Taste of Bread: From Fermentation to Cultivation
The process of fermentation lies at the heart of complex food products. Through the mastery of fermentation by human genius, the three major types of fermented foods—bread, wine, and cheese—create a magic alliance which gives pleasure while satisfying our fundamental need for food. Fermentation is very useful: it conserves foodstuffs, makes them more digestible and decreases their glycemic index while increasing the availability of micronutrients. At the same time, it leads to the production of aromatic molecules, such as those that everyone recognizes in wine-making or in the maturing process of cheese. These are also present in breadmaking and the characteristic flavor which develops is olfactory proof of a good fermentation well carried out. Over time, these typical flavors have become identified with the very products from which they arise, which is why for most consumers taste is synonymous with a well-made product. The taste of a good bread reflects the quality of its production. However, a number of factors come into the definition of sensory components. In order to make good quality bread, the baker must choose his ingredients – yeast, flour and other ingredients—and must fully master the control of the production process—kneading, fermentation, and baking.
A Universal Dimension
When customers advocate a return to tradition and authenticity the baker knows that he has a card to play in making them aware of the quality and diversity of his products. Customers are the judges of whether a product is satisfactory, so it is important to pay attention to their perceptions. Taste has a cultural dimension based on the client’s imaginary vision of what is “best” which he hopes to satisfy. He wants to find a tasty product that will make his mouth water. But what do you say to describe something new?
We no longer think of bread just as “something to mop up the sauce with” or as an implement for picking up food. Knowledge and innovation have enabled bakers to improve what they have to offer and to adapt to the needs of a demanding market. Productivity can finally keep up with taste.
Bread has become a food in its own right. It complements the foods that it accompanies and adds to the appreciation of them, thus becoming a “taste enhancer.” From simply being “bread to eat” it has become part of the “pleasure of eating.” We eat bread as part of a balanced diet in order to stay healthy. Not that it is quasi-medicinal, but it does contribute to energy levels and nutritional needs as much as all the other parts of a meal.
Today’s consumer buys bread according to selection criteria based on appearance, taste, and freshness. Taste is a complex mechanism which uses all five senses: sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound. The layout, the ambiance of the bakery and the customer’s feelings influence his purchase and confirm his definition of taste. A good bread is judged through a combination of perceptions, relating to tradition, health, and food safety. The image that the product reflects must, therefore, conform to that of typical bread, and their flavors.
But tastes evolve, so ultimately, there is no profile of an ideal bread! Faced with such a variety of eating habits it is important to identify and describe the interactions which give rise to sensory perceptions. For a yeast producer like Lesaffre, the experience gained over 150 years of yeast production and international interaction gives the group a perfect understanding of the language of bread, so that through a range of technical analyses they are able to decipher the aromatic components that give different loaves their typical tastes. This is truly the cultivation of taste: it starts with the cultivation of yeast, then the yeast contributes fundamentally to the aromatic development of bread; finally, there is an international cultural dimension, in order to adapt and respond to the specific breadmaking needs of different countries.