The 10-point baking barometer
1 Give me more
Baguettes and foccacia have been standard fare for a while, but hotel chefs are now seeing demand for strong-flavoured baked products, such as manakish, fatayer, ciabatta, pretzels, wholewheat bagels, sweet corn breads and pita from around the world.
“People are travelling more and have greater spending power, especially in big cities. They are now consuming more bakery products than ever before. There is a definite increase in the demand, especially in the gourmet segment,” says chef Vikas Kumar, executive chef of Park Hotels’s Flurys in Kolkata.
It is not unusual for a guest to walk in and ask for pumpernickel (very heavy, slightly sweet, German rye bread) or develop a taste for wortelbrood (spicy carrot bread) after a trip to Amsterdam. Indians have started experimenting with healthy food from around the world, thanks to their growing propensity to travel. Food festivals held regularly by hotels and tourism boards help further this cause.
The world comes to you in desserts as well — Mexican galleta and polvorones (cookies), Parisian macaroons and Asian tea cookies, all find their way into specialised cuisines, making room for baked products. Health-conscious guests opt for mousse-based and baked cheese cakes, as well as fresh fruits and wild berry-based desserts.
Health consciousness and associating baking with all things good is ensuring that hotels, big and small, make investments in such equipment. “Definitely, health-consciousness is ensuring that our combi-oven is a hot-seller. Smaller properties may even opt for Merrychef, which is microwave convection oven. For five-stars there are no limits: products such as deck ovens and Lilcoln Impingers are all a part of a well-equipped kitchen,” says Rakesh Tiwariof Manitowoc Foodservice Asia-Pacific.
2 Start of the day
With dieticians advocating a number of small meals a day, you have to start early. Breakfast has never been more important and remains a big beneficiary from the health fad. Studies tracking food habits reveal that the percentage of people who don’t skip breakfast has been steadily increasing.
The Indian taste for fried breakfasts takes a back seat now. Starting the day with freshly baked bread or a croissant may be a preference.
3 Healthy and fresh
From using frozen products and premixes such as croissant laminates, cookie dough and bread dough, the trend, at least in five-stars and specialised restaurants, is now to go back to baking without moulds, in open ovens.
When stabilisers or hydrocolloids are used, it is to achieve textures and elements that weren’t possible before.
Retro-innovative bakers are making everything from scratch — breads, rolls, pastries, cakes and cheesecakes. Retro flavours such as caramel, butterscotch, malt and buttermilk, along with classic European indulgences such as chocolate mousse and lemon chiffon pie will be available, as will dairy-based treats including sundaes, shakes and floats.
Omega 3, fibre, soy and natural fermentation processes are now being used more and more.
Indian hotel patisseries are well-equipped and determined to provide the best. Creating a range of signature baked goods, such as the croissants at the ITC Maratha in Mumbai, is one the ways of putting equipment and knowledge to good use and it is appreciated.
Gas deck ovens specially designed with maximum front glass visibility, showcasing freshness of the products are almost a necessity. Expect to see croissant heaters at properties which take their breakfast seriously. Ovens with separate top and bottom heat adjustment, Rotary Rack Ovens, where the whole trolley can be inserted in the oven, are some of the equipment joining the rows of what a good rotisserie must have.
“We have invested in various baking equipment in the last year in line with the increase in our productions. We have invested in various ovens and planetary mixers,” says chef Kumar.
Planetary mixer, or the Universal mixer, is designed to give maximum aeration giving light sponginess and internal texture to the product. Chefs now control moisture content and ensure uniformity via the imported radio frequency oven. Such equipment means an increase in shelf life of products and almost double the productivity with
Dough sheeters for puffs, croissants and pizzas have ensured that workload is reduced. Smart Drop, which produces multi-shaped cookies, can be seen at several large kitchens or in specialised small ones. Machines comes with digital LCD controls and learning to cook is sometimes as simple as learning to use the machine – changing attachments can mean turning out perfect cupcakes, sponge cakes and wire-cut cookies.
The best bakers work with suppliers who have state-of-the-art technology and the best investment, so they can commit to the technology under development.
