must be adorned with multi-colored pastel sprinkles. And it does make for a festive bakery window or brunch table.

In a place like Mount Airy where Italian bakeries are scarce as hen’s teeth, if you want Easter bread, you’re going to have to bake it yourself. Thankfully, it’s not very difficult. It takes a little while but that’s because the yeast needs time to work its magic. But braiding ropes of dough and shaping into a crown is a lot easier than one would think.

Almost all of the recipes are slightly sweet and yield a bread more suited to breakfast or a snack. In fact, some of the recipes could be adapted for cinnamon rolls or other sweet rolls throughout the year. The addition of sprinkles, generally held in place by an icing glaze, ups the sweetness factor to the point that Easter bread is probably too sweet to accompany a meal.

But then again, in a place where the beverage of choice is tea so sweet it hurts your teeth, who’s to say room can’t be made at the dinner table for a loaf of bread that boasts sprinkles and icing.

A loaf of Anise-Flavored Italian Easter Bread complete with icing and sprinkles is perfect for an Easter brunch

A loaf of Anise-Flavored Italian Easter Bread complete with icing and sprinkles is perfect for an Easter brunch

Recipes

Italian Easter Bread (Anise Flavored)

Easter bread is typically flavored with anise. If anise is not your thing and you’re not overly concerned with tradition, use lemon extract instead. You can make a nod toward tradition by throwing a few anise seeds into the hot milk.

3 cups all-purpose flour, divided

1/4 cup white sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 (.25 ounce) package rapid rise yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp.)

2/3 cup milk

1 tsp. anise extract

2 tbsp. butter, at room temperature

2 eggs

1 egg, beaten

Mix 1 cup of flour with sugar, salt, and yeast in a bowl, stir well. Place milk and anise extract into a small saucepan over low heat, and warm to about 110° F. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture with your hand, and pour in the milk mixture; swirl with your hand in a circular motion to combine the flour mixture with the milk mixture. Mix in butter and eggs, one at a time, then mix in remaining flour until dough begins to pull together.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface, and knead until soft but elastic, about 8 minutes. Cover with a damp cloth, and let dough rest for 10 minutes; cut dough into halves. (If you want to make a braid, cut into three equal pieces.)

On floured work surface, roll each piece into a ball, then shape the balls into long pieces, about 1 1/2 inches thick and 18 to 20 inches long. Coil or braid the pieces. if making a loaf, pinch the top and bottom ends together and tuck underneath. To form a ring or crown, bring the ends together and join the pieces of one end to the other.

Grease a baking sheet, lay the loaf onto the prepared sheet, and cover with a damp towel; let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Brush loaf with beaten egg.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake the decorated loaf in the preheated oven until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Watch closely towards the end of the baking time that the bread does not begin to burn. Transfer to wire rack immediately after baking to cool. Drizzle icing over bread and shake sprinkles on top before icing sets.

Basic Lemon Icing

For some folks, pink is the traditional color for Easter bread icing. If that sounds good to you, add a drop of food coloring.

1 cup sifted powdered sugar

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

2 tsp. grated lemon zest

1 tbsp. milk (if needed)

1 small drop food coloring (optional)

Combine all ingredients. Stir until smooth. Glaze loaves on a cooling rack with a sheet pan or foil underneath to catch the drips.

Braided Easter Bread

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast

1/2 tsp. white sugar

1/4 cup warm water (100°F.)

3/4 cup white sugar

4 eggs

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 1/2 tbsp. anise extract

1 tbsp. lemon zest

1 1/2 tsp. lemon extract

1 1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. anise seed

6 tbsp. melted butter

1/4 cup milk

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided

Dissolve yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar in warm water in a large bowl. Let stand until the yeast softens and begins to form a creamy foam, about 10 minutes. Whisk 3/4 cup sugar, eggs, oil, anise extract, lemon zest, lemon extract, salt, and anise seed together in a bowl. Pour egg mixture, melted butter, and milk into yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add 4 cups flour, 1 cup at time, stirring after each addition. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, adding remaining 1/2 cup flour as necessary, 5 to 6 minutes. Coat a large bowl with oil. Place dough in bowl and turn to coat. Place a damp cloth over the bowl, place bowl in the oven with the oven light on, and let rise until doubled in size, 12 hours or overnight. Line 2 baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Punch dough down and divide into four equal portions. Divide each portion into three ropes. Braid each set of three dough ropes to form four small braided loaves. Transfer loaves to prepared baking sheets, 2 per sheet, and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake bread in the preheated oven until the tops are golden and the bottom of the loaves sound hollow when tapped, 20 to 25 minutes.

