Bakers Journal

BAC Bulletin: Notes from the Executive Director

February 14, 2024
By Martin Barnett, Executive Director

PHOTO: ELLEN, FOOD400.COM

Confetti square-gate and the sweet life in Canada
During the holidays my partner and pastry chef, Angelique, wanted to make confetti squares. In my position as the executive director of the BAC (and also a supportive husband!), I went on a simple mission to purchase rainbow mini marshmallows from the local grocery store. That mission turned into a quest: I was thwarted at the three stores in our town, and even Nanaimo, our “big city,” disappointed us. Two hours and seven stores later, our fun marshmallow search left us empty-handed. There wasn’t a rainbow marshmallow to be seen on any of the shelves, just empty cartons and a sense of having missed out. Ironically, in one store there were more bags of sugar than marshmallows, just to spite us!

I valiantly declared that I would crowdsource the multicoloured ingredient, and jumped on Facebook, seeking a solution to our dilemma. One hundred and forty-one negative replies later, a neighbour came through and we were delivered a handsome bag of the coveted rainbow marshmallows!

In less than an hour the confetti squares were ready, just in time for the season. I heard that they tasted fantastic!

‘Canadian’ desserts
That search got me thinking about “traditional” or “classic” Canadian desserts. There have been discussions and arguments over the years of what truly makes a dessert “Canadian,” with people dissecting ingredients and provenance in order to make their point. No dispute about Nanaimo bars, a dessert that I have staunchly defended against international misrepresentation, but what about butter tarts? Recently, someone suggested they were originally called border tarts and came from Scotland. My Scottish friends, you have your shortbread, scones and Dundee cake. Butter tarts are ours!

Blueberry grunt? Who knew this famous Atlantic Canada dish is named after the noise that blueberries make when they are cooking? (I have never heard blueberries grunting before. Maybe, instead, it is the polite description of the satisfied sound of the eater digesting the dumpling topping!) OK, beaver tails – no dispute here, although I think it is uncanny how much the broad, fried treat looks like a real beaver’s tail.

PHOTO: BELLA BUCCHIOTTI AT xoxoBella

From Quebec we have pouding chômeur and sugar pie made with maple syrup. From sea to sea, we must include Saskatoon berry pie, terroir undisputed. I searched for a traditional Alberta dessert but have been thwarted in nailing down a definitive result. However, it is documented that Albertans embrace sweet Vatrushka and cinnamon rolls more than anywhere else in the country.

Manitoba, of course, champions shmoo as well as flapper pie. Both of them are delicious additions to the traditional Canadian cornucopia.

Where did all these desserts really come from? Bella Bucchiotti from @xoxoBella, a food writer and recipe developer, said she found the confetti square recipe on one of her grandmother’s recipe cards from the 1960s. I am sure that we all have come across those resources. My mum used to go through all the Family Circle, Chatelaine and Canadian Living magazines, cut out the dessert recipes and present them to her baker son! 

I am sure that I have missed many on this short list and I expect feedback and suggestions from our readers. My main point is that I am so proud of our Canadian bakers and pastry chefs, who are forever developing and updating the flavours that bring nostalgia and delight to our far-flung hearts. Our sweet Canadian innovations are always worth celebrating and promoting!

Thoughts about wheat
A few issues ago, following a trip where our “pantry breads” were served in in various food outlets and did not impress this writer, we challenged our industrial bakers to critically taste their own product and work on improving the flavour of our grocery bread staple. I hope the gauntlet has been picked up. 

Talking of flour quality, sustainable agriculture practices should also go hand in hand with our development of standard bread products. In a recent article in Bloomberg News, regenerative wheat was discussed as King Arthur Flour has launched a regenerative flour blend on the market., which you can read here:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2024-01-05/king-arthur-flour-turns-to-farm-in-montana-for-climate-friendly-wheat 

The resulting flour “won’t save the climate,” said Stephen Jones, head of Washington State University’s Breadlab. But it does open a window of opportunity to reimagine how farming could thrive in a warming world. 

I look forward to the day when we can have great tasting wheat, grown in a manner that does not deplete our resources or harm the planet and which also gives great yields and can be processed without hiccups in our industrial as well as smaller bakeries. 

This, all while respecting the considerable commercial value that our Canadian farmers also contribute to the economy and the task of feeding the world with 33 million tons harvested (23 million for export).

The BAC looks to the future with a brand-new strategic plan!
Last November the board of directors huddled in Ottawa for a three-day retreat to review the last strategic plan for the BAC (2017). Facilitated by Brian Hayward (greatchair.ca), board members were led through a governance refresh and an analysis of survey results from both members and non-members as well as the board and staff.

The new strategic plan was scheduled to be worked on in 2021, but pandemic challenges resulted in efforts being delayed until November 2022 and completed this past year.

Looking back at the 2017 plan, successes were realized in most areas. It is interesting to compare where we aspired to be in 2015/16 and where we succeeded despite the challenges of COVID. Below were the priorities that guided us back then:

The following were identified as BAC’s strategic priorities in 2015:

  • Public Policy on Baking Industry Issues
  • Voice of Canada’s Baking Industry
  • Membership Engagement
  • Resource Development
  • Board Effectiveness

Read the BAC Strategic Plan 2017-2021: https://news.mediaedge.ca/assets/BACStrategicPlan2017-2021Final.pdf

Following our 2023 survey, these strategic priorities were identified:

  • Member Engagement and Value Proposition
  • Education and Training
  • Industry Advocacy
  • Sustainability and Environmental Responsibility
  • Innovation and Technology Adoption 

Read the 2024 Strategic Direction: https://news.mediaedge.ca/assets/BAC_Strategic_Direction_Jan_2024.pdf

New mission statement
We have retired our old mission statement: “To empower our members in providing nutritious and delicious baked goods to consumers in Canada and around the world through leading public policy, knowledge transfer and networking.”

And now simply state this: “BAC Unites the Canadian Baking Community”

Martin Barnett, Executive Director
Baking Association of Canada
mbarnett@baking.ca


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