5 Get local
Over the past couple of decades, herbs have become international. Consumers have access to rosemary and thyme in our supermarkets. But professionals are speaking of return of the local. As concerns grow over the need to reduce the carbon footprint, many are turning to locally procured ingredients and the comfort of familiar flavours. Chefs are being seen opting for flaxseed and multi-grain, flavoured breads as well as adding fructose such as honey and jaggery instead of sugar.
“I see grains and millets such as nachni and jowar making their way into breads in India. these are familiar tastes and as the industry matures, this is what we are likely to see more of,” says Sahil Timbadia, a partner at Bonobo in Mumbai.
On the equipment side, local is not the mantra yet. “We did look at local equipment when we were setting up. But for our needs, the equipment is sourced outside the US,” says Zayed Kazi, who handles marketing at Cinnabon.
The Claridges, Surajkund in Delhi, NCR, is already baking Tulsi bread, mint and garlic bread.
6 Whole grains
In the US, the MyPlate that replaced the food pyramid, recommends grains as a quadrant of the recommended daily food intake. Bakers would be happy but for the suggestion that half of all grains consumed be whole grains.
So while baked goods are considered healthy, cookies, cakes and donuts do not make the cut. Consumers are likely to look for whole grains in their breakfast toast, sandwich breads and dinner rolls.
Value does not mean it costs less. Consumers want clean-labelled, real food. Simple, quality ingredients and cooking methods are trendy. Chef Kumar says his innovations last year included gourmet breads, mainly from Western Europe and Russia. “This year, our focus will be on popularising artisan gourmet breads from all around the world. We have sourced speciality ingredients originating from different countries,” he says.
7 Hey cupcake!
“Indians have a sweet tooth and that shows in baked products. Desserts available here, even if you pick up outsourced ones, are really popular and well made,” says Timbadia.
Cinnabon’s runaway hits were cupcakes, following a worldwide trend. Experts who thought they were a fad have been forced to eat their words. The world is now seeing shops specialising only in cupcakes. For many, these are the entrypoint into the world of desserts, such as petit fours, cheesecakes and tarts.
Flurys too saw cupcakes and dry cakes introduced last year. As serious chefs tried to dislodge the cupcake, this has simply meant the appearance of Madeleine cookies, macaroons, pie or Canelés (eggy cakes that are baked in individual copper, beeswax-lined moulds)
It is possible to blame the dull, dull economy for this, since even the name of a cupcake is definitely uplifting.
Individual-sized desserts, cookies and brownies are the way forward. For more celebratory occasions, food trendspotters around the world are hailing the return of tiered desserts. Intricate fondants, bold colours and asymmetrical stacking will take over.
Mini-desserts are the best way to introduce portion-control. In addition to mini-brownies, mini-muffins, and of course, cupcakes, a wider variety of mini desserts, including mini-tarts with custard fillings, nut crusts and liqueur flavourings, are part of the forecast trend.
Theme-based desserts presented for sampling and comparison, dessert shooters in the form of tiramisu and cheesecake, presented not as slices but in shot glasses, layered with caramel, fudge sauce or ice cream are already being seen on dessert counters.
Chef Kumar says, “We are looking at investing in a fully automated cookie/biscuit formatic machine to increase our cookie and biscuit production. These are in extremely high demand throughout the year.”
Celebrities such as Oprah, Gwyneth Paltrow, Elizabeth Hasslebeck and Jenny Mc-Carthy constantly talk about the benefits of going gluten-free. Medically, among the only ones who need to follow a strict, no-gluten regime are people diagnosed with celiac disease and dermatis herpetiformis, a skin condition. But many now believe that removing gluten can ease the symptoms of autism and hyperactivity, as well as help with weightloss.
Sales of gluten-free products in the US are predicted to reach $1.31 billion this year, according to Euromonitor International, and are expected to hit $1.68 billion in 2015.
Many bakeries are developing new products that incorporate chia seeds in their formulations — these are gluten-free and high in fibre and omega-3s.
Advanced economies are seeing the availability of sugar-free and gluten-free baking mixes for consumers.
For equipment suppliers, sustainability is a big deal and consumers want more proof of green practices. Says Tiwari: “We are working on several research platforms. Accelerated cooking, multi-cooking and creating small ecological footprints are the focus of innovation. Building a LEED-certified bakery may be the ultimate goal in sustainability and we may eventually get there.”