Easy Roman Cheese Bread

This Easter bread recipe hails from Rome and is a bit different. It contains cheese instead of sugar and is usually eaten with ham and salami. It’s a very easy recipe.

1 cup lukewarm milk

2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

6 eggs

1 1/2 cups grated Romano cheese

1/4 cup butter, melted

In a small bowl, stir together milk and yeast; set aside. In a separate bowl, combine flour, eggs, yeast mixture, cheese and butter; mix well. Spoon batter into two lightly greased 9×5 inch loaf pans. Let rise until doubled, about 60 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes, until golden brown and bottom of loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

Easter Bread Ring (with colored eggs)

5 eggs

1/4 cup white sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp.)

3 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup milk

2 tbsp. butter

2 eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup mixed candied fruit

1/3 cup chopped blanched almonds

1/2 teaspoon anise seed

2 tbsp. melted shortening

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 tbsp. whole milk

1/8 tsp. vanilla extract

3 tbsp. multicolored sprinkles

Color the 5 eggs with egg dye. In a large mixing bowl, blend the white sugar, salt, and yeast well with 1 cup of the flour. In a saucepan, combine 2/3 cup milk and butter, heating slowly until liquid is warm and butter is melted. Pour the milk into the dry ingredients and beat 125 strokes with a wooden spoon. Add eggs and 1/2 cup flour or enough to make a thick batter. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes. Stir in enough flour to make a ball of dough that draws away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a floured board and knead for about 10 minutes, working in additional flour to overcome stickiness. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and put in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, combine the fruit, nuts, and anise seed. Punch down the dough and return it to a lightly floured board. Knead in the fruit mixture, keeping the syrupy pieces dusted with flour until they are worked into the dough. Divide the dough in half. Carefully roll each piece into a 24-inch rope—the fruit and nuts will make this slightly difficult. Loosely twist the two ropes together and form a ring on a greased baking sheet. Pinch the ends together well. Brush the dough with melted shortening. Push aside the twist to make a place for each egg. Push eggs down carefully as far as possible. Cover the bread with wax paper and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Bake the bread in a preheated 350 degree°F. oven for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in a twist comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool. Once the bread is cool, drizzle the icing on top between the eggs, and decorate with colored sprinkles. To make icing: mix together confectioners’ sugar, 1 tablespoon whole milk, and vanilla.

Source & Image:  mtairynews.com

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New research highlights environmental impact of… bread

March 11th, 2017
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A new study from researchers at the University of Sheffield has analysed the environmental impact of a loaf of bread.

With an estimated 12 million loaves sold in the U.K. daily, bread is an integral part of many Britons’ diets.

The study, published in the journal Nature Plants, sought to analyse the whole process of a loaf’s production, from growing and harvesting the wheat to milling the grain; producing the flour; baking the bread; and making the final product.

The study showed that the use of ammonium nitrate fertilizer in wheat cultivation contributed 43 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. This, the university said on Monday, dwarfed “all other processes in the supply chain.”

“We found in every loaf there is embodied global warming resulting from the fertilizer applied to farmers’ fields to increase their wheat harvest,” Liam Goucher, the N8 Agrifood Research Fellow who carried out the study, said in a news release.

“This arises from the large amount of energy needed to make the fertilizer and from nitrous oxide gas released when it is degraded in the soil.”

It is not just the production of a loaf of bread that has an impact.

In 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said that total emissions from global livestock represented 14.5 percent of “all anthropogenic” greenhouse gas emissions. Cattle alone represented roughly 65 percent of emissions from the livestock sector, the FAO stated.

Back in Sheffield, the scale of the challenge relating to the production of staples was being taking seriously.

“Our findings bring into focus a key part of the food security challenge – resolving the major conflicts embedded in the agri-food system, whose primary purpose is to make money not to provide sustainable global food security,” Peter Horton, chief research advisor to the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures at the University of Sheffield, said.

“High agricultural productivity – necessary for profit for farmers, agri-businesses and food retailers, whilst also keeping prices low for consumers – currently requires high levels of application of relatively cheap fertilisers,” Horton, who was a corresponding author of the paper, added.

Horton went on to state that with more than 100 million tonnes of fertilizer being used every year to support agricultural production, a massive problem existed, with the environmental impact not costed within the system.

Solutions to possibly lessen the impact included better agronomic practices.

