Experts’ View: Baker

August 10, 2016 | Around the World

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Our travels around the world enable us to meet a diverse public (consumers, bakers, professional organizations, etc.) several production methods (from sand cooking to microwave ovens) and many kinds of bread (from mantou to concha and pita). Baked by our grandmothers in the past, and today by local or distant professionals, bread is part of our everyday environment.

Bread, the food that has always been around

Consumption of bread is not a recent habit. It is strongly anchored in our civilizations’ culture and everyday life and many researchers are still struggling to determine the date of its apparition. For millennia, bread has been the cornerstone of human food. First, in the shape of a disk of crushed and boiled grain, this cereal-based product was invented by chance when spontaneous fermentation was discovered and has never since ceased to evolve in terms of composition or manufacturing process. It is important to understand that cereals cover more than half of human nutritional needs. Cereals and bread have influenced mankind’s way of life and evolution process. The bread we consume today is the result of a long agricultural, technological and gastronomic progression.

Bread, a universal product that comes in many shapes

Every corner of the world presents different types of bread, each with characteristics that are linked to climatic conditions, agricultural and culinary practices, and cultural or religious traditions. With the exception of a few far-away lands around the poles, a globetrotter who is fond of bread will always be able to satisfy his/her passion and curiosity for unknown bread types. Since no other universal food is as diversified, traveling from bread to bread is a means of discovering the wonders of the world. This diversity allows consumers to benefit from all the nutritious qualities of cereal-based products. Crusted bread, sandwich loaf, flatbread, black bread, vapor-cooked bread, pastry bread: bread of all the forms is considered an essential food for many populations in the world.

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Bread, combining tradition and technique without giving up on nutrition

Professional bakers only appeared in the second century BC. Since then, much of technical progress has been made in the field of bread manufacturing. This constant evolution has taken place simultaneously on several fronts: fermentation techniques, kneading, ovens and flour milling. If you consider recent techniques such as controlled proofing or freezing methods, you realize that the products you get are no worse for health than are fresh products, even though these technological revolutions have changed the everyday tasks of bakers throughout the world. Recipes, on the contrary, have generally been less favorable to health, via a trend towards richer Viennese pastries with higher sugar and fat levels. The nutritional value of bread is different in every recipe, which confirms that everyday bread consumption should be diversified.

These examples demonstrate that the evolution of baking techniques is compatible with the preservation of the nutritional value of bread, even if everyday consumption must be varied as any other type of food. A strong trend must also be acknowledged, favoring traditional recipes and processes. Baking professionals are no longer reluctant to go back to longer fermentation processes. If you consider bread making with a slow-rising process, you will realize that this technique lets the yeast consume more sugar, thus improving the glycemic index of bread. Going back to the use of sourdough in traditional bread making means that bread can be provided with a denser texture. Using cereals such as millet, spelt flour or quinoa is also a means of bringing diversity into tastes and nutritional qualities through the rediscovery of the raw materials preferred and used by our ancestors. After decades of adding conserving agents such as calcium propionate, baking professionals are now more likely to use natural vegetal extracts such as citrus or rosemary.

In fact, tradition has many qualities and both baking professionals and consumers are coming back to ancestral truths. Every one of us wants to experience the taste, textures, and aspects of our ancestors’ products. It’s a chance for consumers to take advantage of a varied range of products, which are both healthy and tasty.

It is easy to demonstrate that bread is a pivotal element which has descended through the ages and which concerns every country in the world and every type of population. But it is not a static food. It is regularly subjected to technical evolutions and traditional processes.

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