“These harness the best of organic farming combined with new technologies to better monitor the nutritional status of soils and plants and to recycle waste and with the promise of new wheat varieties able to utilize soil nitrogen more efficiently,” Duncan Cameron, a co-author of the paper, said.

Source:  cnbc.com

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EU Bread Brands: Healthy Ranges and Engaging Consumer Dialogue

January 21st, 2017
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It is an exciting and dynamic time for bakery in the EU. Every country on the continent has a long tradition of baking and, although the market is highly saturated, the door is always open to new and innovative products and approaches.

Living is fast and saving time is probably the most important “ingredient” for the majority of buyers after taste. The need for tasty products with long-lasting freshness, coupled with a growing awareness about healthy living and eating, has prompted manufacturers to find ways to satisfy their consumers’ desires. The three biggest bakery markets in the EU are Germany, France and Italy. Important brands from other countries in the EU are also included here, to illustrate diversity and shared trends.

Germany is the largest market in the EU and dominates when it comes to launching new specialty products. Mestemacher is a leading manufacturer of long-lasting pre-packaged German-style wholemeal bread and pumpernickel.

For the Gourmet Pumpernickel sliced bread for canapes, the brand has introduced innovative tube packaging. All bakery markets in recent years have one thing in common: the impressive demand for gluten-free products. The leader in this niche is the German manufacturer Schaer.

In France, boulangeries and artisan unpackaged bread are still the first choice for many consumers. Others are indulging in pre-packaged softness, offered by two of the largest domestic manufacturers, Harry’s and Jacquet. The first is known for introducing the first “American-style” white soft sliced bread to the French market. While this type of bread is still popular, the demand for healthier options prompted Harry’s to launch products suitable for the new type of consumer. The company decided to extend its portfolio with Si Bon! Sans Gluten, made with rice flour. They also launched Le Moment Burger range, following consumers’ new-found love for rich, artisan or homemade burgers.

Jacquet is a Limagrain Group brand offering pre-packaged bakery products. While Harry’s was inspired by American bread, Jacquet found role models much closer to home, in the UK.

The strong bakery industry in Italy includes three large bakeries, which have outgrown the domestic market and expanded into other markets within the EU. While Germany dominates with specialty breads, made to fulfill functional needs, Italy supports consumers who wish to indulge in soft and tasty baked goods, without worrying about the sugar and salt content.

Source: World Bakers

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The Golden Secret to Better Challah

December 24th, 2016
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Challah bread is delicious fresh out of the oven, but it gets even better with the addition of orange juice and olive oil

Over the last decade, bakers have been experimenting with olive oil in all kinds of nontraditional ways, and I’ve been right there with them. I’ve added it to cakes, swirled it into lemon bars, even baked it into zucchini bread — all to the good.

One of my favorite discoveries has been making olive oil challah.

Olive oil adds a rich, earthy intensity that really brings character to the loaf, making it a lot more complex without obscuring the eggy sweetness that makes challah so delectable. Using olive oil also makes challah particularly appropriate for Hanukkah, which celebrates an oleaginous miracle.

Or course, it helps that I had an excellent challah recipe to begin with.

It’s from Myrna Aronson of Providence, R.I., my friend Robin’s mother, who passed the recipe on to Robin, who made it for my family one Rosh Hashana so many years ago, when I promptly stole it.

I didn’t change Myrna’s egg-to-oil-to-flour ratio, which was, to my mind, perfect. Nor did I mess with her use of orange juice in the dough, which gives the bread a citrus brightness. All I did was substitute olive oil for canola, and add a touch of the grated orange zest as well, to accentuate that citrus flavor.

Now, it’s my go-to loaf for any meal that demands a freshly baked challah as part of the menu. In our house, this comes up more than you would think, and not just around the Jewish holidays.

Challah is also outstanding for brunch — either toasted, buttered and topped with herbed scrambled eggs, or made into the best French toast imaginable. For special occasions or the most indulgent of Sundays, I like to use it in a baked French toast casserole studded with pears and topped with a brown sugar-oat crumble. It’s also our preferred loaf for grilled cheese, where its slight sweetness makes a nice contrast to the extra-sharp aged Cheddar melting voluptuously inside.

As far as homemade breads go, challah is extremely straightforward; the baker doesn’t have to worry about any of the protracted fermentation times, heirloom starters or hydration levels of more artisan-style loaves. You can make it from start to finish in an afternoon, with a package of supermarket yeast.

The key is giving the dough a nice warm spot where it can rise, and then leaving it until it has truly doubled in bulk. Anything less than doubling will give you a damp-centered rather than fluffy challah after baking. This is because of the richness of the dough. All those egg yolks and the oil will weigh it down if it doesn’t have a chance to rise properly.

Myrna’s original recipe calls for all-purpose flour, and you can substitute that here. But I find bread flour gives the challah a nice chew without making it tough, and also helps the braided loaf maintain its shape after baking.

For some novice challah makers, that braid can seem like the hardest part. But even if you aren’t yet ready to tackle a six-stranded round challah, a simple three-stranded braid will still give you a burnished, shiny, classic-looking loaf. And it will taste about a million times better than any fancy challah you can buy.

Source: nytimes.com

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How the best bread in Paris ended up in my freezer, and why it made me think about death

December 24th, 2016
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If not for a man politely declining a fatal helicopter ride, I might not have the world’s greatest bread in my freezer.

But he did. And so I do.

Life is often like that: random and tragic.

That’s why it’s critical to enjoy the good moments. And that’s what I plan to do. I’ll slice the bread and pop it into the toaster, smear it with butter and jam, pair it with coffee and be thankful.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The real story starts — like any good food story does — with a connoisseur. His name is Ihsan Gurdal, and he has quite a story. He’s a transplant from Turkey, the size of a volleyball player, and a man who wraps you up in his passion for food, and especially for his favorite bread, Pain Poilane.

Picture from wikipedia

Picture from wikipedia

It’s known as the “Bread of Paris.” Many journalists have sanctified it in long-form articles. Famed food writer David Lebovitz says he moved to Paris, in part, to be closer to the Poilane bakery.

All of this for a bread that, at first glance, is nothing fancy. It’s just a big, round, four-pound loaf of sourdough. It has minimal ingredients: flour, water, starter, salt. But Poilane has nearly a century of perfection behind it and a unique “terroir” for each of the ingredients. People talk about their first time with Poilane the way you might talk about your … first time.

“The crust. The taste. The texture,” says Gurdal. “Even the smell of that bread was stunning.”

Those who try it cannot go back. And that’s why Gurdal started over-nighting it from Paris, once a week, to his neighborhood grocery store in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“The bread is baked on Wednesday, packed hot, and put on an Air France flight,” says Gurdal. “It would arrive to [Boston] and it would get delivered to us Thursday morning. At least, that’s how we started it. We use FedEx now, I think, and you can now even get Poilane delivered to your front door.”

Gurdal doesn’t advertise the service. But he’s been doing it now for about a decade. His loyal clients are willing to pay an ever-changing amount in the vicinity of $10 a pound for the bread. Gurdal says those bread fanatics range from the very well off to those without a home.

“There’s this old man who panhandles in Harvard Square,” he says. “And he looks older than he probably is … but every Friday morning he will show up here on a bicycle, change his clothes, come into the store, and buys a quarter loaf.”

I tried to track this guy down, but he hasn’t showed up at Gurdal’s store recently. And the homeless men in Harvard Square didn’t know who he was, or where he went.

One customer I did track down was painter Jim Wright. I met him one morning at his studio. He’d just picked up his Poilane from Gurdal’s shop. Wright admitted the whole thing is a little ridiculous.

“There’s a little bit of, an awkwardness about buying a bread from Paris. It’s a little akward. But I enjoy it so much. And I tried so many other different breads and yet I keep coming back to Poilane. So until I find something locally that’s just as good or satisfying I’m going to keep up with it,” he says. “And you know, I also rationalize it in thinking, ‘Well, we also get vegetables from California and it’s just about as far.”

Wright first tried Poilane in the 1980s. And his weekly pick-up at Gurdal’s shop takes him back to that Paris bakery. Taste always does. Food has a way of transporting us. It keeps memories fresh. At the very least, it’s just something nice.

“It’s just a good way to start your morning,” says Wright.

Among the bread fiends I talked with, few are as committed to Poilane as the man who imports it, Gurdal.

He keeps a quarter-loaf in the freezer at his home, another in his vacation home, and yet another one at work.

He never wants to be without it. But Gurdal’s connection to Poilane goes far beyond flavor. Years ago, he was travelling through France with his wife. While in Paris, they met the owner of Poilane at the time, a man named Lionel Poilane, a celebrity of sorts in the baking-mad city.

“We hit it off,” he says. “They really liked us. And then the guy says, ‘Look, I have property in Normandy this weekend. I have a private helicopter. We’re going to fly there. Do you guys want to come with us?’ Fortunately and unfortunately we said. ‘No. We can’t, as tempting as it is.’ And then the next day they crashed.”

Lionel and his wife, Iréna, died in the crash. The news stunned the food world. This all happened back in 2002, but you can telltalking to Gurdal he’s still processing it.

There are only a couple times in life when a chance decision extends your shelf-life. And that might explain this whole overnight bread thing.

Gurdal doesn’t make much money off the loaves. So it feels more like a chance to pay it forward. You know, honor the kindness and warmth the Poilanes once extended to him, by making their incredible product available to his customers.

And to anyone else interested in bread. People like me. Gurdal wouldn’t let me leave without it. He fished some of his personal stash out of the basement refrigerator in his shop. He wouldn’t accept payment. He seemed offended that I even offered. He then gave me specific instructions for how to thaw, slice and toast it. And so that’s the long version of how the best bread in Paris ended up in my kitchen.

It was a gift.

And as I removed it from the toaster I remembered a quote about why the Poilane family likes making things with dough — it’s because they disappear.

“They don’t last. Like we won’t last.”

So you might as well enjoy it.

Source:  pri.org

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Bakery Franchise Announces “National Bread Challenge” in November

November 5th, 2016
Comments Off on Bakery Franchise Announces “National Bread Challenge” in November

great-harvest-logoThe average American scarfs down 53 pounds of bread per year, to the tune of more than $20 billion in annual revenue for the bread industry. The problem: It’s the wrong kind of bread.

To address the issue, Great Harvest Bread Co., which makes bread fresh-milled from whole grains every day at its more than 200 bakery franchises around the country, announced the National Bread Challenge. Timed to take place during November’s National Bread Month, consumers can bring in any processed store-bought bread they have at home and receive a free, hand-made loaf of any Great Harvest Bread.

  • The challenge will take place during store hours at participating Great Harvest Bread nationwide locations on November 10, 11 and 12, 2016. All unopened or opened store-bought bread loaves will be exchanged on those dates only for a loaf of fresh, hand-made Great Harvest Bread.
  • As usual, any bread not sold by Great Harvest within 24 hours will be donated to local food banks and charities, along with every unopened loaf of trade-in bread.
  • Consumers are encouraged to share their National Bread Challenge experiences on social media using #BreadSwap.

Since 1976, Great Harvest Bread bakeries make bread from scratch with whole grains shipped directly as wheat berry from select farms in Montana’s Golden Triangle. Every day flour is milled fresh from the wheat berry at each local Great Harvest bakery. Generally a five-hour process, the baking begins every day as early as 2:30 a.m. Every loaf is kneaded by hand, baked and served fresh to all guests who enter at all three dayparts – breakfast, lunch and dinner.

According to Great Harvest Bread Company CEO Mike Ferretti, while fresh milling wheat has become a recent trend in the bread industry, this has been an essential, non-negotiable Great Harvest Bread practice since its inception in 1976. The National Bread Challenge is a way for new customers to experience what the company stands for: Bread. The Way it Ought To Be™.

“The milling is what sets the bread apart from the processed food that Americans have grown accustomed to,” Ferretti said. “At Great Harvest, we not only mill flour from the wheat berry every day, but we use pure, simple ingredients. Our signature bread – Honey Whole Wheat – is made from just five high-quality ingredients: fresh-ground whole wheat flour, water, yeast, salt and honey – no nitrates or preservatives. So our fresh, hand-made bread not only tastes better, it’s also healthier for you.”

Company President Eric Keshin says the idea behind the National Bread Challenge is to allow consumers’ taste buds to decide if they should abandon the same processed bread they’ve settled on for decades.

“To kick off National Bread Month, we’re putting our money where your mouth is,” Keshin said. “People are ‘settling’ for supermarket bread. Once they taste our bread, they won’t go back. That’s the point of the National Bread Challenge.”

About Great Harvest Bread Company

Pete and Laura Wakeman founded Great Harvest Bread Company in 1976 after they put themselves through Cornell University by selling bread to local farmers in the nearby towns. The company has since spent the past 40 years perfecting the combination of ingredients to make the freshest and authentic breads and pastries, as well as the newer sandwiches, grain bowls and soups, growing to over 200 locations, all of which continue to mill their own Golden Triangle wheat every morning from scratch. Providing local communities with authentic breads and pastries made fresh daily, the brand is now growing through franchising with a new bakery-café model ideal for multi-unit ownership. Open during three parts of the day—breakfast, lunch and dinner— the menu has grown beyond a wide variety of soft, delicious breads to include soups, sandwiches and grain bowls. To learn about franchising opportunities with Great Harvest Bread Company, go to https://www.greatharvest.com/franchise.

Source:  businesswire.com

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